There are so many great classical music conductors that creating a list of only 10 is quite a task.
The art of conducting has been around for centuries. The first person who can be identified as a conductor was Johann Sebastian Bach, who led his own music during the 1700s. Since then, many influential conductors have come and gone, each contributing something to the field of orchestral conducting. Here are ten people whose contributions changed the world of classical music forever.
10. Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990)
Born in Lawrence, Massachusetts on August 25th, 1918, Leonard Bernstein took to music at a young age and began playing piano before he could read sheet music. At the age of 11, his parents sent him to study composition with the great teacher Helen Coates. After graduating from Boston University, Bernstein became the music director for the New York Philharmonic at the young age of 25. He quickly became known as a conductor who was passionate about making classical music accessible to everyone, and he was one of the first conductors to televise his concerts. Bernstein also composed many famous pieces of music, including West Side Story and Candide.
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9. Pierre Boulez (1925-2016)
Pierre Boulez was born in Montbrison, France on 26th March 1925. He began his music studies at the age of six and started conducting when he was just 18 years old. Boulez quickly rose through the ranks of the music world, becoming the director of the Domaine Musical in 1950 and the assistant conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra in 1952, where he remained for two years under George Szell. In 1954 he became chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra and later went on to become the principal guest conductor of the New York Philharmonic from 1971-1975. He then served as director of IRCAM from 1977-1991. Boulez was known for his innovative and experimental conducting style, and he remains one of the most influential conductors of the 20th century.
8. Arturo Toscanini (1867-1957)
Born in Parma, Italy on March 25th, 1867, Arturo Toscanini was a conductor, composer and violinist who is considered to be one of the greatest conductors of all time. He began his music studies at a young age and made his conducting debut at the age of 19. Toscanini quickly rose through the ranks, becoming the music director for La Scala in Milan at the age of 26. He then went on to become the director of the Metropolitan Opera and later the NBC Symphony Orchestra. Toscanini was known for his powerful performances, which connected emotionally with listeners. He died on January 16th, 1957 in New York City.
7. Hans Richter (1843-1916)
Born in Vienna on June 21st, 1843, Hans Richter was a conductor and composer who is considered to be one of the fathers of orchestral conducting. He began his music career as a violinist and composer, and in 1872 he became the conductor of the Court Opera in Vienna. In 1884 he became the first conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, a post which he held for ten years. In 1897, Richter became the director of the Royal Opera House in London and he made his debut as a conductor at the Bayreuth Festival in Germany, where he conducted Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen. He died on February 8th 1916.
6. Otto Klemperer (1885-1973)
Born in Breslau, Germany on May 14th, 1885, Otto Klemperer was a conductor who is considered to be one of the greatest opera conductors of all time. He began his music career as a cellist and composer, and in 1920 he became the first conductor of the Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of Berlin. Klemperer went on to become the conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the New York Philharmonic and the Vienna State Opera. He is best known for his recordings of Mahler’s symphonies, which have been hailed as some of the best recordings of all time. Klemperer died on July 6th 1973 in Zürich, Switzerland.
5. Leopold Stokowski (1882-1977)
Born on April 18th, 1882 in London, England, Leopold Stokowski was a conductor and composer who is best known for his association with the Philadelphia Orchestra, which he conducted from 1912-1941. Stokowski is considered to be one of the greatest conductors of all time, and he was known for his innovative and experimental conducting style. He was the first conductor to use a microphone in live performances, and he also used spotlights and rear-projection screens to create a more dramatic effect onstage. Stokowski died on 13th September 1977 in Nether Wallop, England.
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4. Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990)
Born on August 25th, 1918 in Lawrence, Massachusetts, Leonard Bernstein was a conductor and composer who is considered to be one of the greatest conductors of all time. He had his first major success at age 25 with the New York Philharmonic, where he became their music director in 1957. Bernstein was also a well-known composer, and his works include the operas Trouble in Tahiti and West Side Story. He died on October 14th 1990 in New York City.
3. Georg Solti (1912-1997)
Born on October 21st, 1912 in Budapest, Hungary, Georg Solti was a conductor and composer who is considered to be one of the greatest conductors of all time. He began his music career as a pianist and won the Gold Medal at the Geneva International Music Competition in 1937. Solti became a conductor in the 1940s, and he went on to become the music director of the Frankfurt Opera, the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He was awarded with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1991 and he died on September 5th 1997.
2. Wilhelm Furtwängler (1886-1954)
Born on December 5th, 1886 in Berlin, Germany, Wilhelm Furtwängler was a conductor who is considered to be one of the greatest conductors of all time. He began his music career as a pianist and in 1912 he became the conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, a post which he held for 22 years. Furtwängler was also the conductor of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and the Salzburg Festival. He died on November 30th 1954 in Eberstalten, Germany.
1. Arturo Toscanini (1867-1957)
Born on March 25th, 1867 in Parma, Italy, Arturo Toscanini was a conductor who is considered to be one of the greatest conductors of all time. He began his music career as a cellist and in 1898 he became the conductor of the La Scala Theater in Milan. Toscanini went on to become the conductor of the New York Philharmonic, the NBC Symphony Orchestra and the RAI Symphony Orchestra. He was awarded with numerous awards and accolades during his lifetime, and he was also known for his aggressive conducting style. Toscanini died on January 16th 1957 in New York City.
This article has given you some of the most famous conductors in history. We hope that this list will inspire you to learn more about these musicians and their contributions to music. If there are any other great conductors who should be on this list, please let us know! Did you enjoy reading about all of these amazing people? Let us know by leaving a comment below.