The German flutist Johann Joachim Quantz, in his 1752 treatise “The Experience of Instructing in Playing the Transverse Flute”, homepage introduces for the first time the figure of a musical director, a future conductor. The chapters “What should be considered when performing in open concerts”, “On the qualities of a musical director” and some others are devoted to this. However, it will take almost a hundred years before the books on the conducting profession, written by Berlioz and Wagner, appear, and even more before the transformation of conducting into an “exact science” by Hermann Scherchen (Scherchen’s studies appear at the turn of the 1920s and 1930s).
This does not mean that collective performance up to this point was not at all centralized: as a rule, the group of musicians was led by a harpsichordist, waving rolled notes or with his hand, or the composer himself with a trampoline – a special stick that served to beat the beat. The conductor’s baton, known to us, will appear in Vienna at the beginning of the 19th century, and the conductor will turn from a “beat-breaker” into a “creator” in the middle of the 19th century, when he turns his back on the audience.
For a century and a half, Italian opera (see here) has actually turned into a “concert in costumes” – a sequence of numbers that are almost not connected by a single plot. Vienna composer Christoph Willibald Gluck, together with librettist Kalzabigi, again turns to ancient drama. In the opera Orpheus and Eurydice, for the first time, he uses a cross-cutting dramatic development, in which he is helped by the successes of the orchestral music of his time, primarily the development of the symphony. Events began to unfold not only in recitatives, but also in vocal scenes. In the recitatives themselves, a whole orchestra sounded (previously there was only a bass line). And the opera itself has become much shorter due to the reduction of a huge number of non-plot solo numbers. “Orpheus” itself, staged in Vienna, did not have success, as did the operas that followed, written on the same principle and also based on plots from Greek mythology (“Alcesta”, “Paris and Helena”), but in Paris with a new librettist du Roullet Gluck not only achieved European fame, website but also acquired students and followers – Salieri, Spontini and Cherubini.
Gluck’s principles were not shared by all composers, but the opera house in all countries except Italy began to develop along the path he had planned until Wagner reformed opera again.