I seem to have spent a lot of time this past few months thinking—and writing—about people who lead orchestras. Sometimes my concern with these exotic creatures seems to me misplaced. Why, after all, should so much attention be paid to mere performers—indeed, performers who in fact make no sounds of any kind—rather than to composers whose accomplishments are of permanent, primary value? Then I realize just how much non-composing conductors, from Hans von Bülow in the second half of the nineteenth century to Arturo Toscanini and numerous others in our own, have meant to the dissemination of great music, and I realize that, for those of us who love what used to be called the art of tone, conductors are here to stay. Indeed, in their highest manifestation, that of music directors engaged to take responsibility for the entire artistic existence of an orchestra, they are indispensable.


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