I returned from my trip to Berlin with the deep conviction that all of the great Strauss conductors are now dead.
Herbert von Karajan.
Forgive me if I have omitted your favorite. What are we to do? No one today goes deep enough. I am a great believer that all the music does not lie on the page, that it lives also in the hearts and minds of those who love it. That musicians can deepen their own understanding by listening to the interpretations of the past.
2 hours ago
George Szell was the conductor of my hometown Cleveland Orchestra during my school years. In junior high, one of my best friends was the son of concertmaster Kurt Loebel, and us two youngsters would occasionally sneak into Severance Hall on a school night to hear the orchestra rehearse. Szell was a tyrant on the podium but a charming man away from the stage. When introduced to him, he asked me about my career ambitions. "I'm going to teach European History in college someday," eighth-grader I said. Of course, I never taught a day and instead ended up in business. My partner-in-crime, a year my senior, answered the same question with, "I'm going to medical school." David Loebel ended up a terrific orchestra conductor with the St. Louis and Memphis Symphonies, and he's now on the faculty with the New England Conservatory.
I can't speak with any authority about operatic conducting, but for Strauss' tone poems, my favorite conductor was Fritz Reiner, with the Chicago Symphony. Under Reiner, the Chicago brass section, in particular, was truly (and literally) awesome; those recordings are worth seeking out.
Reiner was one of the greats.
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