The modern orchestra has been converted into a great, composite musical instrument, on which the conductor actually plays, and the specific skill he has developed of playing on this ideal instrument is an exact counterpart of what we call virtuosity in the individual performer. A generation of "virtuosi of the orchestra" has sprung up, exercising the same fascination over the great crowd of music lovers that other virtuosi have time out of mind.
The orchestral conductor is fast becoming the cynosure in the musical firmament, with the pole star of safety or shipwreck beaming at his baton's tip. Lightly warbling soprani, tenors storming the Jericho of the people's heart with "miraculous sound," and sonorous basses of Bashan will have to look to their laurels. Some fine day they may find them encircling the conductor's Olympian brow.
In a word, the modern conductor is essentially a performer, and whether he be a popular favorite by reason of his virtuosity or of the scope modern musical performance gives to the artistic initiative of all performers, his virtuosity per se is unquestionably the element by which he most gains his ascendancy over the public. — Scribner's Magazine.
Monday, July 14, 2008