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What's the Secret To The Amazing Longevity Of So Many Great Conductors ?

    Why is it that you can attend concerts and operas led by conductors who are still active at an age when many people are confined to nursing homes ?  The legendary maestro Leopold Stokowski (1882 - 1977 ) led his last concert at the age of 90  with the London symphony orchestra !  And after this, he continued to make recordings in his native England with a hand-picked  orchestra of some of the finest orchestral musicians in England  for a few years  until his death at the age of 95 ! 

   Other renowned conductors who remained active into their 80s include  Aeruro Toscanini (1867-1957 ) , Sir Adrian Boult (1889 -1983), Bruno Walter ( 1876-1962) . Pierre Monteux (1875-1964) , Eugene Ormandy (1899 - 1985 ) ,  Ernest Ansermet ( 1883 - 1969) , Otto Klemperer (1885 - 1973) , Kand Karl Bohm (1894-1981 ).

   In recent years , Kurt Sanderling (1912 - 2011 ) , Carlo Maria Giulini (1914-2005 ) Sir Colin Davis ( 1927-2013), , Lorin Maazel (1930-2014) , and others have been active for a very long time .  Also Julius Rudel ,  1921-2014) , and Charles Mackerras (1925- 2010 ).   Pierre Boulez (1925-), Kurt Masur(1927- ) and Michael Gielen (1927 - ) are still alive but have retired due to declining health . 

   But Stanislaw Skrowaczewski of Poland (1923- , and Sir Neville Marriner (1924 -) are still on the podium !    Other renowned conductors who are still active in their 80s are Gennady Rozhdestvensky ,  Raymond Leppard ,  Christoph von Dohnanyi , and Herbert Blomstedt .  

   How do they manage to keep their health up at such advanced ages ?  The gestures of conducting are a kind of  aerobic exercize !   Swinging your arms  for hours on end at rehearsals and performances seems to keep your ticker healthy .  It's also very physically tiring  and puts you at risk of  ailments such as bursitis .  

    Some conductors are more strenuous and  ostentatious in their gestures than others ; Leonard Bernstein was famous , perhaps  even notorious for his apparent leaping and dancing on the podium , and   Pierre Boulez just seems to stand there passively beating time with the most sparing gestures , for example . But it all seems to keep  the body able to withstand  decades of  conducting .  

   But it seems to me that another reason for the longevity is the  the way conducting requires you to be extremely alert at all times, whether at rehearsals or performances , thus keeping the brain and mind from deteriorating . A conductor has to be extremely aware of  what the musicians ,or singers if conducting opera are doing ;  he has to correct mistakes , keep the orchestra together, make sure everybody is playing in tune , and   know how he wants the musicians to play . And anything can happen during a performance ;  opera singers can make mistakes , getting  ahead or behind the orchestra ,  and anything can go wrong no matter what you are conducting .  

    Working with the world's top orchestras and opera companies may seem like a glamorous job, but it's  a very tough life !

Posted: Jan 23 2015, 10:57 PM by the horn | with no comments
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