Why does classical music just list the conductor?

Here's an irritation. Like many, I love classical music, but wouldn't claim erudition or scholarly qualities in any of it (e.g. Beethoven's later symphonies bearing closer similarities with Mozart perhaps due to them competing - paraphrased from Wikipedia - don't you love peer reviewed journals?) For that reason, would much rather the COMPOSER is listed, not the conductor or if it's ballet or symphony or anything else that is classical.

I want to just search classical genre then choose the composer. End of subject.

Don't spoil what you have with what you wish for!

Original Post

Your simplistic view of (classical) music, I would propose, has unfortunately led you to your tidy and convenient posit. It is like you are buying clothes or shoes and have no concern for what size they might be. What if they do not fit? You may eventually grow into something but you also have to acknowledge that some things you have outgrown and have to move on from.

Classical music is largely about interpretation and finding your fit (to match your personality). There is no definitive version but an endless mix of variables that either lead you closer to being a good fit at this point in time or not. Again, this is an individual assessment (subjective) and as one grows in maturity and intellect the outcome will obviously change over your lifetime. What fits for you won’t necessarily fit for myself?

Another example might be that if you like a meal you generally thank the Head Chef and not the guy who pealed the potatoes or the cow who donated the steak. The Head Chef is responsible for all the little details in preparation including how it tastes (adding just the right amount of spices and how long to cook etc). The Conductor is like the Head Chef.

I am probably the wrong person to answer your main questions here though as I have some rather harsh views about symphonic music. I much prefer solo music and small chamber works (typically 1 to 5 or 6 players max.). This allows for a conversation and everyone’s viewpoints are heard and can be distinct. Symphonies are like having large groups of people (who have no voice) except through the conductor. Only one subservient voice is allowed. This is a union. This is one master over many slaves. And we all know that unions lead to mediocrity.

So this is why you only see the conductors name listed prominently as you are selling his image and stature. It is his vision and his interpretation that is given and consequently his brand represented on the flag flying on the flagpole. If you don’t like it you don’t blame the poor sod playing the triangle. You blame or praise the conductor.

I think the composers name should always come first but the secondary identifier should then be the one who is responsible for the interpretation. In symphonic music, this is the Conductor. The exception is for concertos where you have soloists. In this case, the ranking should be Composer, Soloist(s), Conductor, and then Orchestra or group name.

Like it or not, in classical music there is no such thing as one definitive version of anything. Unless you believe in a one size fits all outcome you will never stop at just one version of anything. Yes, composer name is first but who is responsible for the interpretation should be acknowledged next.

For me, composer first, then conductor.

There are some composers most of whose music I like, and some most of whose I don’t. Different interpretations  can interesting, or simply one soned better than another, but still the same piece of music. I am still likely to like one, or dislike another, based on the composition, far more than the way it is played. I might love Beethoven’s music and loathe Britten’s, whereas any given conductor may have recorded both. And I’ll choose the music I want to play by the style or piece I fancy - again that comes down to composer not conductor. Browsing/serching by conductor may be relevant to those who study or analyse the music, but in general is of no value to someone like me. However, the conductor comes into it when there are several different versions of a piece-but I just incorporate into the name of the album, so, I search by classical, then composer, then album, and if multiple versions I will see them with the composer’s name attached. (I also include year of recording, and if it fits the soloist and/or orchestra)

I'd be interested to know where you've only seen the conductor's name listed (or listed first, before the composer). On CD covers/spines, on Amazon, on Spotify, on Radio 3 and many other places, I've only ever known composer first, e.g. Bach: WTC (Schiff); Bruckner: Symphony 4 (BPO/Wand) and the like. The exception would be for discs showcasing an artist where there are too many composers to list separately, e.g. Smedvig/Murray: Music for Trumpet and Organ.

Have you seen discs/tracks listed with Karajan or Rattle listed first in the title, before the composer?

Mark

"Beethoven's later symphonies bearing closer similarities with Mozart perhaps due to them competing - paraphrased from Wikipedia"

Considering Mozart had been dead for seven years before Beethoven started writing his first of nine symphonies, I find it hard to believe that even Wikipedia would publish such nonsense...

EJS posted:

"Beethoven's later symphonies bearing closer similarities with Mozart perhaps due to them competing - paraphrased from Wikipedia"

Considering Mozart had been dead for seven years before Beethoven started writing his first of nine symphonies, I find it hard to believe that even Wikipedia would publish such nonsense...

Anyone can write anything in Wikipedia, bothas original text or amending what is there. This is a good example of someone contributing what at best is misleading information, I guess more likely out of ignorance or unsubstantiated guesswork than maliciousness,  reinforcing that Wikipedia is not a definitive encyclopaedia . It can be very good, but it can and inevitably does contain rubbish.

Innocent Bystander posted:

This is a good example of someone contributing what at best is misleading information, I guess more likely out of ignorance or unsubstantiated guesswork than maliciousness,  reinforcing that Wikipedia is not a definitive encyclopaedia . It can be very good, but it can and inevitably does contain rubbish.

You're absolutely correct. I was planning on editing the article and replace Mozart with Rachmaninov but couldn't find the entry, unfortunately! Poor, uneducated souls like Consciousmess will have to keep looking for the truth here!

I agree with earlier comments. Classical music is very much about interpretation. So the conductor / Orchestra or artist matter a lot. If you compare it with jazz, some standards are interpreted over and over again. Nobody is really that interested in the original composer, but very much interested in the artist playing and interpreting it. While the differences in classical music interpretations seem to be less deep for the superficial classical interested person, they also differ Day and night.

Just take Bach the Goldberg Variations as example. Many pianists have come up with very own interpretations and even one artist can play complete different versions. Good example being the 1955 and 1981 version of Glenn Gould.

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