A painter paints pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence. — Leopold Stokowski
There are certain names one should know when it comes to conductors. Not just names but their contributions. Here are 10 dead conductors whom everyone should know of. I have limited to conductors of whom recordings are readily available.
Also, this list is for mainstream classical music. However, conductors of such immense fame and status as Leonard Bernstein and Herbert von Karajan are not here. This isn't a top 10 dead conductors contest but merely a dusting off of some venerable masters who are now gone.
Traces to Nowhere
Carlos Kleiber: Kleiber was the son of German conductor Erich Kleiber. When Carlos told his father that he wanted to conduct, the elder Kleiber is reported have said, “One Kleiber is enough.” Carlos Kleiber is considered by many to be the greatest conductor of the 20th Century. However, his range was limited. He didn’t conduct Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, Schumann, Bruckner, and the only Wagner he conducted was Tristan. The fact remains that when he conducted the results were magnificent.
Arturo Toscanini, NBC Symphony Orchestra
Wagner: Tannhauser: Overture
Arturo Toscanini: He conducted the premieres of Pagliacci and La Boheme. He became a household name in the U.S., in part, because of his many radio and television broadcasts as the director of The NBC Symphony Orchestra. The broadcast documents are a reminder of how great he was.
...Concertgebouw Orchestra (1931 Movie)
Joseph Willem Mengelberg: Mengelberg is something of an unknown to but the very, very, old or the very, very, dedicated. He was the general director/dictator of the Concertgebouw from 1895-1945. In 1945 he was banned by the Dutch for his collusion with the Germans during World War II.
...Soviet Conductor, Russian Aristocrat
Sergiu Celibidache: I've given Celibidache his due here in the column but he's worth every word ever written about him.
Yevgeny Aleksandrovich Mravinsky: Premiered Shostakovich’s Symphonies Nos. 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, and 12. Conducting the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra from 1938-1988, Mravinsky never conducted in the U.S. and only toured Great Britain once.
...Bugs Bunny Opera
Georg Solti: In 1993 Solti received a Kennedy Center Honor. He received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement in 1996. Solti is almost too famous to be on this list. There is almost no debate as to the greatest Ring Cycle ever documented — in stereo. That would be Solti’s with The Vienna Philharmonic.
Siegfried Funeral Music - Götterdämmerung
Leopold Stokowski: He was impersonated by Bugs Bunny. There is no truer test of greatness.
...conducting Mozart's Don Giovanni Overture Salzburg 1954
Wilhelm Furtwängler: He was the great man at The Berlin Philharmonic before the von Karajan era. Furtwängler was the conductor during Hitler’s era. In 1935 he was to succeed Toscanini as the music director of The New York Philharmonic but the Nazi propaganda machine went to work after Furtwängler accepted and he never came to New York. The 2001 film Taking Sides deals with the subject of Furtwängler’s denazification hearings.
Mozart: Symphony No. 40, Finale
...Bruno Walter conducts (1930)
Bruno Walter: As a pupil of Mahler, Walter connects us directly with the milieu of turn of the century Vienna. Walter premiered Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 and Das Lied von der Erde both after the composer’s death. As was often the case with European musicians, the United States was a refuge for Walter during the Third Reich. He was offered the head position at The New York Philharmonic. He initially declined but later accepted and served for two years. During the war his home was in Beverly Hills.
Carlo Maria Giulini
Overture to "I Vespri Siciliani"
Carl Maria Giulini: A meditative genius with a recording of Bruckner Symphony No. 8 for the ages Giulini was the bodhisattva of the conducting podium. Of all the conductors on this list he was surely the most noble and humane. Forced into Mussolini's army in 1941 Giulini never fired his rifle. While the Germans occupied Rome after the Allied Invasion Giulini was in hiding for nine months while posters of his face decorated the city instructing German soldiers to shoot him on sight. Giulini directed the Los Angeles Philharmonic in the late '70s and early '80s.