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conducting,in music, the art of unifying the efforts of a number of musicians simultaneously engaged in musical performance. In the Middle Ages and Renaissance the conductor was primarily a time beater, maintaining the measure or tactus of polyphonic music with his hand or a roll of music paper. During the baroque era the harpsichordist, playing the basso continuo, was the conductor. When the continuo disappeared, the first violinist, even today called concertmaster, became the leader or shared the function with a keyboard player. A few 18th-century conductors, such as Johann StamitzStamitz, Johann
, 1717–57, Bohemian-German composer. Stamitz came to Mannheim (1741) and became (1745) concertmaster of the Mannheim orchestra. He made it the best in Europe.
..... Click the link for more information. of the Mannheim orchestra, achieved a high standard of performance. The custom of beating time with a stick (baton) on a music stand or table originated in France. This noisy practice was irritating to the listener. It actually caused the death of the composer LullyLully, Jean Baptiste
, 1632–87, French operatic composer, b. Florence, Italy. His name originally was Giovanni Battista Lulli. A self-taught violinist, he went to France in 1646 and in 1652 entered the service of Louis XIV.
..... Click the link for more information. who struck his own foot with his baton, resulting in an abscess that killed him. The beating technique was altered and a more subtle manner was used by Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and Spohr. Berlioz, in his treatise on instrumentation and Wagner, in his classic treatise Über das Dirigieren [concerning directing], laid down the principles of modern conducting; and under the latter's influence Hans von BülowBülow, Hans Guido, Freiherr von
, 1830–94, German pianist and conductor. After hearing Wagner's Lohengrin in 1850 at Weimar under Liszt's direction, he studied piano with Liszt and later conducted the premieres of several of Wagner's operas.
..... Click the link for more information. became the first of the virtuoso conductors. A generally conventional set of gestures is used for beating time, a downstroke marking the beginning of a measure. The baton remains popular although a few conductors, notably StokowskiStokowski, Leopold
, 1882–1977, American conductor, b. London. Stokowski studied in England and at the Paris Conservatory. He was organist and choirmaster at St. Bartholomew's Church, New York City (1905–8), and was conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony
..... Click the link for more information. , prefer not to use it. Modern conducting is highly individual and requires great musical understanding, a thorough knowledge of instruments and of the concert repertory, a clear mastery of the baton and hand gestures, and a human sympathy for the performers.
See A. C. Boult, A Handbook on the Technique of Conducting (7th ed. 1951); C. Bamberger, The Conductor's Art (1965); H. C. Schonberg, The Great Conductors (1967).
one of the types of musical performing art, which involves directing a group of musicians (orchestra, choir, ensemble, or opera or ballet company) in the preparation and public performance of a musical work. Conducting is done by a conductor, who ensures order and technical mastery in the performance of the ensemble and endeavors to impart to the ensemble his own artistic approach and understanding of a given work.
The art of conducting is based on a specially developed system of manual motions. The conductor’s face—his look and expressions—also plays an important role in conducting. Training in music theory, a good ear, and a fine musical memory as well as an active, purposeful will are all expected of the modern conductor.
The art of conducting originated in ancient times. During the early stages of the development of choral folk singing, conducting was done by the lead voice. In ancient Egypt and Greece and in the Middle Ages, religious choirs were often led by a method of conducting called chironomy, a system of conventional manual motions. In the 15th century, with the increased complexity of polyphony, the development of orchestral playing, and the resulting need for more precise rhythmic organization of the ensemble, conductors began to use a battuta (Italian, stick) “to beat time.”
With the establishment of the figured bass in the 17th and 18th centuries, the musician who played from the figured bass on the harpsichord or organ (usually the composer of the piece) began also to conduct by his very playing, as well as by using his eyes, head, and a finger to give directions or by tapping out the rhythm with his foot. In the 18th century the first violinist (concertmaster) became more important in the ensemble. By his performance the concertmaster helped the conductor to manage the ensemble, and occasionally he would stop playing and use his bow as a battuta. This practice led to the emergence of so-called dual conducting. In some instances, as many as five conductors were used in the performance of major vocal-instrumental works.
Beginning in the second half of the 18th century, with the decline of the figured bass, the violinist-concertmaster gradually became the sole leader of the ensemble. Well into the 19th century this method of conducting was still used in ballroom and garden orchestras and small ensembles. It has sometimes been used in the 20th century in the performance of music from the 17th and 18th centuries.
From the beginning of the 19th century the development of symphonic music and the expansion and increasing complexity of the orchestra’s makeup necessitated the liberation of the conductor from participation in the general ensemble and the devotion of all his attention to conducting. Gradually a baton began to be used instead of the bow. G. Mosel (1812, Vienna), C. M. von Weber (1817, Dresden), and L. Spohr (1817, Frankfurt am Main) were the first to use the baton in their work.
Wagner, Beethoven, and Berlioz were the founders of modern conducting. It was Wagner who initiated a practice that became standard: the conductor, who had previously stood behind the podium and faced the public, now turned his back to the public. This change allowed closer contact between the conductor and the orchestra players. Gradually there appeared the modern conductor-performer, in contrast to the conductor-composer. H. von Bülow was the first conductor-performer to win international recognition. H. Richter and A. Nikisch (Hungary), F. Mottl, F. Weingartner, and R. Strauss (Germany), and G. Mahler (Austria) were among the outstanding foreign masters of the art of conducting from the turn of the century. In subsequent decades A. Toscanini (Italy), B. Walter, W. Furtwängler, and O. Klemperer (German Democratic Republic), and C. Munch (France) displayed their mastery.
In Russia until the 18th century conducting was associated primarily with choral singing. Serf musicians were the first Russian orchestral conductors. I. E. Khandoshkin and V. A. Pashkevich are the best-known 18th-century conductors. M. A. Balakirev, A. G. Rubinstein, and N. G. Rubinstein were the greatest modern conductors of the second half of the 19th century, and E. F. Napravnik holds an important place in the history of conducting in Russia. V. I. Safonov, S. V. Rachmaninoff, and S. A. Koussevitsky were prominent at the beginning of the 20th century, and the talent of N. S. Golovanov, A. M. Pazovskii, S. A. Samosud, and V. I. Suk flowered in the early post-revolutionary years. After the October Revolution special courses in operatic-symphonic and choral conducting were introduced in the conservatories.
The First All-Union Conductors’ Competition, which was held in 1938, demonstrated the success of the Soviet school of conducting, whose leading representatives include E. A. Mravinskii, A. Sh. Melik-Pashaev, K. K. Ivanov, N. G. Rakhlin, and M. I. Paverman.
In choral conducting graduates of Soviet conservatories, including G. A. Dmitrievskii, K. B. Ptitsa, V. G. Sokolov, and A. A. Iurlov, have successfully carried on traditions established by outstanding masters who belonged to the prerevolutionary choral school, including A. D. Kastal’skii, P. G. Chesnokov, A. V. Nikol’skii, N. M. Danilin, A. V. Aleksandrov, and A. V. Sveshnikov.
REFERENCESWagner, R. O dirizhirovanii. St. Petersburg, 1900. (Translated from German.)
Berlioz, H. Dirizher orkestra, 3rd ed. Moscow, 1912. (Translated from French.)
Glinskii, M. “Ocherki po istorii dirizherskogo iskusstva.” Muzykal’nyi sovremennik, 1916, book 3.
Weingartner, F. O dirizhirovanii. Leningrad, 1927. (Translated from German.)
Timofeev, Iu. Rukovodstvo dlia nachinaiushchego dirizhera, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1935.
Ptitsa, K. Ocherki po tekhnike dirizhirovaniia khorom. Moscow-Leningrad, 1948.
Mal’ko, N. Osnovy tekhniki dirizhirovaniia. Moscow-Leningrad, 1965. (Translated from English.)
Musin, I. Tekhnika dirizhirovaniia. Leningrad, 1967.
Schunemann, G. Geschichte des Dirigierens, 2nd ed. Wiesbaden, 1965.
E. IA. RATSER