CONDUCTOR (Lat., leader, from comlucere, to lead together). In music, the person who di rects the chorus or orchestra, or both combined, and who is responsible for the interpretation of the works performed by the artists under his direction. A good conductor must be a thorough musician. He must have had careful training in all branches of musical composition, must be familiar with the compass and peculiarities of the voice and all orchestral instruments; must he a good score-reader, and a man of broad musical culture, familiar with the styles of various epochs and masters. In addition, he must he gifted with poetic temperament, an unusually fine ear, a forceful, magnetic personality that com mands instant obedience, and great coolness and presence of mind. That he be also a fine per former on some instrument is not essential ; two of the world's greatest conductors, Wagner and Berlioz, were wretched performers. The prin cipal work of the conductor is not done in public during performances, but during rehearsals. His preparation really begins at home. He must make himself thoroughly familiar with the score of the work he is to conduct. This is best clone at the pianoforte. He must have a clear idea of the form of the work, of the melon (q.v.). of the different phrases. Before he conducts the first rehearsal, he has decided on the interpretation of the work, and knows exactly what he wishes each performer to do.
The first rehearsal of a new work (especially if performed from manuscript) is largely taken lip with correcting mistakes in the parts. Here the conductor's ear must be on the alert. During rehearsal the conductor can convey his instruc tions to the singers and instrumentalists by means of the spoken word, audible beating of the rhythm, and by singing or playing to them. In choral works the chorus is rehearsed separately with the piano. The soloists also rehearse pri vately, with the conductor at the piano, before rehearsals with full orchestra begin. In study ing instrumental works, like symphonies, a care ful conductor often rehearses the strings and wind instruments separately. After the perform ers have become thoroughly familiar with the con ductor's intentions, they are ready to be guided during the public performance by his baton, and by signals given with the hand or eyes. By that time the conductor practically knows the score by heart. It lies before him more for occa sional reference than actual reading. People in general know very little about the real respon sibility and importance of the conductor. Berlioz does not exaggerate when he says that a poor singer or instrumentalist can ruin only his or her part, but a poor conductor can ruin the whole performance.
While the essential functions of the conductor have been pretty much the same at all times, the manner of conducting has varied greatly. The custom of beating time with a baton can be traced to the remotest antiquity, when oarsmen were directed by such means. When the baton was introduced for beating time in music is not known. An ancient manuscript is preserved in
Paris, showing Heinrich von Meissen, a minne singer, who died in 1318, directing a group of vocal and instrumental performers by means of a baton. We know nothing of the mode of con ducting between that time and 1600. The earliest operatic performances were conducted from the harpsichord. In the recitative, the leader struck the few chords upon the instrument, and in the concerted pieces he led. This he did by nodding the head, stamping the foot, and using one aria or even both arms. When the opera reached France and Germany, this mode of conducting was naturally employed in these countries also. In Italy this method maintained itself up to the first half of the nineteenth century. In Ger many we find before 1700 that at performances of sacred works in churches the organist was assisted by a time-beater. This time-beater was not a conductor: he only indicated the time. But shortly after the beginning of the eighteenth cen tury the Italian operatic method was adopted for the church, and the organist was the sole director, as is still the custom in churches of to-day. The earlier symphonic works were also conducted from the harpsichord. When the number of wind instruments increased, it was found that the tones of the harpsichord could not be heard by all players, and the time-beater again made his appearance. In this manner Haydn and Mozart conducted their symphonies. they sitting at the harpsichord while some one else beat time. Beethoven conducted with the baton, and the first violin or concert-master Interpretative conducting may be said to have begun with Stamitz (1719-(i1) and his pupil Cannabich (1731-9S), whom Mozart called the best conductor be ever heard. Cannabich devel oped the crescendo and diminuendo of the orches tra, one of the great means of expression. Gossec (173S-1S•9) must also be mentioned among the early conductors who developed orchestral tech nics. But these men were exceptions at their time. Interpretative conductors as a class did not exist before the beginning of the nineteenth century. Among these the greatest were Spohr, Weber, and Mendelssohn in Germany, and Habe neck, a German by birth and training, in France. With .Wagner and Berlioz begins the school of modern conducting, which is the culmination and natural development of the work begun by the four eminent conductors just mentioned. Nearly all the great modern conductors are German. France boasts three great names—Pasdeloup, Co donne, and Lamoureux. But among the Germans there are Liszt, Billow, Richter, Seidl, Mottl, R. Strauss, WeingUrtner, Nikisch, Paur, Lohse, Levi, Zumpe, Sucher, Thomas. Among the best trea tises on conducting are: Wagner, Veber dos Diri gicren (vol. viii. of his collected works, Leipzig, ISSS) ; Berlioz, Treatise on Modern Instrumenta tion, translated by Bennett (London, ISS2) Hen derson, The Orchestra and Orchestral Music (New York, 1S99).