Are Orchestral Conductors really necessary?

It is a long held family tradition that on New Years Day we sit down and watch the New Years Day Concert from Vienna on BBC2. If we’ve had a late night the previous day, it maybe whilst eating breakfast, but watch it we must.

Whilst watching it this year, my wife asked, “Why is the conductor there?”

This question isn’t is silly as it may first sound. The conductor’s job is of course to ensure all the elements of the orchestra keep time, balance, and tone. In short to ensure they maintain the results of their rehearsals. If you’re conducting an amateur orchestra, you can forgive some inconsistencies from the players.

In this scenario, a conductor is a necessity.

The New Years Day Concert features the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. They’re widely considered to be one of the finest orchestras in the world. They’re so good that if you watch the content, many of the players don’t have to look at the music: a sign of a good musician.

So with an orchestra as good as the Vienna Philharmonic, it’s a reasonable question to ask.

You could argue that even a good orchestra, still needs subtle reminders throughout a concert. It should also be remembered that it is the conductor’s leadership that made them sound good. It would be churlish therefore not to allow the conductor their moment of adulation.

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