The Well-Tempered Ear

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

June 6, 2010
4 Comments

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:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/21/AR2010052100063.html

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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