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Stravinsky and Copland as a conductors

Actually, in my very humble opinion, Stravinsky eventually became an excellent conductor of his own music. But he wasn't necessarily that great to begin with. Stravinsky didn't begin to conduct his music regularly until he was nearly 40 and got into the business mainly because he needed the money. But he did it a lot for many years and eventually became quite expert.

For example, one of his earliest conducting efforts was his Octet (1923 in Paris), and he then made a recording of it, which I have, in 1932. A rather disorganized mess, I would say. But he recorded the Octet (with l'Histoire du soldat) again in 1955, and again in stereo in 1961, and both of those are superb. Of course, the earliest one was made without the benefit of tape editing.

Copland had a similar situation, but from what I've read wasn't in such desperate financial straits and was able to ease his way into conducting under relatively favorable circumstances. However, in the recently published letters of his close friend Leonard Bernstein, you can read some good-natured but pointed advice and criticism from Bernstein after seeing an early conducting effort from Copland, and apparently noticing some very basic beginner's mistakes. Eventually Copland was pretty successful as a conductor, but I don't think he did it as much as Stravinsky or became quite as effective as Stravinsky. (Of course, Bernstein became a famous and revered conducting teacher.)


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