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(Fr. baguette; Ger. Taktstock; It. bacchetta)

The stick with which the conductor of an orchestra or similar ensemble beats the time. An approximation of the modern baton, a thin, tapered stick, perhaps half a metre long, was evidently first used in the late 18th century, but the use of a roll of paper or violin bow for this purpose continued into the 19th century. A more distant predecessor of the baton was the precentor's staff mentioned by various writers from the 15th century to the 17th. For further historical information ...



John Spitzer, Leon Botstein, Charles Barber, and Jack Westrup

revised by Neal Zaslaw and José A. Bowen

(Fr. direction d'orchestreGer. DirigirenIt. direzione d'orchestra)

Modern conducting combines at least three functions: 1) the conductor beats time with his or her hands or with a baton in performance; 2) the conductor makes interpretative decisions about musical works and implements these decisions in rehearsal and performance; 3) the conductor participates in the administration of the musical ensemble. The word conducting acquired its present meaning in the 19th century, as the practice developed in its modern form. Conducting is largely limited to the tradition of Western art music, although other traditions have adopted the practice (e.g. Turkish art music, big band jazz).

The history of musical direction may conveniently be divided into three overlapping phases: the singer-timebeater (15th–16th century); the instrumentalist-leader (17th–18th century); the baton conductor (19th–20th century).

Conducting History to 1800.

Conducting History since 1820.

Conducting Technique.

B. Grosbayne: A Bibliography of Works and Articles on Conductors, Conducting and Related Fields in Various Languages from the Sixteenth Century to the Present Time...


Conducting History since 1820  

Leon Botstein

See also Conducting

1820 has long served as a watershed in the history of conducting; Ludwig Spohr is said to have introduced the baton at a concert in London that year. Although he probably used a violin bow, Spohr took credit in his Autobiography for ‘the triumph of the baton as a time-giver’. Spohr had used scrolled music paper when conducting The Creation in 1809. Carl Maria von Weber used a manuscript roll to direct concerts in Dresden in 1817 but subsequently switched to the baton.

The rapid shift to the baton suggests the extent to which the craft of conducting was transformed between the 1820s and 1847, the year of Mendelssohn's death. The difficulties and innovations in the orchestral music of Beethoven and the early Romantics, and the increased number and diversity of the instruments in the orchestra, made directing from the first violin desk or from behind a keyboard in the opera pit unsatisfactory. The need for a central figure visually in charge of the ensemble became widely accepted. The codification of visual signals as the sole systematic means of guiding a performance quickly followed. The evolution of the art of conducting from auditory directives, including clapping, tapping (although tapping the stand at the start lingered on through the century), foot-stamping and shouting, and most of all playing along, coincided with the decline in amateur participation in public performance and the rise in spectator expectations. By the mid-1830s, the greatly expanded urban audience for music demanded higher standards as a consequence of the astonishing and widely travelled virtuosity of Spohr, Paganini, Liszt and Thalberg. More accurate orchestral ensemble, intonation and balance were responses to advances in dexterity and brilliance in solo instrumental playing. Weber and Spohr improved the quality of orchestral playing. Weber re-seated the opera orchestra so that woodwind, brass and percussion were no longer obscured by the violins. Nevertheless, the placement of the conductor at the front of the orchestra with his back to the audience did not become uniform until later in the century....


Conducting History to 1800  

John Spitzer

revised by Neal Zaslaw

See also Conducting

The rise of polyphonic music and mensural notation made it advantageous to coordinate singers on different parts by means of a visible beat called the tactus. The tactus marked a unit of musical time, usually (but not always) equivalent to a semibreve. A few 15th-century paintings are said to depict singers beating time, but their interpretation is problematic. A hand that seems to be beating time may be giving cheironomic signs; what seems to be a baton may be a pointer for indicating the notes in a choirbook. Writers on music do not mention timebeating until the very end of the 15th century. Adam von Fulda (1490) mentions the tactus, but does not say how to mark it; Ramis de Pareia (1482) recommends that singers mark the tactus to themselves by tapping a foot, hand or finger. Many 16th-century treatises give instructions for displaying the tactus to other singers with vertical motions of the hand and arm. Agricola (...


Conducting Technique  

Charles Barber and Jack Westrup

revised by José A. Bowen

See also Conducting

At the end of the 20th century stick technique and podium manner had become more standardized than at any point in the history of conducting. The rise of formal training at college and conservatory levels, the influence of international competitions and local apprenticeship programmes, the impact of recordings and film in the establishment of a conducting ‘common practice’, the impact of the international conductor as a generator of commerce and the concomitant reduction of expensive rehearsal time have all combined to codify the functions and skills of the modern maestro. These purely technical skills coexist in several forms and begin with first choices.

As a consequence, particularly, of the early music and performing practice movements of the 1940s–90s, and the associated rise to prominence of the scholar-conductor (Mackerras, Harnoncourt, Norrington, Christie, Gardiner, Jacobs, McGegan, Hogwood and others), conductors are increasingly concerned about textual accuracy. Accordingly, serious conducting begins with a choice of score that reflects the highest state of current scholarship. Scholars and publishers are required to provide answers to problems of variant, incomplete and error-ridden editions. While it was perfectly acceptable 100 years ago to retouch Handel, Chopin, Schumann and even Beethoven, wholesale rewriting of Musorgsky and Bruckner was the norm, and issues of period performance were rarely raised, today, many conductors look to a more rigorous attitude to the composer's assumptions regarding the performance of his music. This is reflected in the procedures of a conductor's preparation....


Homen, Miroslav  

Amra Bosnić

(b Dubrovnik, Croatia, 1940). Croatian and Bosnian and Herzegovinian conductor. One of the most significant conductors in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Homen graduated from the Academy of Music in Sarajevo in 1966, under the mentorship of Mladen Pozajić. He also studied composition with Ivan Brkanović and Miroslav Špiler. From 1966, he worked as a conductor at the National Theatre Opera in Sarajevo, and during the 1988–9 concert season he was engaged as the artistic director. Homen has also worked with the National Theatre Ballet in Sarajevo, the Sarajevo Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Sarajevo Radio Television Orchestra. In 1971 he was a part-time associate of the Academy of Music in Sarajevo, teaching subjects including choral conducting; in 1986 he was engaged as an Associate Professor of Opera. Homen was a conductor of the Sarajevo student chorus Slobodan Princip Seljo (1962–91) and the Croatian Cultural Society Chorus Trebević (...


Ostravská Banda  

Ian Mikyska

International ensemble based in Ostrava, Czech Republic. Founded in 2005 by petr kotík, originally in order to serve as the resident chamber orchestra for the Ostrava Days festival. It is dedicated to performing contemporary music, both by classics of the European avant-garde (Stockhausen, Ligeti, Xenakis, Nono) and American experimentalism (Cage, Feldman, Lucier), and by contemporary composers from around the world (Lang, Murail, Mincek), including a focus on young Czech composers (srnka, Kadeřábek, Bakla, Cígler). It has served as the resident ensemble for New Opera Days Ostrava since the festival's foundation in 2012.

In addition, the ensemble has performed at major festivals in the Czech Republic (Prague Spring, Janáček's May, MusicOlomouc) and abroad (Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, Beyond Cage), as well as on international tours and at concert venues including the Akademie der Künste (Berlin), Vredenburg (Utrecht), Lincoln Center (New York), and the WDR (Cologne).

Its core instrumentation of 24 players can adapt to the demands of each project, including combinations with other ensembles, most often the Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra, with whom the Banda has performed several concerts of music for three orchestras....