The April issue of BBC Music Magazine features the results of the editors’ poll of “100 of today’s leading maestros.” The question: who are, or were, the greatest conductors of all time?
The winner of the poll was the Austrian conductor Carlos Kleiber (1930-2004), whose legendary reputation rests on relatively few recordings and public performances—a musician’s musician, not a household name. Also not a household name is Paavo Berglund (b. 1929), a Finnish conductor who was one of the three conductors who received votes from Minnesota Orchestra director Osmo Vänskä. Berglund did not finish in the overall top 20, but Vänskä’s other two picks did: Pierre Boulez (French, b. 1925), who came in at number nine, and number two finisher Leonard Bernstein (American, 1918-1990; pictured above).
Here’s the complete list, in rank order. It’s gratifying to see that at the relatively young age of 56, Berlin Philharmonic leader Simon Rattle comes in at number six; he’s certainly deserving, though it’s hard to believe that doesn’t partially reflect his current white-hot status. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that Georg Solti (Hungarian, 1912-1997) didn’t make the top 20; it’s not surprising that Daniel Barenboim (Argentinian, b. 1942) didn’t make the list, but he’s probably miffed about it anyway.
And, oh, no shocker: the top finishers are all men. Happily, the male monopoly on conducting is starting to crack and will surely crack much wider in the next couple of decades. Among the conductors polled was Marin Alsop, head of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and one of the world’s most popular and acclaimed conductors; here in Minnesota, principal pops conductor Sarah Hicks is happily kept very busy.
1. Carlos Kleiber (Austrian, 1930-2004)
2. Leonard Bernstein (American, 1918-1990)
3. Claudio Abbado (Italian, b. 1933)
4. Herbert von Karajan (Austrian, 1908-1989)
5. Nikolaus Harnoncourt (Austrian, b. 1929)
6. Simon Rattle (British, b 1955)
7. Wilhelm Furtwängler (German, 1896-1954)
8. Arturo Toscanini (Italian, 1867-1957)
9. Pierre Boulez (French, b. 1925)
10. Carlo Maria Giulini (Italian, 1914-2005)
11. John Eliot Gardiner (British, b. 1943)
12. John Barbirolli (British, 1899-1970)
13. Ferenc Fricsay (Hungarian, 1914-1963)
14. George Szell (Hungarian, 1897-1970)
15. Bernard Haitink (Dutch, b. 1929)
16. Pierre Monteux (French, 1875-1964)
17. Yevgeny Mravinsky (Russian, 1903-1988)
18. Colin Davis (British, b. 1927)
19. Thomas Beecham (British, 1879-1961)
20. Charles Mackerras (Australian, 1925-2010)