Cult of the Maestro


When I found that the packaging of the Rattle/Berlin Philharmonic CD set of Haydn’s Symphonies 88-92 included not one but three pictures of Rattle himself, it was one more reminder of the cult of the maestro.

Karajan was possibly the first conductor whose image dominated the covers of his records, although I believe the practice of printing the conductor’s name larger than that of the composer may have started with earlier stars of the podium.

What a shame the packaging of CDs so seldom features the orchestras that are performing, let alone the composers who created the work in the first place.

Hilary Hahn’s disc of Sibelius and Schoenberg concertos included seven photos of her. Sir Simon Rattle does not always appear on the covers of his new CDs, but there is an excessive practice of displaying photos of soloists and conductors.

Whilst I think the music is always more important than the conductor, and I would prefer abstract designs or landscapes to close-ups of artists, I have to accept that the companies have found that CDs sell more copies that way.

Sometimes it’s done in a way I can’t really object to, such as the pictures of Alfred and Adrian Brendel on their set of the Beethoven cello sonatas, where a large and rather endearing dog gradually appears.

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3 Responses to “Cult of the Maestro”

  1. I’m with you there. The creator surely deserves top billing over the interpreter. I wonder what Karajan thought of the smaller format of CD recording covers? Gone were generous expanses of LP box sets on which his arty black and white-shot visage could be printed practically full size.

  2. […] Original post by Robin Gosnall […]

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