ABSTRACT

A reassessment of Costa and his contemporaries became possible with the reaction, led by Weingartner and taken up by Toscanini, against the dominance of the Wagnerian ideology of conducting and the ‘sensation-mongering’ and podium acrobatics of the virtuoso conductors personified by von Bülow.1 It was coming to be realized that the battle between the ‘traditional’ (Mendelssohnian) and ‘progressive’ (Wagner–Lisztian) conducting styles (described in Chapter 5) had been unduly polarized.2 It underestimated the flexibility in the tempi applied by Mozart and Mendelssohn and exaggerated the liberties advocated by Wagner (who had been careful to stress that tempo variations should be unmerklich – ‘imperceptible’).3 In this changing climate, it became possible to look again at conductors like Costa and Habeneck, who could be seen as ancestors of Toscanini’s doctrine that works should be performed as stated in the score (‘come scritto’).4