In 1925 Richard Strauss famously wrote of his ten commandments for conductors: Ten Golden Rules for the Album of a Young Conductor:
1. Remember that you are making music not to amuse yourself, but to delight your audience.
2. You should not perspire when conducting: only the audience should get warm.
3. Conduct Salome and Elektra as if they were Mendelssohn: Fairy Music.
4. Never look encouragingly at the brass, except with a brief glance to give an important cue.
5. But never let the horns and woodwinds out of your sight. If you can hear them at all they are still too strong.
6. If you think that the brass is not blowing hard enough, tone it down another shade or two.
7. It is not enough that you yourself should hear every word the soloist sings. You should know it by heart anyway. The audience must be able to follow without effort. If they do not understand the words they will go to sleep.
8. Always accompany the singer in such a way that he can sing without effort.
9. When you think you have reached the limits of prestissimo, double the pace.
10. If you follow these rules carefully you will, with your fine gifts and your great accomplishments, always be the darling of your listeners.
The RPO’s founder Sir Thomas Beecham was also known for his classic quotes. Here’s what he – rather mischievously! – had to say about Ein Heldenleben:
‘I spent a couple of days on the train with a German friend of mine. We amused ourselves by discovering how many notes we could take out of Ein Heldenleben and leave the music essentially intact. By the time we had finished we had taken out 15,000!’