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What's the Point of the Conductor?

Tom Service explores the role of the conductor. Is it to do with their ego, clothes, ability to beat time or their emotional outpouring onstage, or is it something else entirely?

The Listening Service had a question from a listener :

"When I see the musicians playing, they seem to be looking at their sheet music, not the conductor. Can an orchestra not function perfectly well without a conductor? If I'm intensely moved by a piece of orchestral music, is it not the musicians which moved me? Why must I applaud some arbitrary conductor, who never touched a single instrument throughout the entire performance?"

Tom Service rises to the challenge and looks at the role of the conductor - is it all about their ego, their clothes, their ability to beat time or their emotional outpouring onstage - or it is something else entirely? Rethink music with The Listening Service.

Available now

30 minutes

Last on

Sun 4 Nov 2018 17:00

Music Played

  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

    Symphony no. 40 in G minor K.550: 1st movement; Allegro molto

    Performer: Orchestra Mozart. Performer: Claudio Abbado.
    • DG.
  • Gustav Mahler

    Symphony no. 5 in C sharp minor; 3rd movement; Scherzo

    Performer: Liepājas Simfoniskais orķestris. Performer: Valery Gergiev.
    • LSO Live.
  • Unknown

    Hor che la vaga Aurora (Ghirlanda de Madrigali)

    Performer: La Villanella Basel.
    • O dulcis amor.
    • Ramee.
  • Jean‐Baptiste Lully

    Te Deum LWV 55

    Performer: Le Poème Harmonique. Performer: Capella Cracoviensis. Performer: Vincent Dumestre.
    • Te Deum: Charpentier & Lully.
    • Alpha.
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

    Symphony no 33 in B flat major K319; 4th movement

    Performer: Orpheus Chamber Orchestra.
    • DG.
  • Ludwig van Beethoven

    Symphony no. 1 (Op.21) in C major, 1st movement; Adagio molto - allegro con brio

    Performer: Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Performer: Claudio Abbado.
    • DG.
  • Ludwig van Beethoven

    Symphony no. 9 (Op.125) in D minor "Choral", 4th mvt; Presto - allegro assai

    Performer: Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Performer: Claudio Abbado.
    • DG.
  • Hector Berlioz

    Symphonie fantastique (Op.14), 5th movement; Songe d'une nuit du Sabbat

    Orchestra: Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Claudio Abbado.
    • DG.
  • Franz Liszt

    2 Episodes from Lenau's Faust S.110 for orchestra: Der Tanz in der Dorfschenke

    Performer: Orchestre de Paris. Performer: Georg Solti.
    • Decca.
  • Robert Schumann

    Concertstuck for 4 horns and orchestra (Op.86) in F major, 3rd mvt; Sehr lebhaft

    Performer: Roger Montgomery. Performer: Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique. Performer: Sir John Eliot Gardiner.
    • Archiv.
  • Richard Wagner

    The Ride of the Valkyries

    Performer: Staatskapelle Dresden. Performer: Donald Runnicles.
    • Teldec.
  • Ludwig van Beethoven

    Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125, "Choral": III. Adagio

    Performer: Orchester der Bayreuther Festspiele. Performer: Wilhelm Furtwängler.
    • Warner.
  • Ludwig van Beethoven

    Symphony no 2; Last Movement

    Performer: Chamber Orchestra of Europe. Performer: Nikolaus Harnoncourt.
    • Teldec.
  • Ludwig van Beethoven

    Symphony no. 5 (Op. 67) in C minor, 1st mvt, Allegro con brio

    Performer: Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique. Performer: Sir John Eliot Gardiner.
    • Archiv.
  • Johann Strauss II

    Overture : Die Fledermaus

    Performer: Carlos Kleiber.
  • Claude Debussy

    La Mer; Jeux de vagues

    Performer: Lucerne Festival Orchestra. Performer: Claudio Abbado.
    • DG.

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