Friday, 16 September 2011

Who is the greatest ever classical music conductor?

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Otto Klemperer.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otto_Klemperer

I don't propose to argue this - it is simply how I feel; and is of course in relation to the kind of music which most moves me, and which benefits from a conductor.

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(Bearing in mind I would rather hear great music performed by a competent mediocrity than a great performance of mediocre music.)

(And, obviously, I am excluding conductors whom I have not heard.)

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Any other offers?

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7 comments:

  1. Klemperer's son Werner Klemperer was one of the world's finest actors. :)

    Seriously, I don't know about greatest, but Carlo Maria Giulini may be among the most underrated. (See also here.)

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  2. I agree that Giulini is 'up there'.

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  3. There was an amusing TED talk about various conductors by Itay Talgam where Carlos Kleiber, Leonard Bernstein and Herbert von Karajan were praised highly but Riccardo Muti was criticized for his absolute control over the orchestra. They are of course all great, and Muti's William Tell seems exceptionally good to me.

    My favourite conductor is Sir Adrian Boult, possibly just because I share his affinity for the music of Vaughn Williams.

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  4. Given that most conductors are consummate musicians, I suppose I should mention two who I think are NOT good conductors:

    Trevor Pinnock and Roger Norrington. Both English, and both got played a *lot* on the BBC.

    I dislike them both because they cannot phrase the music, they lack lyricism.

    For me this is a fatal flaw for which nothing can compensate.

    Pierre Boulez had the same fault, but never plays stuff I like anyway.

    @ HOJ - I also like Boult.

    And Stokowski, Beecham, Rattle. And Richard Bonynge - which is controversial. And Neville Marriner.

    But my second favourite of the greats, after Klemperer, was Solti (a.k.a. 'the screaming skull').

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  5. Klemperer's version of the St. Matthew Passion is amazing, one of the best recordings of anything anywhere, except for the overly slow opening piece, which I much prefer in Gardner's version. Unfortunately, the rest of Gardner's version is rushed and devoid of feeling, a complete disaster.

    So, I did what the wonders of technology allow: I burned my own CDs of the Klemperer, but splicing in the Gardner opening.

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  6. Klemperer's version of the Beethoven 3rd is pretty wonderful too.

    I haven't listened to a lot of Giulini. He just butchered Verdi's Falstaff, and that has scared me away.

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  7. I don't think there's a single "greatest ever" classical conductor; I think it varies with the composer and the piece, because some conductors understand the spirit behind some pieces better than others.

    For example, Bruckner: Furtwangler is best for the later symphonies except the 9th, which like the earlier ones I hand to Karajan, except the 4th, which is best handled by Esa-Pekka Salonen.

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