Affordable Access

Publisher Website

Le chef d'orchestre. Pratiques de l'autorité et métaphores politiques

Annales Histoire Sciences Sociales
PERSEE Program
Publication Date
DOI: 10.3406/ahess.2002.280090
  • Design
  • Musicology
  • Philosophy
  • Political Science


Orchestral conducting and political metaphors of authority. Toscanini has been repeatedly described as a "dictator". His example is just the most glaring among countless instances of political metaphors, a convention which permeates the entire history of modern orchestral conducting. This practice invites, inherently, to contemplate the broader issue of the authority of an individual over a group, of the efficacy and the legitimacy of his or her decisions. As moral values came to be attributed to aesthetically appealing interpretations of major works of the repertoire, the figure of the conductor gained a particular symbolical status. This inflation in the field of representations, however, did not necessarily entail an increase of real power within the musical institutions; rather, an increasing number of regulations seems to characterize the position of the conductor. This historical survey of orchestral conducting as a form of command begins with the early nineteenth century, when the baton was adopted as a tool and emblem of the conductor, up to the post World War II period, when the rejection of authoritarianism led to a critique of the traditional model.

There are no comments yet on this publication. Be the first to share your thoughts.