Despite the hokey title, this is the liveliest, most penetrating and best researched book on the nature of the orchestra conductor, and on many of the best-known past and current practitioners of that arcane art, to have appeared in years. Lebrecht, a London music critic, traces the growth of conductors from the 19th century, when increasingly complex works began to require a central organizing figure, to today's jet-set superstars with their fickle loyalties and fat recording contracts. Lebrecht reveals what top conductors earn: many times what even their best players do, and rising rapidly. The author is harsh on some idols, particularly Toscanini and Bruno Walter, melancholic about burnout cases like Andre Previn and Klaus Tennstedt and acutely aware of the dearth of present conductors with the musical culture or audience impact of past masters. Among contemporary conductors only England's Simon Rattle in Birmingham seems to gain his entire approval. The book can be enjoyed on many levels: as an acute history of conducting, as a study in conductorial psychology, as a text on the economics of the classical music business, as a collection of delightfully gossipy but not malevolent anecdotes and as the best guide to today's concert music scene--including the ``authentic'' revival--now available. Photos. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/02/1992 Release date: 03/01/1992 Genre: Nonfiction
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