Posted by Owain on
The New York Times goes into some depth about how conductors work in very individual ways to achieve a common aim:
The conductor’s fundamental goal is to bring a written score to life, through study, personality and musical formation. But he or she makes music’s meaning clear through body motion. ... Every conductor employs a singular style, but all want to elicit as great a performance as possible. In the end it must be remembered that the art of conducting is more than just semaphore. It is a two-step between body and soul, between physical gesture and musical personality. The greatest technician can produce flabby performances. The most inscrutable stick waver can produce transcendence.
There's some great descriptions of different conductors' styles, especially of Valery Gergiev, (in)famous for his batonless finger-waggling. There's also reference to this video of Leonard Bernstein, communicating every detail of the character of the piece, without any need to actually beat time: