50 Great Conductors

Gramophone
Thursday, March 11, 2021

A great conductor illuminates music you thought you knew in a way that you couldn't possibly have imagined. Here are 50 of the finest, with recording recommendations

Claudio Abbado
Claudio Abbado

Claudio Abbado

Born and raised in Milan, Abbado studied with Hans Swarowsky in Vienna. He made his La Scala debut in 1960 and was the house’s music director from 1968 to 1986. He headed the Vienna State Opera (1986-91), London Symphony Orchestra (1979-87) and succeeded Karajan at the helm of the Berlin Philharmonic (1989-2002). He founded the European Union Youth Orchestra, Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester and re-established the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, and is closely associated with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe.

Recommended recording

Bruckner Symphony No 9

Lucerne Festival Orchestra / Claudio Abbado (DG)

Read the review in the Reviews Database


Marin Alsop

Marin Alsop has been lucky in ensuring that recording is an integral part of her musical life – in this media-dominated age it’s very important to have a calling card and what follows in this special digital edition reveals a very impressive calling card indeed. It also reveals the remarkable breadth of her musical sympathies – not only is she a very fine Brahms conductor but she’s totally at home in the music of John Adams; she can conduct Bernstein with a complete grasp of the idiom (and inspire orchestras to do the same) and in the next concert give us Bartók performance alive to every rhythmic subtlety or gradation of colour. And with Naxos a regular recording partner, she has cleverly chosen a label that comes with no baggage or long tradition – it’s about uniting music-lovers with great music, and in Alsop’s case, invariably very fine performances too. Alsop is currently music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and chief conductor of the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra.

Recommended recording

Bernstein Chichester Psalms

Bournemouth Symphony Chorus & Orchestra / Marin Alsop (Naxos)

Read the review in the Reviews Database


John Barbirolli

Born in London to Italian and French parents, Barbirolli was closely associated with English music, particularly as a wonderful interpreter of Elgar and Vaughan Williams, but he was also a great Mahler interpreter and also superb in Puccini (his set of Madama Butterfly is one of the great recordings). After an unhappy period at the helm of the New York PO where he succeeded Arturo Toscanini, he returned to the UK and headed the Hallé Orchestra for the rest of life, creating a world-class ensemble. He conducted the best-selling EMI disc of Elgar's Sea Pictures and Cello Concerto putting both Jacqueline du Pré and Dame Janet Baker on the musical map.

Recommended recording

Elgar Cello Concerto. Sea Pictures

Jacqueline du Pré, Janet Baker; Philharmonia Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra / Sir John Barbirolli (Warner Classics)

Read the review in the Reviews Database


Subscribing to Gramophone is easy, you can choose how you want to enjoy each new issue (our beautifully produced printed magazine or the digital edition, or both) and also whether you would like access to our complete digital archive (stretching back to our very first issue in April 1923) and unparalleled Reviews Database, covering 50,000 albums and written by leading experts in their field.

To find the perfect subscription for you, simply visit: gramophone.co.uk/subscribe


Daniel Barenboim

A child prodigy who played for Furtwängler, Barenboim’s professional career goes back 62 years. In his early twenties he recorded all the Beethoven piano sonatas and concertos, works he’s returned to throughout his career. He took up conducting in 1966 and has combined a dual career ever since. Posts he has held include heading the Orchestre de Paris, Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Staatskapelle Berlin. A Bayreuth regular he now leads Berlin’s Staatsoper and Milan’s La Scala. He is a co-founder of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. 

Recommended recording

Elgar Symphony No 1

Staatskapelle Berlin / Daniel Barenboim (Decca Classics)

Read the review in the Reviews Database


Thomas Beecham

Apart from his podium skills – which embraced a huge amount of music in numerous different styles – Beecham was one of British music’s greatest patrons, spending a number of fortunes on orchestras and concerts. He founded both the RPO and LPO, and recorded extensively for EMI.

Recommended recording

Delius Orchestral Works

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra / Sir Thomas Beecham (Warner Classics)

Read the review in the Reviews Database


Leonard Bernstein 

Like no other musician of his age, Bernstein was able to straddle the extremes of the musical world – an intellectual, a composer who wrote complex symphonies and 12-tone music but who was equally happy playing piano and writing Broadway musicals, able to take his adoring public with him down most of the roads he chose to travel.

Recommended recording

Bernstein Candide

Sols; London Symphony Orchestra & Chorus / Leonard Bernstein (DG)

Read the review in the Reviews Database


Karl Böhm 

A noted interpreter of the music of Mozart, Strauss and Wagner, Böhm is most closely associated with the Vienna State Opera where he appeared frequently.

Recommended recording

Beethoven Symphony No 6 Schubert Symphony No 5

Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra / Karl Böhm (DG)


Pierre Boulez 

With his meticulous conducting technique and phenomenal ear, Boulez championed the music of fellow French composers, and performed a vast repertoire, old and new.

Recommended recording

Ravel Piano Concertos

Krystian Zimerman; Cleveland Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra / Pierre Boulez (DG)

Read the review in the Reviews Database


Adrian Boult 

Boult was one of the UK’s greatest conductors with a repertoire that embraced a huge amount of new music. An exponent of Elgar’s music, Boult also gave UK premieres of music by Bartók, Stravinsky and the Second Viennese School.

Recommended recording

Elgar Symphonies Nos 1 & 2. In the South 

London Philharmonic Orchestra / Sir Adrian Boult (Warner Classics)


Sergiu Celibidache 

Romanian-born and Berlin-trained Celibidache pursued an unusual career, largely due to his refusal to make any commercial recordings. Since his death, numerous radio broadcasts have been issued commercially.

Recommended recording

Mahler Kindertotenlieder

Brigitte Fassbaender; Münchner Philharmoniker / Sergiu Celibidache (Münchner Philharmoniker)

Read the review in the Reviews Database


Riccardo Chailly 

Music Director of Leipzig’s Gewandhaus Orchestra and Music Director designate of La Scala, Milan, Chailly is one of today’s great conductors. His very broad musical sympathies have been honed with the Berlin RSO (1982-88) and Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (1988-2004), and, in the opera house, Bologna’s Teatro Comunale (1986-93). He has recorded for Decca since 1982.

Recommended recording

Brahms The Symphonies

Gewandhausorchester / Riccardo Chailly (Decca Classics)

Read the review in the Reviews Database


Colin Davis 

Davis led many of the world’s great orchestras, including the BBC SO, LSO, Bavarian RSO and Staatskapelle Dresden, as well as leading Covent Garden from 1971 to 1987. A noted Mozartian, Davis’s repertoire also embraced Tippett, Sibelius, Berlioz and Nielsen. His discography was focused on Philips, RCA and LSO Live.

Recommended recording

Berlioz Symphonie fantastique

London Symphony Orchestra / Sir Colin Davis (LSO Live)

Read the review in the Reviews Database


Laurence Equilbey

Laurence Equilbey is the conductor and Musical Director of Insula Orchestra and the choir accentus. The two 'Transcriptions' albums of choral music, Fauré's Requiem (with Sandrine Piau) and the album 'Schubert: Nacht & Träume' are all excellent. The Fauré was shortlisted for a Gramophone Award in 2009: 'Equilbey shapes and caresses every single phrase, every line, every note with the kind of loving care few conductors ever lavish on such a well known and technically undemanding score. The result is a genuinely revelatory reading.'

Recommended recording

Fauré Requiem

Sandrine Piau; Stéphane Degout; Accentus & Members of Orchestre National de France / Laurence Equilbey (Naive)

Read the review in the Reviews Database


JoAnn Falletta

JoAnn Falletta is the Music Director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and Music Director Laureate of the Virginia Symphony Orchestra. Falletta's numerous recordings for the Naxos label with the Buffalo PO have received many awards and range across a wide repertoire, from John Corigliano (Mr Tambourine Man, which won two Grammys in 2008) to Respighi's Roman Trilogy and Josef Suk's Fairy Tale.

Recommended recording

Respighi Vetrate di chiesa

Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra / JoAnn Falletta (Naxos)

Read the review in the Reviews Database


Wilhelm Furtwängler 

One of the conducting giants of the first half of the 20th century, Wilhelm Furtwängler was also a composer. His life-long devotion to the music of Beethoven resulted in a series of almost legendary recordings. He worked with a number of German orchestras before heading – concurrently – the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra (1922-28) and the Berlin Philharmonic (1922-45, and 1952-54). He remained in Nazi Germany during the war, a move that stirred up a controversy that continues to rage, and which was explored in Ronald Harwood's play Taking Sides (1995, and subsequently filmed).

Recommended recording

Beethoven Symphony No 9

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Elisabeth Höngen, Hans Hopf, Otto Edelmann; Bayreuth Festival Orchestra / Wilhelm Furtwängler (Warner Classics)

Read the review in the Reviews Database


John Eliot Gardiner 

One of the great advocates of period-instrument performance, Gardiner’s interpretations have revitalised many people’s appreciation of the great choral and symphonic repertoire. He founded the Monteverdi Choir in 1966 and followed it in 1978 with the English Baroque Soloists (and later, in 1990, with the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique). His recordings have been hugely successful and in 2000 he toured (and recorded) all of Bach’s sacred cantatas. He has received more Gramophone Awards than any other living artist. He conducts a broad repertoire, often with orchestras other than his own, and has a great reputation in French repertoire (particularly Berlioz) of which he has recorded much.

Recommended recording

Beethoven Missa Solemnis

Charlotte Margiono, Catherine Robbin, William Kendall, Alastair Miles; Monteverdi Choir, Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique / John Eliot Gardiner (Archiv)

Read the review in the Reviews Database


Valery Gergiev

Probably the world's busiest conductor, Valery Gergiev has held a number of formal conductor positions, including with the London Symphony Orchestra, Munich Philharmonic, Mariinsky Theatre, Kirov Opera, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra, and is a prolific recording artist and guest conductor.

Recommended recording

Tchaikovsky Piano Concertos Nos 1 & 2

Denis Matsuev; Mariinsky Orchestra / Valery Gergiev (Mariinsky)

Read the review in the Reviews Database


Carlo Maria Giulini 

A former viola player in Rome’s Santa Cecilia Orchestra, Giulini played for many of the greats before taking up the baton himself. Legendary opera productions and recordings (sometimes with Maria Callas) established his theatrical credentials, but later he concentrated on the symphonic repertoire.

Recommended recording

Mozart Don Giovanni

Sols; Philharmonia Orchestra / Carlo Maria Giulini (Warner Classics)

Read the review in the Reviews Database


Jane Glover

Jane Glover's recordings of the Mozart and Haydn symphonies with the London Mozart Players (of whom Glover was Music Director from 1984-91) put her on the musical map. She was Music Director of Glyndebourne Touring Opera from 1981-5 and Director of Opera at the Royal Academy of Music from 2009-2016. 

Recommended recording

Mozart Symphonies Nos. 25, 29 & 33

London Mozart Players / Jane Glover (ASV)

Read the review in the Reviews Database


Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla

Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla's tenure with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra has produced several outstanding recordings, but perhaps none finer than the album of Weinberg's Symphonies Nos 2 and 21 which was Gramophone's Recording of the Year in 2020. In his review of that album, David Fanning wrote: 'The appearance of these two symphonies on an illustrious label is another clear pointer to Weinberg’s ‘arrival’. Unsurprisingly, the depth and realism of DG’s recording are superb, and the all-important spatial distancing of the soloists in the Kaddish Symphony is beautifully captured. All in all, this has to be one of the most important symphonic releases of the year.'

Recommended recording

Weinberg Symphonies Nos. 2 & 21

Gidon Kremer; Kremerata Baltica, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra / Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla (DG)

Read the review in the Reviews Database


Emmanuelle Haïm

Emmanuelle Haïm is the founder and Artistic Director of Le Concert d’Astrée and has made several brilliant recordings with them for Erato and Warner Classics, including Handel's Italian Cantatas with Sabine Devieilhe and Léa Desandre, which was Gramophone's Recording of the Month in December 2018 and 'Arcadian Duets', which won a Gramophone Award in 2003.

Recommended recording

Handel Italian cantatas

Sabine Devieilhe, Léa Desandre; Le Concert d'Astrée / Emmanuelle Haïm (Erato)

Read the review in the Reviews Database


Bernard Haitink 

Bernard Haitink, one of the great conductors of our day, headed the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra from 1961 to 1988, establishing his reputation in the core works of the repertoire.

Recommended recording

Bruckner Symphony No 9

London Symphony Orchestra / Bernard Haitink (LSO Live)

Read the review in the Reviews Database


Nikolaus Harnoncourt 

One of the great pioneers of the period-instrument movement, Harnoncourt founded his Concentus Musicus Wien in 1953 and, recording extensively, helped create a new audience for this historically informed approach. He later took these lessons back to tradional ensembles, regularly conducting the VPO, BPO and Royal Concertgebouw orchestras, as well as forging a fruitful relationship with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe (with whom he recorded the Beethoven symphonies, winning them Gramophone's Recording of the Year in 1992).

Recommended recording

Beethoven Complete Symphonies

Chamber Orchestra of Europe / Nikolaus Harnoncourt (Teldec)

Read the review in the Reviews Database


Mariss Jansons 

The son of conductor Arvīds Jansons, Jansons Jnr studied in St Petersburg with Mravinsky and then with Swarowsky and Karajan. His Tchaikovsky symphonies with the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra (whose music director he was from 1979 to 2000) put him on the map and in 1997 he took over the Pittsburgh Symphony. He became music director of the Bavarian RSO in 2003 and chief conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra the following year.

Recommended recording

Beethoven The Symphonies and Reflections

Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra / Mariss Jansons (BR Klassik)

Read the review in the Reviews Database


Neeme Järvi

Recipient of Gramophone's 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award, Neeme Järvi appeared on the musical scene at about the same time as the CD, and the timing couldn’t have been better. In BIS and Chandos he had record companies who, in those days of the headily blank canvas of the CD catalogue, decided to do something a bit different. Rather than take on the Karajans and Soltis in the central repertoire, they decided to explore music that the majors would take some time getting around to, if at all. And so it was the Sibelius and Prokofiev symphonies rather than the Beethoven and Brahms, Stenhammar rather than Schumann. And in Järvi they had a conductor who simply thrived in the recording studio, and his producers would go home after a session with hours of music-making rather than yards of tape of the conductor lecturing the players. Järvi’s modus operandi would be to say to his players, as they confronted unfamiliar music, ‘Watch me. Follow me’ – and they did, often playing better than they ever thought was possible. 

Recommended recording

Prokofiev Symphonies Nos 1-7

Royal Scottish National Orchestra / Neeme Järvi (Chandos)

Read the review in the Reviews Database


Herbert von Karajan 

For all the achievements of Edison, and Fred Gaisberg, and Compton Mackenzie, to name a few, in creating records and a market for them, classical music’s industrial revolution was born on 19 January, 1946 when Walter Legge met Herbert von Karajan in Vienna. The wheel stopped turning, to the chagrin of record executives the world over, on 16 July, 1989, when Karajan died at his home in Anif, outside Salzburg. Listeners have moved on, even if not all record companies have, to a more pluralistic age and perhaps one, in Karajan’s prophecy, where ‘we shall be overwhelmed with things that are tenth-rate’. His story is the story of that ‘classical record industry’, its self-aggrandising triumphs and moments of sublimity as well as grotesquerie.

Recommended recording

Mahler Symphony No 9

Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra / Herbert von Karajan (DG)

Read the review in the Reviews Database


Carlos Kleiber 

Son of the great German conductor Erich Kleiber, Carlos – because of the rarity of his performances and his superb musicianship – achieved legendary status during his lifetime. He conducted fewer than 100 orchestral concerts in his entire career. He left a small but critically admired recorded legacy with Beethoven’s Fifth (DG) arguably his most celebrated disc.

Recommended recording

Beethoven Symphonies Nos 5 & 7

Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra / Carlos Kleiber (DG)

Read the review in the Reviews Database


Otto Klemperer 

Despite a hugely successful early career, Klemperer’s reputation lies on the remarkable Indian Summer during the 1950s and 1960s when he recorded with the Philharmonia Orchestra for EMI whose principal conductor he was from 1959 until his death. As a young man he worked with Mahler: he conducted the off-stage brass in a performance of Mahler's Second Symphony and assisted at the premiere of the Eighth Symphony. He worked at a number of European opera houses: Hamburg, Bremen, Strasbourg, Cologne and Wiesbaden, before headed the Kroll Opera in Berlin where he gained a reputation for champion new works. Forced out of Germany by the Nazis, he became music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1939 but illness robbed him of the top job, though he continued to appear as a guest conductor. After the war he joined the Budapest Opera but left when the Communist regime was established. He undertook a lot of guest work before being invited by Walter Legge to work with the newly established Philharmonia Orchestra.

Recommended recording

Beethoven Symphony No 9

Aase Nordmo-Løvberg, Christa Ludwig, Waldemar Kmentt, Hans Hotter; Philharmonia Chorus & Orchestra / Otto Klemperer (Testament)

Read the review in the Reviews Database


Rafael Kubelík 

Son of violinist Jan Kubelík, Rafael trained in Prague and made his professional debut aged 19. He headed the Chicago SO for three unhappy years from 1950, then moved to Covent Garden (1955-58) before becoming music director of the Bavarian RSO, a collaboration that resulted in some glorious music-making.

Recommended recording

Mahler Symphony No 1. Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau; Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra / Rafael Kubelík (DG)

Read the review in the Reviews Database


Lorin Maazel

A child prodigy – he first conducted at the age of nine – Maazel went on to become one of the leading conductors of our time. Among his many posts, he was Music Director of the New York Philharmonic (2002-09), of the Bavarian RSO (1993-2002) and of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (198896); he also held positions at Vienna State Opera (1982-84), Orchestre Nationale de France (1977-91), Cleveland Orchestra (1972-82) and Deutsche Oper Berlin (1965-71). When, following Karajan’s death in 1989, he was passed over in favour of Claudio Abbado as the Berlin Philharmonic’s Principal Conductor, he took umbrage and never conducted the orchestra again.

Recommended recording

Ravel L'enfant et les Sortileges & L'heure Espagnole

Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre National de la RTF, Berliner Philharmoniker / Lorin Maazel (DG)

Read the review in the Reviews Database


Charles Mackerras 

A supremely versatile conductor, the Australian Mackerras was a specialist in the music of Handel, Mozart, Dvořák and Janáček, the latter for whom he was the composer’s greatest advocate.

Recommended recording

Mozart Symphonies Nos 38-41

Scottish Chamber Orchestra / Sir Charles Mackerras (Linn Records)

Read the review in the Reviews Database


Susanna Mälkki

Susanna Mälkki is the Chief Conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra and Principal Guest Conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Mälkki's Bartók recordings for the BIS label are particularly outstanding: Bluebeard's Castle, The Wooden Prince, The Miraculous Mandarin Suite and Piano Concerto No 3 (with pianist Andreas Haefliger). Of The Wooden Prince recording, Andrew Farach-Colton wrote: 'We’ve had some superb accounts of this ballet over the years – Kocsis (Hungaroton, 6/07) has been a personal favourite – and Mälkki stands with the best of them. Indeed, given the excellence of BIS’s engineering, hers is easily a prime recommendation.'

Recommended recording

Bartók The Wooden Prince & The Miraculous Mandarin Suite

Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra / Susanna Mälkki (BIS)

Read the review in the Reviews Database


Neville Marriner

Founder, in 1958, and conductor of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, Marriner has also held posts with the Los Angeles Chamber, Minnesota and Stuttgart Radio orchestras. With the ASMF, he has probably made more recordings than any other conductor.

Recommended recording

Mozart Piano Concertos

Alfred Brendel; Academy of St Martin in the Fields / Neville Marriner (Decca Classics)

Read the review in the Reviews Database


Zubin Mehta 

Still the only Indian musician to achieve major international renown in the classical music world, Mehta is music director for life of the Israel PO. Vienna-trained, he has headed orchestras in Montreal, Los Angeles and New York.

Recommended recording

Puccini La fanciulla del West

Carol Neblett (Minnie), Plácido Domingo (Dick Johnson), Sherrill Milnes (Jack Rance) Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden / Zubin Mehta (DG)

Read the review in the Reviews Database


Pierre Monteux

A man who played for and met Brahms, made music with Saint-Saëns, worked with and premiered the music of Stravinsky, Debussy and Ravel, and was remembered by the late Sir Georg Solti in his recently published memoirs as ‘one of most brilliant conductors of the first half of the twentieth century’. A musician is unlikely to have a reputation founded on anything other than recordings. But for Monteux, recording was no substitute for the real thing, since the method, as he saw it, precluded spontaneity. Fortunately there were enough moments during Monteux's 40-odd years of venturing into the studio where conditions allowed his illuminating and enlivening art to thrive. Early recording triumphs included the first-ever completed recording of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, prompting, in March 1930, the cherishably quaint Gramophone reaction, ‘the whole thing is amazingly thrilling, if in parts, rather horrible’.

Recommended recording

Franck Symphony in D minor

Chicago Symphony Orchestra / Pierre Monteux


Riccardo Muti 

Muti was Music Director of the (New) Philharmonia from 1973-82, the Philadelphia Orchestra from 1980-92 and La Scala from 1986-2005. He has conducted the Chicago Symphony Orchestra since 2010.

Recommended recording

Shostakovich Symphony No 13, 'Babi Yar'

Alexey Tikhomirov (bass) Chicago Symphony Orchestra & Chorus / Riccardo Muti (CSO Resound)

Read the review in the Reviews Database


Eugene Ormandy 

Born and trained in Hungary, Ormandy is famed for his long tenure at the helm of the Philadelphia Orchestra where he created a sound and style that is still discernible in the ensemble today, 21 years after his death.

Recommended recording

The Columbia Legacy

Eugene Ormandy (Sony Classical)

Read the review in the Reviews Database


Seiji Ozawa

Seiji Ozawa chalked up his first Gramophone appearance in September 1968 with a warmly received pairing of Messiaen’s Turangalîla-symphonie and Takemitsu’s November Steps; and in a review of Ozawa’s The Rite of Spring with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Edward Greenfield, in March 1969, pretty much set the tone for how Ozawa has been assessed in this magazine ever since: ‘I have never known a more balletic performance than this,’ he wrote, ‘balletic in the sense that Ozawa makes the music dance.’

Recommended recording

Rachmaninov Piano Concertos Nos 1 & 2

Krystian Zimerman; Boston Symphony Orchestra / Seiji Ozawa (DG)

Read the review in the Reviews Database


Antonio Pappano 

Music Director of both the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, and Rome’s Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia. Pappano will replace Simon Rattle as Music Director of the London Symphony Orchestra in 2023.

Recommended recording

Verdi Aida

Sols; Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia / Antonio Pappano (Warner Classics)

Read the review in the Reviews Database


Simon Rattle 

Liverpool-born Rattle made his name during his long tenure at the helm of the CBSO, creating an ensemble of world class and with whom he recorded extensively for EMI. In 2002 he succeeded Claudio Abbado as principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and has been the Music Director of the London Symphony Orchestra since 2017. He will leave the LSO to lead the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in 2023.

Recommended recording

Gershwin Porgy and Bess

Sols; London Philharmonic Orchestra, Glyndebourne Chorus / Simon Rattle (Warner Classics)

Read the review in the Reviews Database


Fritz Reiner

For the audience the podium manner was outwardly impassive; for the players it was electric with inner vitality; a minutely contained and controlled but rich variety of body language that optimally communicated all Reiner's intentions. In 1953 he became Music Director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, which, under him, according to Stravinsky, became 'the most precise and flexible orchestra in the world'.

Recommended recording

Bartók Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta. Hungarian Sketches

Chicago Symphony Orchestra / Fritz Reiner (RCA Living Stereo)


Georg Solti 

Sir Georg Solti was one of the most respected and – through his ground-breaking recordings with producer John Culshaw – influential conductors of the 20th century. A pupil of Bartók, Weiner and Dohnányi in Budapest, Solti worked with Toscanini in Salzburg. He headed the opera in Frankfurt before taking over the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. In 1969 he became music director of the Chicago SO, a post he kept for 22 years; he also held positions with the LPO and Orchestre de Paris. An exclusive Decca artist he left a vast discography of which the complete Ring is perhaps the jewel.

Recommended recording

Mahler Symphony No 8

Chicago Symphony Orchestra / Georg Solti (Decca)

Read the review in the Reviews Database


Leopold Stokowski

Few conductors have enjoyed as long and fruitful a career as Leopold Stokowski, to say nothing of his impact on the development ot twentieth-century orchestral playing. On the podium he exuded equal doses of glamour and showmanship. His mesmerizing, baton-less hands were shaken on screen by Mickey Mouse in Fantasia and brilliantly lampooned by a bewigged Bugs Bunny in the Warner Bros. cartoon Long Haired Hare. He premiered many important works, including Varèse's Ameriques, Schoenberg's Piano Concerto and Ives's Symphony No 4.


George Szell 

The Hungarian conductor’s greatest legacy is the Cleveland Orchestra, which he raised to the pinnacle of virtuosity and ensemble. Already one of Europe’s leading conductors, Szell took over the Ohio orchestra in 1946 and, until his death in 1970, made a series of outstanding recordings of the core repertoire. He was also an admired guest conductor (both in concert and in the studio).

Recommended recording

Brahms Double Concerto for Violin & Cello

Mstislav Rostropovich (cello), David Oistrakh (violin) Cleveland Orchestra / George Szell (Warner Classics)


Michael Tilson Thomas 

Celebrating 20 years at the helm of the San Francisco Symphony, Michael Tilson Thomas has held posts with the London Symphony Orchestra and founded the New World Symphony in Miami. He has recorded extensively for DG, RCA and the SFS’s own label.

Recommended recording

Copland The Modernist

San Francisco Symphony Orchestra / Michael Tilson Thomas (Red Seal)

Read the review in the Reviews Database


Arturo Toscanini 

After making his debut aged 19 swapping his cello for a baton and conducting Aida – to huge success – his career never faltered. He led the premieres of La bohème and Pagliacci, and later headed La Scala (1921-29). He worked frequently in the US and, after the Fascist take-over of Italy settled in New York where NBC created an orchestra for him and he broadcast and recorded extensively, playing much American fare.

Recommended recording

Beethoven Symphony No 5 & 7

New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra / Arturo Toscanini (Naxos)


Bruno Walter

Walter made his debut in Cologne and later worked in Hamburg where he met Gustav Mahler. He fled to the US in 1939, where he enjoyed a revitalised career at the helm of the Columbia SO, formed especially for him to record with.

Recommended recording

Bruno Walter - The Complete Columbia Album Collection (Sony)


Simone Young

The Australian Simone Young has held posts at a number of orchestras: Principal Conductor of the Bergen Philharmonic (1998-2002); Artistic Director of the Australian Opera (2001-2003); Principal Guest Conductor of the Gulbenkian Orchestra in Lisbon; Artistic Director of the Hamburg State Opera and Chief Music Director of the Hamburg Philharmonic (2005-2015). Young's Bruckner symphony-cycle with the Hamburg Philharmonic is certainly a career highlight, with the recording of the First Symphony being a Gramophone Editor's Choice in 2011. Of that album, Rob Cowan wrote: 'Here is a Bruckner conductor who understands where the music is going and the contextual significance of detail. Young seems at one with Bruckner’s sound world, how the music breathes and how to balance weighty brass without letting them overwhelm the rest of the orchestra. And she feels the First Symphony’s abundant poetry, especially in the first movement’s second subject and that wonderful moment towards the end of the Adagio where there are such vivid premonitions of the Ninth’s Adagio.'

Recommended recording

Bruckner Symphony No 1

Hamburg Philharmonic / Simone Young (Oehms)

Read the review in the Reviews Database


Thank you for visiting...

We have been writing about classical music for our dedicated and knowledgeable readers since 1923 and we would love you to join them.

To find the perfect subscription for you, simply visit: gramophone.co.uk/subscribe

Gramophone Print

  • Print Edition

From £6.87 / month

Subscribe

The Gramophone Digital Club

  • Digital Edition
  • Digital Archive
  • Reviews Database
  • Events & Offers

From £9.20 / month

Subscribe

Gramophone Reviews

  • Reviews Database

From £6.87 / month

Subscribe

Gramophone Digital Edition

  • Digital Edition
  • Digital Archive

From £6.87 / month

Subscribe

If you are a library, university or other organisation that would be interested in an institutional subscription to Gramophone please click here for further information.