Maestro Maelstrom – My Top Ten!

[Etymology of Maelstrom: One of the earliest uses in English of the Scandinavian word (malström or malstrøm) was by Edgar Allan Poe in his story “A Descent into the Maelström” (1841). In turn, the Nordic word is derived from the Dutch maelstrom, modern spelling maalstroom, from malen (to grind) and stroom (stream), to form the meaning grinding current or literally “mill-stream” in the sense of milling (grinding) grain:- Wikipedia.]

I’m not consciously attempting to start a maestro maelstrom by sticking my neck out and naming my top ten among orchestral conductors. What cheek some will say! What chutzpah others will explode!! But bear with me as I give some very personal and some purely auditory reasons to tread where others have feared to  – much to their lasting sorrow.

First, both lists below are in alphabetical order. Second, the genre is classical music of whatever era but particularly the late baroque through the post-modern. So here goes, as I throw caution to the winds and place them below in two groups – the 10 “finalists” and the 42 “other notables” all of whom – I may say avowedly – deserve to be part of the top 52, if that were my goal to name one for each week of the year (!)


Sir John Barbirolli (we met in Bucharest and London)
   b.12/2/1899 d. 7/29/1970

beecham– Sir Thomas Beecham (we met in London and Buenos Aires)
b. 4/29/1879 d. 3/8/1961

bernstein– Leonard Bernstein (we met in New York)
  b. 8/25/1918 d. 10/14/1990

– Wilhelm Furtwängler
   b. 1/25/1886 d. 11/30/1954

karajan– Herbert von Karajan (we met in Berlin and Salzburg)
b. 4/5/1908 d. 6/10/1989

kubelik– Rafael Kubelik
   b. 6/29/1914 d. 11/8/1966

monteux– Pierre Monteux
b. 4/4/1875 d. 7/1/1864

solti– Sir Georg Solti
b. 10/21/1912 d. 9/5/1997

– George Szell
 b. 6/7/1897 d. 7/30/1970

Arturo Toscanini
b. 3/25/1887 d. 6/16/1957

– Claudio Abbado (1933-2014)
– Marin Alsop (1956-  )
– Daniel Barenboim (1942)
– Karl Böhm (1894-1981)
– Pierre Boulez (1925-2016)
– Sir Adrian Boult (1889-1983)
Sir Colin Davis (1927-2013)
– Antal Dorati (1906-1988)
– JoAnn Falletta (1954-  )
– Valery Gergiev (1953-  )
– Carlo Maria Giulini (1914-2005)
– Eugen Jochum (1902-1987)
– Bernard Haitink (1929-  )
– Istvan Kertesz (1929 –  )
– Carlos Kleiber (1890-1956)
– Otto Klemperer (1885-1973)
– Kirill Kondrashin (1914-1981)
– Serge Koussevitsky (1874-1951)
– Erich Leinsdorf (1912-1993)
– Lorin Maazel (1930-2014)
(we met in Calcutta and he was interviewed on All India Radio)
– Gustav Mahler (1869-1911)
– Sir Neville Marriner (1924-  )
– Kurt Masur (1927-2015)
(we met in New York)
– Zubin Mehta (1936-  )
(we met in New York and Miami, FL)
– Willem Mengelberg (1871-1951)
– Dimitri Mitropoulos (1896-1960)
(we met in New York)
– Charles Munch (1891-1968)
– Riccardo Muti (1941-  )
– Arthur Nikisch (1855-1922)
– Eugene Ormandy (1899-1985)
– Seiji Ozawa (1935-  )
(we met  in Boston at a symphony seminar there)
– Brian Priestman (1927-2014)
(we met in Miami, FL, and I worked with him there)
– Sir Simon Rattle (1955-  )
– Fritz Reiner (1888-1963)
– Jose Serebrier (1938-  )
(we met in NYC and I worked with him in Miami, FL)
– William Steinberg (1899-1978)
– Leopold Stokowski (1882-1977)
– Klaus Tennstedt (1926-1998)
– Michael Tilson Thomas (1944-  )
(we met in Los Angeles)
– Bruno Walter (1876-1962)
– Felix Weingartner (1863-1942)
– David Zinman (1936-  )
(we met and I worked with him in Rochester, NY)_________________________________________________

The Great Conductors by Harold Schonberg; Conductor’s World by David Wooldridge;
My Personal Diaries

At the beginning, I used the expression “for purely auditory reasons.” Be it noted, I truly believe in a ‘vernal vinyl’ renaissance, and with the start of the benign and welcome spring season here in Englewood, NJ, I’ve spent time in replaying my  records (as distinct from CD’s and other successors of the LP’s) to rediscover the true-to-life sound of the oldies that memorialized the great exponents of orchestral and instrumental music. Indeed, I can spend endless hours over weekends reliving the experience of listening, for instance, to my boxed set of Karajan’s inspiring interpretation of Beethoven’s Nine Symphonies – recorded by Deutsche Grammophone – two of which I heard him perform live in Berlin 1970 during the celebration of that composer’s bicentennial.


Copyright © 2016 Azim Lewis Mayadas

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