Debating the salaries of today’s conductors

Posted on: October 9, 2009

In Tuesday’s (10/6) Guardian (London), two writers debate the value of orchestra conductors. Philippa Ibbotson writes, “Few people remain unaware of the exorbitant rewards enjoyed by many bankers and executives. … Still, there are worlds less prominent than this where vast fees cause hardly a murmur. Take that, for instance, of classical music. Conductors are a mysterious breed. Oozing self-belief, elevated on a podium, they are endowed by critics and public alike with magical abilities. … But how much difference does the average conductor make? What can be said is that music, given players sufficiently accomplished, speaks for itself. Even in the case of the talented few maestri, the skills on offer are subject to an indefinable alchemy of charisma and self-belief.” Tom Service, however, offers a rebuttal: “The confusion is between how much conductors are paid and what they do. Yes, some of them earn too much and a handful are in the game to make the most of the money sloshing around the international cabal of agents and flashy orchestras. … But it’s also true that, love them or hate them, the conductor—or, more accurately, the chemistry between the conductor and the players, created through hours of preparation, rehearsal, and collaboration—defines the musical experience of an orchestral concert or an operatic performance.”

Posted October 9, 2009