But he is a fashionable conductor (in the way that Gustavo Dudamel was (briefly?) fashionable). As such the BBC and the critics are in thrall to him. The BBC has lost all its objective critical capacity. Every performance and every performer are hailed as "magnificent", "superb" and every other superlative in the dictionary. The old BBC mantra of providing information on the music but leaving the listener to decide for himself or herself on the quality of the performance has been almost completely abandoned. The listener is now instead told "how to react" by the modern generation of presenter and producer. The style and content of presentation would have been dismissed as totally unacceptable 30 years ago by the BBC mandarins. The BBC now seeks-and I can understand why!-to appeal to an audience which, it is apparently assumed, is almost completely ignorant both of the music itself and of performance standards. Every rendering of a piece is greeted with ecstatic applause and acclaim-despite the inevitable reality that some are routine, run of the mill, no better than average.
As for Rattle's conducting technique. I suspect that the members of the orchestra concentrate more on the beat than on his facial contortions! Conductors' styles have always varied enormously. Karajan conducted with his eyes shut and with poker face. Barenboim stops conducting mid piece from time to time and leans back on the podium rail with both arms motionless (presumably his orchestra does not require a beat?). The reason we see Rattle's facial expressions is because the producer decides to focus a camera on them. Personally I am not particularly interested to see the conductor's face. I do however get annoyed when the camera focuses on a section of the orchestra when what we are hearing is primarily from a different section.
At the end of the day, quite honestly, I prefer to listen to music either as a member of the audience in the hall-where the excitement and pleasure of a live performance CAN be overwhelming-or on cd at home. Listening and watching music on TV has less and less appeal to me for the reasons above.
....and Rattle? Very good but not great and certainly no modern Furtwangler!!
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