Conductors are one of the most important (if not the most important) figures in orchestras. They make sure the music flows well together and help guide orchestras to make beautiful touching music. It’s no wonder that they are one of the highest-paid people in orchestras. But just who are the most famous conductors?
Abbado was born and raised in Milan. He studied with Hans Swarowsky in Vienna and made his La Scala debut in 1960. He was the house’s music director from 1968 to 1986. After which, he headed the Vienna State OPera (1986-91), the London Symphony Orchestra (1979-87) and succeeded Karajan at the helm of the Berlin Philharmonic (1989-2002). Abbado also founded the European Union Youth Orchestra, Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester and re-established the Lucerne Festival Orchestra.
Alsop is one of the finest Brahms conductors while also being incredibly totally comfortable with the music of John Adams. She is able to conduct Bernstein with a complete grasp of the idiom and give a stunning Bartok performance alive to every rhythmic subtlety or gradation of colour. She has also chosen Naxos to be her regular recording partner which was a clever choice since the label comes with no baggage or long tradition. Alsop is currently the music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and chief conductor of the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra.
Barbirolli was born in London to Italian and French parents. He was closely associated with English music, especially as a wonderful interpreter of Elgar and Vaughan Williams. Furthermore, he was a great Mahler interpreter and amazing in Puccini with his set of Madama Butterfly being one of the great recordings. After an unhappy period at the helm of the New York PO where he succeeded Arturo Toscanini, he returned to the UK and headed the Halle Orchestra for the rest of his life, creating a world-class ensemble.
These are just a few of the world’s greatest conductors who have brought pieces of centuries-old back to life. They are incredibly talented and have brought meaning and life to the music they conduct.