To have a child lead an orchestra is an anomaly, yet this situation was encouraged, celebrated, or simply tolerated hundreds of times throughout the twentieth century. This article reconstructs the Western cultural phenomenon of the child conductor from its emergence in music halls in the 1910s to the consolidation of this figure within classical music and beyond in the late 1940s. Issues such as the professionalization of child maestros and their rise to international stardom are addressed. Profiles of child conductors are presented from the earliest child conductors, such as Willy Ferrero and Rio Gebhardt, to celebrity child maestros such as Pierino Gamba, Roberto Benzi and Giannella de Marco. While child virtuosos have been subject to scholarly study, child conductors have been largely overlooked. This article addresses this lacuna by surveying the general phenomenon.
The Child Conductor: A Twentieth-Century Cultural Phenomenon
Andrea Graus is a Ramón y Cajal fellow at the Milà i Fontanals Institution (CSIC), where she is researching the cultural history of child prodigies in Europe. Previously, she was a Beatriu de Pinós fellow and a Marie Curie fellow at the Centre Alexandre Koyré (CNRS).
Andrea Graus; The Child Conductor: A Twentieth-Century Cultural Phenomenon. Journal of Musicology 1 October 2023; 40 (4): 423–455. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/jm.2023.40.4.423
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