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8/20/99: Is it true that composers are usually not good at conducting their own works?

I would not want to generalize about composers any more than about other people. In fact, there are a lot of composer-conductors in the world who do both competently. It is true that there is a body of anecdote about famous composers who, allegedly, on one occasion or another, did not conduct their works as well as some other conductor. This sounds like a pretty simplistic evaluation of what was going on. The more they respect the person on the podium, the better musicians will play—as long as there is some minimal competence on the podium. And competence in the eyes of the musicians is not the same as prettiness in the eyes of the audience.

There is another side to this. There are composers who conduct some of their own works but not all. Sometimes, a composer writes something that he himself judges to be more complicated than he has the time and inclination to rehearse and conduct. I have had the honor of a composer’s entrusting his work to me in that context.

So, the bottom line is that I do not think there are a lot of composers who are standing on podiums on which they have no right to stand.

©1999 by Joseph Rescigno. The text here may be freely reproduced for non-commercial purposes as long as credit is given.

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