Greatest Conductor of the 20th Century?

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smitty1931
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Greatest Conductor of the 20th Century?

Post by smitty1931 » Mon Jan 09, 2012 4:26 pm

Was it Furtwangler or Toscanini or Stowkowski or ???? Anyone out there old enough to have seen all three conduct?

Seán
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Re: Greatest Conductor of the 20th Century?

Post by Seán » Mon Jan 09, 2012 4:44 pm

smitty1931 wrote:Was it Furtwangler or Toscanini or Stowkowski or ???? Anyone out there old enough to have seen all three conduct?
or Reiner or Solti or Kubelik or Abbado perhaps?
Seán

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Re: Greatest Conductor of the 20th Century?

Post by Jared » Mon Jan 09, 2012 4:48 pm

well, the BBC Music Mag, from last year's poll, came out with Carlos Kleiber on top...

interestingly, Georg Solti's conducting skills didn't even make the top 50...

...yet when they came to do this year's poll (they do about one a year) of the 50 most influential recordings of all time, Georg Solti's Ring Cycle came out on top...

go figure...

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Re: Greatest Conductor of the 20th Century?

Post by Wallingford » Mon Jan 09, 2012 5:26 pm

Gotta be a rigged race if Beecham's not included here.
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Re: Greatest Conductor of the 20th Century?

Post by Bro » Mon Jan 09, 2012 5:36 pm

Probably the most influential was Toscanini. No such thing as greatest. I was old enough to have seen Stokowski. :D

Bro

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Re: Greatest Conductor of the 20th Century?

Post by John F » Mon Jan 09, 2012 5:43 pm

smitty1931 wrote:Was it Furtwangler or Toscanini or Stowkowski or ???? Anyone out there old enough to have seen all three conduct?
As Bro says, there is and can be no one greatest conductor.
John Francis

Heck148
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Re: Greatest Conductor of the 20th Century?

Post by Heck148 » Mon Jan 09, 2012 5:54 pm

really, impossible to answer...

it's another top 5, or top 10 type list.

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Re: Greatest Conductor of the 20th Century?

Post by Heck148 » Mon Jan 09, 2012 5:56 pm

Jared wrote:well, the BBC Music Mag, from last year's poll, came out with Carlos Kleiber on top...
interestingly, Georg Solti's conducting skills didn't even make the top 50...
obviously that list is a useless pile of crap. :lol: :lol: :mrgreen:

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Re: Greatest Conductor of the 20th Century?

Post by THEHORN » Mon Jan 09, 2012 6:43 pm

I agree with Bro,. There can never be any such thing as the "greatest" conductor, composer, violinist,cellist,pianist,singer etc . The most you can say is that certain ones are obviously AMONG the greatest .
The problem is that people tend to equate the MOST FAMOUS with THE greatest . The two do not necessarily always coincide .
Many would say that Heifetz was THE greatest violinist of the 20th century, possibly of all time . And he certainly is a household name . But there are many other very great violinists whose names are not familiar to people who
are not knowledgeable about classical music , but who were probably at least as great, as possibly greater purely as musicians. For example Szigeti, Huberman , Szeryng , Grumiaux etc .
Any list of the greatest conductors would have to include such great names as Karajan, Boehm, Mravinsky,
both Kleibers, Knappertsbusch, Monteux, Solti, Talich, Walter, Jochum, Klemperer, Weingartner, Nickisch,
Mahler, Barbirolli , Kubelik , Tennstedt , DeSabata, Ansermet, Munch , Mengelberg , etc
I am old enough to have heard Stokowski live, but unfortunately never got the chance . I have mixed emotions about him . His best performances were amazing , but sometimes the sound he got out of an orchestra was merely garish and bloated .
Arrau, Kempff , Backhaus, Serkin, Schnabel , etc may not have have the flashiness of Horowitz, and did not capture the public's imagination the way he did, but they were probably better, or at least more profound musicians .

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Re: Greatest Conductor of the 20th Century?

Post by stenka razin » Mon Jan 09, 2012 6:47 pm

Impossible to choose just one conductor, but we have gone over and over this topic, so I guess it remains a popular topic. 8)

Regards,
Mel 8)

P.S. If I had to choose just one and this is just me, it would be Arturo Toscanini. Because he was the first great conductor who inspired me to be obsessed with classical music, as a young lad. Listening to his NBC broadcasts in the early 1950's was something very, very special and very, very exciting. 8)
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Re: Greatest Conductor of the 20th Century?

Post by RebLem » Mon Jan 09, 2012 9:13 pm

Right now, I'd say top five are George Szell, Arturo Toscanini, Wilhelm Furtwangler, Pierre Monteux, and Bruno Walter, in that order. Pierre Monteux deserves a place just for having conducted the world premiere performance of Le Sacre du Printemps, the signature 20th century work, just as the Beethoven 9th was the signature 19th century work. But, of course, he has much else to recommend him, as well.
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Re: Greatest Conductor of the 20th Century?

Post by Lance » Tue Jan 10, 2012 1:54 am

You brought a big smile to my lips, Heck! At least you tell it as you feel it! Good 4-U!
Heck148 wrote:
Jared wrote:well, the BBC Music Mag, from last year's poll, came out with Carlos Kleiber on top...
interestingly, Georg Solti's conducting skills didn't even make the top 50...
obviously that list is a useless pile of crap. :lol: :lol: :mrgreen:
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Re: Greatest Conductor of the 20th Century?

Post by Lance » Tue Jan 10, 2012 1:58 am

I guess one cannot really select the "greatest" conductor or anything else where artistic matters are concerned. We may all have our favourites ... something quite natural, and many will agree, and some will disagree on your choices.

I wonder if Jared can give the URL reference. I'd like to see that poll of Top Conductors.

Did Furtwängler, Stokowski, Monteux, Koussevitzky, Mitropoulos, Bernstein, Toscanini make it near to the top? I think it may often be a "generational" thing. The youngest will select those with whom they are familiar with from concerts or recordings. Oldsters are drawn to musicians from their own era.

While I like Erich Kleiber, I liked his father's work even more. Ah, 'tis such a personal thing.
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Re: Greatest Conductor of the 20th Century?

Post by Holden Fourth » Tue Jan 10, 2012 3:20 am

Bro has hit the nail on the head with "most influential".

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Re: Greatest Conductor of the 20th Century?

Post by barney » Tue Jan 10, 2012 4:46 am

Surely there is only one candidate to win approval of ALL CMGers? Sir Simon Rattle, this is your moment: take a bow. :D

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Re: Greatest Conductor of the 20th Century?

Post by mnmleung » Tue Jan 10, 2012 5:00 am

Lance, who is Erich Kleiber's father?
Ming, Brisbane, Australia : )

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Re: Greatest Conductor of the 20th Century?

Post by Jared » Tue Jan 10, 2012 5:51 am

Lance wrote: I wonder if Jared can give the URL reference. I'd like to see that poll of Top Conductors.
I wish I could Lance, however it was a poll from 12 months ago now, and theuir website gets updated too frequently. All I can tell you is that the poll was carried out by asking 100 conductors working today, to name their top 3 conductors, who had been most influential in their careers... they were then awarded 3 points, 2 points and 1 point, accordingly. The list was indeed very interesting, in that Furtwangler, Toscanini & Kleiber were all near (or at) the very top. I remember at the time, that the ONLY conductor out of the 100 who cited Solti as being a significant influence, was Lief Segerstam... which surprised me a little.

http://www.classical-music.com/issue/january-2012

as you will see, the present magazine contains their 50 most influential recordings, although the web site doesn't give you the listing. Solti's Ring Cycle came out top though, amongst a (fairly) extensive panel of music critics. I remember Casal's Bach: Cello Suites & Kleiber's Brahms 4 were also very high.

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Re: Greatest Conductor of the 20th Century?

Post by Seán » Tue Jan 10, 2012 7:43 am

barney wrote:Surely there is only one candidate to win approval of ALL CMGers? Sir Simon Rattle, this is your moment: take a bow. :D
Here's a bow for the grate man, is that Chalkie by any chance? :lol: :lol: :lol:

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Re: Greatest Conductor of the 20th Century?

Post by bombasticDarren » Tue Jan 10, 2012 12:26 pm

^^ Luckily, I hoard all my copies of BBC Music Magazine. So here is the top twenty conductors as voted by their panel of present-day maestros:-

20. Charles Mackerras
19. Thomas Beecham
18. Colin Davis
17. Yevgeny Mravinsky
16. Pierre Monteux
15. Bernard Haitink
14. George Szell
13. Ferenc Fricsay
12. John Barbirolli
11. John Eliot Gardiner
10. Carlo Maria Giulini
09. Pierre Boulez
08. Arturo Toscanini
07. Wilhelm Furtwangler
06. Simon Rattle
05. Nikolaus Harnoncourt
04. Herbert von Karajan
03. Claudio Abbado
02. Leonard Bernstein
01. Carlos Kleiber

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Re: Greatest Conductor of the 20th Century?

Post by smitty1931 » Tue Jan 10, 2012 5:43 pm

I find the list eccentric at best! I wonder what the average CMGer thinks of the list?

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Re: Greatest Conductor of the 20th Century?

Post by bricon » Tue Jan 10, 2012 5:49 pm

Gustav Mahler anyone?

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Re: Greatest Conductor of the 20th Century?

Post by stickles » Tue Jan 10, 2012 6:59 pm

Well there has got to be a difinitive answer stastically. No offense to the C. Kleiber fans, I propose to add the total number of concert performances, opera performaces, and recordings in each catagory for each of the candidates starting from age 45 to 75 (or active years after reaches 45), and take an average over the years. Whoever has the most output certainly qualifies the throne as the best, right? The only problem is who is going to do it? :lol:

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Re: Greatest Conductor of the 20th Century?

Post by John F » Tue Jan 10, 2012 9:48 pm

Greatness is not about statistics. If it were, then Zubin Mehta might come in first - seems he'll conduct anything anywhere, no matter how questionable artistically, like the Three Tenors concerts. But I don't think many will claim that all those concerts and opera performances were exceptionally fine.
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Re: Greatest Conductor of the 20th Century?

Post by Heck148 » Tue Jan 10, 2012 10:44 pm

smitty1931 wrote:I find the list eccentric at best! I wonder what the average CMGer thinks of the list?
entirely useless. no Reiner?? no Solti?? oh please.....

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Re: Greatest Conductor of the 20th Century?

Post by Seán » Wed Jan 11, 2012 7:54 am

Heck148 wrote:
smitty1931 wrote:I find the list eccentric at best! I wonder what the average CMGer thinks of the list?
entirely useless. no Reiner?? no Solti?? oh please.....
I agree!
Seán

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Re: Greatest Conductor of the 20th Century?

Post by barney » Wed Jan 11, 2012 8:38 am

bombasticDarren wrote:^^ Luckily, I hoard all my copies of BBC Music Magazine. So here is the top twenty conductors as voted by their panel of present-day maestros:-

20. Charles Mackerras
19. Thomas Beecham
18. Colin Davis
17. Yevgeny Mravinsky
16. Pierre Monteux
15. Bernard Haitink
14. George Szell
13. Ferenc Fricsay
12. John Barbirolli
11. John Eliot Gardiner
10. Carlo Maria Giulini
09. Pierre Boulez
08. Arturo Toscanini
07. Wilhelm Furtwangler
06. Simon Rattle
05. Nikolaus Harnoncourt
04. Herbert von Karajan
03. Claudio Abbado
02. Leonard Bernstein
01. Carlos Kleiber
Kind of you to provide this. People complaining it is eccentric may miss the point I think I read above that it is the conductors who most influenced those conductors who voted for the list, ie not necessarily the greatest. Of course I may remember that wrongly - I can't check while typing my reply.

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Re: Greatest Conductor of the 20th Century?

Post by barney » Wed Jan 11, 2012 8:42 am

RebLem wrote:Right now, I'd say top five are George Szell, Arturo Toscanini, Wilhelm Furtwangler, Pierre Monteux, and Bruno Walter, in that order. Pierre Monteux deserves a place just for having conducted the world premiere performance of Le Sacre du Printemps, the signature 20th century work, just as the Beethoven 9th was the signature 19th century work. But, of course, he has much else to recommend him, as well.
I'd have to say these are pretty sound choices. My father, a conductor, certainly admired Szell above all others; thought his command of rhythm peerless.

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Re: Greatest Conductor of the 20th Century?

Post by barney » Wed Jan 11, 2012 8:42 am

And I see I am wrong about influential. That was Bro's point, not the list. Never mind, not the first or last time.

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Re: Greatest Conductor of the 20th Century?

Post by THEHORN » Wed Jan 11, 2012 11:00 am

Actually , I think Mehta is very underrated, probably the most underrated conductor of our time. I don't think it was
in any way reprehensible for him to conduct the Three Tenors concerts; Levine did later ones and no one complained.
But unfortunately,Mehta has gotten a bum rap as a mere shallow glamor boy, all flash and no substance , even no nothing could be farther from the truth. Like his conducting or not, he is s a serious,dedicated and very able conductor
who has always shown himself to be highly professional and well-prepared .
Orchestral musicians in the world's top orchestras, the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonic and others , have always
had the highest respect for him, and the Israel Philharmonic appointed him music director for life.
If he were a musician a little or no ability and substance, this would never have happened . Yet, he been a regular guest with these august Berlin and Vienna orchestras for decades.
When he was a student in Vienna, he was accepted into the conducting classes of Hans Swarowsky , who
was a very exacting taskmaster with his students. Swarowsky considered him to be his most talented student .
Orchestral musicians will tell you that he has an exceptionally clear beat and a conducting technique second to none.
In addition , Mehta has been a staunch champion of contemporary music throughout his career , and has given
exemplary performances of many difficult and complex works by leading 20th century composers .
Olivier Messiaen , for example, greatly admired the way he conducted his music .
Mehta built the once minor league Los Angeles Philharmonic into a world-class orchestra . Kurt Masur
called it a "perfect orchestra" . But when he moved to New York to take over the Philharmonic,
many of the critics treated him like crap . They were absolutely vicious, and even made ad hominem
attacks on him . The reviews of the late Alan Rich, who loathed his conducting, were so vile they left me with a bad taste in my mouth . Of course, Rich was certainly entitled to his opinions , and had every right to
give him negative reviews . But they were so vicious, so gratuitously nasty , so full of blatant lies about Mehta as to be a blot on the history of music criticism . I have no respect for him as a music critic now. What he wrote about Mehta were not reviews, but merely a collection of cheap shots .
Like the late Rodney Dangerfield, Mehta gets no respect . But his conducting is no joke !

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Re: Greatest Conductor of the 20th Century?

Post by bigshot » Wed Jan 11, 2012 1:40 pm

I would choose Stokowski myself. He was the boldest conductor of all. His work with the Philadelphia Orchestra will never be matched, and he kept working and making great music into his 90s.

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Re: Greatest Conductor of the 20th Century?

Post by John F » Wed Jan 11, 2012 1:53 pm

Like it or not, THEHORN, Zubin Mehta definitely had been a La La Land glamour boy for sixteen years when the Philharmonic hired him in 1978 at the age of 42. I understand that's why they chose him, that and his emphasis on the Romantic repertoire, to rebuild audience attendance after six ascetic years of Pierre Boulez. That he succeeded in doing, to an extent, but his record-setting tenure in New York also saw the orchestra lose its recording contract and its weekly national broadcasts, and fall into some bad habits and a generally coarse style of playing from which they eventually required a Kurt Masur to whip them into shape. Mehta also made some questionable hires, such as Jeanne Baxstresser who lasted as principal flute for only 15 years, and the ever unreliable Philip Myers as first horn, who unfortunately is still here. As for whether the Philharmonic have indeed had the "highest respect" for him, I'd say the measure of that is how well they played for him. Enough said.

The Israel Philharmonic is a special, even a unique case among the world's well-known orchestras. I've heard them play very well indeed under Kurt Masur, before he came to the NY Phil, and merely competently under Zubin Mehta, but I haven't heard them in concert often enough to be confident of my judgment. Though founded in 1936, with Toscanini conducting some of their inaugural concerts, they didn't have a music director, only a "music advisor," until 1977; Mehta is the only music director they've ever had. After all, during the Six Day War, he flew to Israel in a plane full of ammunition; shortly thereafter the orchestra appointed him Music Advisor. Let's say, then, that his connection with Israel and the Israel Philharmonic is unique, and not purely or maybe even primarily for artistic reasons. This season he's conducting in Israel only twice: a Bruckner symphony and Te Deum, and a Beethoven piano concerto and Bloch's Sacred Service. On that score, his title would seem to be mainly honorary.

But enough. Zubin Mehta certainly isn't in the running for greatest conductor of the 20th century, so these messages are wandering from the topic.

Wandering still further: oddly, the Israel Philharmonic keep choosing New York Philharmonic conductors as their leaders: besides Mehta and Toscanini, these have included Leonard Bernstein as "Laureate Conductor" and Masur as "Honorary Guest Conductor." But then, the connection between New York City and Israel has always been very close, and why shouldn't they be like-minded in music as in so much else?
John Francis

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Re: Greatest Conductor of the 20th Century?

Post by THEHORN » Wed Jan 11, 2012 5:30 pm

Sorry, John, I couldn't disagree with you more. I heard quite a few NY Phil. performances under Mehta where the orchestra played about as well as any orchestra I have ever heard and sounded simply fantastic.
Boulez was great in a limited repertoire, but he he just wasn't right as a MD of an orchestra like the New Yorkers, which are supposed to play a very wide repertoire.
I reject the canard that Mehta is just a shallow glamor boy . Like his conducting or not, he deserves to be treated with respect. He made some terrific recordings with the LA Phil. of Mahler, Richard Strauss etc, and also with the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonics. And don't forget the fine work he has done in opera ,too.
His recording of Puccini's Fanciulla Del Weston DG with Neblett,Domingo and Milnes is one of the finest complete recordings of a Puccini opera ever made,IMHO. Oh well, I guess I've always been a contrarian .
I remember a letter to the NY Times sent by a member of the Israel Philharmonic defending him against the nasty reviews he had been receiving from that paper and elsewhere , and describing the enormous esteem the orchestra felt for him . Orchestral musicians don't do things like that every day for conductors . This would not have happened if they thought he was a lousy or mediocre conductor.

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Re: Greatest Conductor of the 20th Century?

Post by Chalkperson » Wed Jan 11, 2012 6:24 pm

Seán wrote:
barney wrote:Surely there is only one candidate to win approval of ALL CMGers? Sir Simon Rattle, this is your moment: take a bow. :D
Here's a bow for the grate man, is that Chalkie by any chance? :lol: :lol: :lol:

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Nah, if it was me I would use a Cheesewire and Gavotte him... :wink:
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Re: Greatest Conductor of the 20th Century?

Post by bigshot » Wed Jan 11, 2012 8:53 pm

I have to admit, being an Angelino myself, I hung onto the bad impression of Mehta from his years in LA. But I have heard several things since, most recently his Valencia Ring cycle that made me do a turn around. He is a very good conductor under the right circumstances.

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Re: Greatest Conductor of the 20th Century?

Post by stenka razin » Wed Jan 11, 2012 9:12 pm

bigshot wrote:I have to admit, being an Angelino myself, I hung onto the bad impression of Mehta from his years in LA. But I have heard several things since, most recently his Valencia Ring cycle that made me do a turn around. He is a very good conductor under the right circumstances.

What a coincidence. I just obtained the Mehta Ring on BluRay and must admit I was stunned at how well Zubin conducted Wagner. 8)


Regards,
Mel 8)
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Re: Greatest Conductor of the 20th Century?

Post by Ted Quanrud » Wed Jan 11, 2012 10:20 pm

stenka razin wrote:
bigshot wrote:I have to admit, being an Angelino myself, I hung onto the bad impression of Mehta from his years in LA. But I have heard several things since, most recently his Valencia Ring cycle that made me do a turn around. He is a very good conductor under the right circumstances.

What a coincidence. I just obtained the Mehta Ring on BluRay and must admit I was stunned at how well Zubin conducted Wagner. 8)


Regards,
Mel 8)
I too was rather dismissive of Mehta until 1996, when I attended Chicago Lyric's very first Ring. He was simply superb, although the Lyric orchestra was not yet what it would become.

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Re: Greatest Conductor of the 20th Century?

Post by jserraglio » Mon Jan 16, 2012 5:04 am

ImageImage

His critics notwithstanding, I have collected many Mehta records, e. g....

1967 EMI Aida with Nilssen & Corelli - my intro to this opera bought in 1968 on the rec of a vocal student/record clerk.
1971 Decca Schmidt Symphony 4 (VPO) - a stunning performance and recording. I became a Schmidt efan after hearing it.
1975 Decca Mahler Symphony 2 (VPO) - right up there with the best in both sound and performance.

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Re: Greatest Conductor of the 20th Century?

Post by John F » Mon Jan 16, 2012 5:43 am

To be fair, Zubin Mehta led the New York Philharmonic in a good performance of Bruckner's 8th Symphony last week. It may be that he gets his best results as a guest rather than as the day in, day out boss of an orchestra or opera company, responsible for building and maintaining standards. Or perhaps it's just that he's always been good in Bruckner. But I don't take back a word of what I've said here and elsewhere about his 13 years at the Philharmonic and their effect on the orchestra. I lived through much of that and will not disown what I observed first-hand.
John Francis

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Re: Greatest Conductor of the 20th Century?

Post by rogch » Mon Jan 16, 2012 10:11 am

I would say Claudio Abbado. He has done it all: modern and period instruments, big and small orchestras (he has even created a few), symphonies, concertos, operas and a reportoire ranging from Pergolesi to Kurtag. The standards of his recordings are generally very high, at times they are spectacular.
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Re: Greatest Conductor of the 20th Century?

Post by maestrob » Mon Jan 16, 2012 11:31 am

Wow!

Have I missed something, or has nobody yet mentioned James Levine......has he been forgotten already? :mrgreen:

MHO is that there are two most reliable & thus "greatest" conductors today, and those would be Abbado & Levine, judging not just by their music-making, but also by their political ablilties in the world of music. Both men have lived up to the standards set by previous generations, and have made many great recordings and videos, both of operatic and symphonic music.

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Re: Greatest Conductor of the 20th Century?

Post by smitty1931 » Mon Jan 16, 2012 5:24 pm

I agree with you completely! Abbado's DVDs are are lessons in conducting of an orchestra.

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