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The Compleat Conductor Paperback – December 10, 1998


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (December 10, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195126610
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195126617
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #292,711 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

What makes for a "compleat" conductor? According to Gunther Schuller, it is a combination of fidelity to the score and going "for the grand line ... the clarification of the inherent structure(s)." Schuller, himself a conductor, has written The Compleat Conductor as a kind of report card on many of this century's foremost practitioners of the art. Using scores from Beethoven, Brahms, Schumann, Tchaikovsky, Strauss, and Ravel as his final exam, Schuller measures the work of the world's great conductors--everyone from Toscanini to John Eliot Gardiner--against what's printed on the page, and he finds most wanting in comparison.

The Compleat Conductor is partly an indictment of the failings of other conductors, partly Schuller's reflections on music, performance, and the authority of the score versus the authority of the conductor. Many of Schuller's pronouncements are sure to arouse controversy, but even for music lovers who disagree with his grading system, there's plenty of food for thought in The Compleat Conductor. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

This is a detailed analysis of eight standard symphonic works as seen from the conductor's podium. A distinguished conductor as well as a composer, performer, and educator, Schuller starts with a simple premise: the composers knew how they wanted their music to sound and marked the music clearly. He then goes into exhaustive detail in comparing the composers' stated wishes with recorded performances over the last 50 years. He discusses the implied logic behind the original directions, praises those who interpret as directed, and takes pot shots at a number of prominent musicians who place their own egos ahead of their music. The opinions are strong, well researched, and convincingly argued. Invaluable for advanced musicians.?Timothy J. McGee, Univ. of Toronto
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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3.9 out of 5 stars
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41 of 49 people found the following review helpful By MartinP on February 7, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is a very bizarre book indeed. Schuller's ideals are laudable in themselves: don't tamper with scores and don't let your ego get in the way of what the composer is saying. But his attempts to prove his point are flawed in almost every way, mainly because he constantly breaks the rules that he set out himself to start with. He obsessively analyses recordings of a number of famous great works with the score in hand, and points out the innumerable sins, blunders and stupidities that in his view virtually every conductor allows himself in virtually every bar. For some reason the author presumes he is just about the only one who knows how it should be done, or cares about doing it well, or even more amazingly: knows what the composer actually meant. E.g.: Changing anything in a score is a mortal sin, because the composer knows best - only Schuller knows better, pointing out where the composer 'forgot' something or is 'obviously' wrong, and changing instrumentation, tempo or dynamics accordingly. For some unspecified reason (a personal hotline to the hereafter maybe?) the author is the only conductor allowed to make such decisions; be sure he will hurl accusations of incompetence or arrogance at others who do the same thing! These inconsistencies are an inevitable result from the assumption that scores are fairly unambiguous and composers well nigh infallible. Of course, they aren't and they aren't.
Schuller claims objectivity, but his methods wouldn't hold their own against even the mildest scientific criteria. How can one realistically compare recordings from the '30s to state of the art CD-sound from the '90s? Can one really, objectively and consistently, judge the difference between pp and ppp?
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18 of 24 people found the following review helpful By scarecrow VINE VOICE on April 4, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Schuller has got an ax to grind here, citing laundry lists of "incorrect" tempi from the pantheon of conductors. Abbado is too fast, Bernstein too slow, Boulez too fast. On and on and on, like he is piling corpses,referring that everyone is wrong, yet he is right. Schuller is arrogant as well, claiming "Brahms never meant that tempo",claiming how stupid conductors have been by not following what the composer had indicated. If we did that, there would be little to listen to of interest within the classical canon. The grand masters knew nothing of performance of their new works, they guessed at tempi many times, it has only been through continuous performance up through today that such a thing as tempi has come to be affix in a somewhat loose way. Schuller knows his orchestration however with a focus upon blending of winds and strings and the problematics, like in the opening of the First Symphony of Brahms.I had wished he would have included a new work, even one of his own would have been fantastic to discuss,i.e. the conducting problems of a new work. Ravel's Daphnis & Chloe is a great example which he utilizes here. That work with string harmonics and virtuoso wind writing in multi-layered textures is again a great example. I suspect the editor perhaps cut out a chapter on Ligeti or Boulez or Babbitt. He should follow-up this book with another strictly devoted to music after 1945.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Peter Heddon on January 9, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book often inspires a fresh take on the standard repertoire,more alive than the average analysis book.It's easy to understand why Schuller has carved a reputation as a composition teacher-Bainbridge,Weir and Knussen from the UK alone!

Alas,the central thrust of 'The Compleat Conductor'-that conductors often deviate from the letter of the score(shock,horror!)....becomes weary and pedantic in the end.Schuller really doesn't see the wood for the trees and his arguments aren't as watertight as you might think as some of the other reviewers have shown.
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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful By G. Faville on July 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book was recommended to me during a conducting workshop. The teacher, an extremely knowledgeable musician and gifted and hardworking conductor, hated this book upon FIRST reading, and as he explored the concepts and analyses further found more enlightenment and wisdom. You can tell the folks who didn't like this book are writing off the cuff.
In The Compleat Conductor, Gunther Schuller gives us his philosophy and a short history of conducting, and then goes into some real detail analyzing eight great classical works and how even the greatest maestros can fail the composer's wishes and ideals. Schuller is VERY straightforward and covers all of his bases well, and defends his points and decisions and pickiness. A quote: "The secret of great artistry and true integrity of interpretation lies in the ability to bring to life the score for the listener (and the orchestra) through the fullest knowledge of the score, so that the conductor's personality expresses itself WITHIN the parameters of the score." Schuller maintains that composers like Beethoven and Brahms were very explicit in their desires, and that their music doesn't need all of the extra bells and whistles conductors use to manipulate an audience, and in fact a good number of conductors in the process ignore the finer points of the music.
Quote again: "...all those deviations from the score do not necessarily make the performance 'more natural,''more human.' They may create that illusion--or delusion; they may fool the unknowing, unwary listener into thinking that it was 'exciting,''moving,''authentic,' when in reality the excitement was superficial and the work was grossly misrepresented."
There are points in the book where Schuller then recommends changing this and that in various scores.
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