While conducting is an art form, modern super-conductors are grossly overpaid for what they do, especially in an era when orchestras are going broke. Some change in how the public perceives the conductor would not be a bad thing.
I once wrote that 90% of the conductor's work is done before the show, and that the audience never gets to seem them "shine."
I write this as I listen to the temperamental works of Milton Babbitt. I can't help but think of the nightmare that begins with the conductor sitting down with the score of an orchestral work of said composer. The tedious task of note-association, rhythmic logic (if any), and the grand scope of what is trying to be said - both micro- and macrocosmically. Once the total summation has been reached, is it correct? ("There's no one to ask." said the little voice in his head. "You're the one in charge, stupid. You should know this.")
Although I don't agree with a lot of the egotistical tendencies of some conductors, I understand why they behave in such a way. It would appear that no one taught them alternative ways of decision-making, or that the alpha-male characteristics are more off-putting than productive. The conductor in the above video, Valery Gergiev, is just such a conductor. He has a video out about his life in conducting called "You cannot start without me." Uh-huh. Enough said.
Despite the 'tude, he's an amazing conductor. What he wants the audiences to hear *is what's heard.* To me, that's the mark of a great conductor.
We are a far cry from the days of Toscanini's tantrums or Sir Solti's screaming skull. But we're also at a time when many patrons are making references to "good 'ol days." Just a call to their youth? Perhaps. But record sales never lie, and the constant images of Karajan or insert-your-favorite-icon-here adorning the classical magazine covers to this day are rather clear as well.
The conductor gets the accolades, sure. But they also get the hell-fire if the music isn't what the people want. That's quite a fine line to walk everyday. And if they make a mistake they can't stop the recording and start over, unlike an air guitarist.
The author of this website is an organist whom the New York Times calls “repeatedly, insisting that he pay for his subscription”.
He likes to read parking meters, music, Indianapolis Monthly, and weather forecasts in Celsius, particularly whilst wearing cassock and surplice.
He serves lasagna, overhand, as an example to many, and on ecclesiastical juries.
He takes photos, lots of dinner mints, and a little bit of time to get to know.