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The Maestro Myth:
Music critic/provocateur Norman Lebrecht didn't make the high muckety-mucks of the classical music industry at all happy with this iconoclastic book, but he did open a lot of eyes. In 328 fascinating pages, he exposes the foibles and failings (musical and otherwise) of the great conductors of the last century. Why are there so few really outstanding conductors, and so many surface-skimming mediocrities? How did the conductor go from a mere time-beater to a powerful, immensely well-paid figure who jets from continent to continent and from podium to podium, hobnobbing with presidents and tycoons instead of with other musicians? Lebrecht explores all these factors, along with the history of conducting, and in the process dishes a few good anecdotes. He also shines the light on Ronald Wilford, the superagent of Columbia Artists Management, Inc., who controls the careers of more than 100 conductors--and, therefore, controls much of classical music. Lebrecht gets a few facts wrong (mostly minor--there haven't, for example, been stockyards in Chicago for some decades), but most of his points are well taken. [via]