The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music survey: Do great composers — like Leonard Bernstein or John Adams — make great conductors?

June 6, 2010

By Jacob Stockinger

So the story runs: An orchestra player once said to the legendary Leonard Bernstein (below), “You’re a pretty good conductor for a composer.”

And the Lenny the Great  shot back, “It’s because I am a composer than I am a good conductor.”

Well, The Ear isn’t so sure.

As a trained literary scholar, I doubt that Shakespeare or Proust or Faulkner knew all they had put into their writings that would later be discovered by critics and scholars.

Anyway, the question stands: How great are creators when it comes to interpreting?

The latest case involves American composer John Adams (below) who was reviewed as a composer-conductor in The Washington Post recently by Anne Midgette:

Do you know of great composers who were also great conductors or players, interpreters, of their own music?

The Ear would like to hear some specific examples.

Posted in Classical music

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