A savvy conductor can stand at the podium and cue the second oboe with the flick a left eyebrow while lowering the sound of the violins with a slight purse of the lips.

Each conductor has his or her own way of drawing the desired sound out of an orchestra. Some, like the Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel, show athleticism and showmanship by dramatically leaping above the podium or emphatically stabbing the air with a baton like an Olympic fencing champion. There are others, such as Richard Strauss, who seem content to merely keep the beat with a still, expressionless face.

Leonard Bernstein’s trademark exuberance is what makes him one of the most fascinating conductors to watch. In the video below, he effortlessly leads an orchestra without a baton using only facial expression and body language.

From the audience's perspective, we never get the full story. Subtle or grotesque facial expressions pass by without us noticing. But never fear. All will be revealed with a look through this gallery of 19 epic examples of conductor face.


Watch Yannick Nézet-Séguin conduct Verdi's Requiem

posted by Michael Morreale on Nov 14, 2013