First, Last and one of the best (in my opinion) recordings of main conductors from the past - One page per letter. Corrections are welcome. It is a work in progress.


“K” is a favorite initial for conductors. I wonder how would be received now in concert an interpretation by a young conductor exactly similar to one by Karajan, Klemperer or Kubelík.

Herbert von Karajan (1918-1989)

(Born Heribert Ritter von Karajan). The star of XXth century conductors, who sold 200,000,000 albums… His first record may be Cherubini’s Anacréon overture (1931). His last one was Bruckner’s symphony n° 7. I always cherished, among so many good recordings, his Transfigured Night.

First Best Last

Herbert Kegel (1920-1983)

This (East-) German conductor committed suicide in 1990 (because of the fall of the Berlin Wall?).  He was very active in contemporary music. His first recording was Webers’ Battle and Victory Cantata (1954). His last one may be Bruckner’s 8 (1990?).
As an example of contemporary music, he made a good account of Como una ola di fuerza y luz by Luigi Nono (1977).

First Best Last

Joseph Keilberth (1908-1968)

This German conductor was both active in symphonic and operatic areas. His first recording may be musics by Paul Hindemith (1950). One of his last was music by Hanz Pfizner (1968). His Freischutz account remains well known.

First Best Last

Rudolf Kempe (1910-1976)

This German conductor first studied piano, violin and oboe. He began mostly in the opera field before turning to symphonic by the end of his brief career. One of his first recordings was Die Meistersinger (1951), his last one may be Brahms’ symphony n°3. His R. Strauss complete symphonic works album is famous, he was good also in Britten’s music.

First Best Last

Paul van Kempen (1893-1955)

A Dutch conductor who played as a violinist under Mengelberg.  He was appreciated in the Austrian and German classical repertoire. 
He recorded Tchaikovsky’s symphony 5 in Amsterdam (1951). One of his last LP recordings was Brahms’ Hunagarian Dances (1956). His complete Beethoven’s piano concertos with Kempff remain famous.

First Best Last

István Kertész (1929-1973)

Another conductor – along with Cantelli and Kempe – who died too early. Born in Budapest, he enjoyed an international career mainly in the symphonic repertoire. 
One of his first LP’s was Dvořák’s symphony n° 9 (1961). One of his last was Mozart symphonies in Vienna (1973). Though his Dvořák symphonic cycle remains famous, I chose Kodaly’s Hary Janos with Ustinov.

First Best Last

Boris Khaikin (1904-1978)

This Russian Jewish conductor was named a People’s Artist of the USSR in 1972. He conducted opera mainly (Kirov then Bolshoi). He will record Mussorgsky’s Khovanshchina as soon as 1946. On of his last recordings may be Liszt’s Dante symphony (1977). Besides his famous Russian recordings he was also a ballet conductor.

First Best Last

Carlos Kleiber (1930-2004)

“The best conductor of all times”.  Each time I tell musicians I don’t like very much his interpretations they look at me weirdly… But some conductors agree with me.  I like his first official recording though : Weber’s Freischutz – his last official recording was Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde (1980).

First Best Last

Erich Kleiber (1890-1956)

(Carlos’ father). Born in Vienna, studied in Prague and decided to be a conductor listening Mahler conduct his Symphony n° 6. He was not Jew, but quit Germany in 1935, settling in Buenos Aires. 
On of his first LPs was Tchaikovsky’s Symphony n° 4 in Paris a last one was Beethoven’s Symphony n° – in Amsterdam (1956). He was famous for his Beethoven’s symphonies interpretations.

First Best Last

Rolf Kleinert (1911-1975)

I put him in this list because of his Witold Lutosławski’s Concerto for orchestra, see [fr]. He conducted mainly in the Communist countries.
His first LP was Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder (1951). His last one may be Mozart & Ravel sung by Stefania Woytowicz ‎(1971).

First Best Last

Otto Klemperer (1885-1973)

Hard to describe his career in two sentences. His first positions as a conductor were held with Mahler’s help. He will turn exclusively to the symphonic repertoire after WWII. His tastes were much more diverse than shown by his recordings: he liked music by Offenbach or Boulez & Stockhausen.  There is an interesting testimony here.
His first LP was Beethoven’s symphony n° 6 in Vienna. One of his last was his own symphony n° 2 (1970s). Impossible not to mention his Mahler’s Das Lied.

First Best Last

Paul Kletzki (1900-1973)

First a violinist, he conducted mainly romantic music.
His first LP recording was Tchaikovsky’s Symphony n° 5 (1947). On of his last one was a program Lutosławski / Hindemith. I confess I have never understood his reputation in Mahler’s music.

First Best Last

Hans Knappertsbusch (1888-1965)

This German conductor was a convinced anti-Nazi. He was best known for his Wagner interpretations.
His first LP was a recital in Zurich with Maria Reining and Paul Schoeffler (1949), on of his last one may be Parsifal in Bayreuth.

First Best Last

Kyril Kondrashin (1914-1981)

First a pianist, he will record a lot for western companies along with Melodiya. He was tipped to succeed to Kubelík in Munich, but just died. His first recording of Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances remains unsurpassed. His first recording was for EMI, with Leonid Kogan in Brahms’ Violin Concerto (1958), one of his last studio recording was With Oistrakh in Lalo’s Spanish symphony.

First Best Last

Franz Konwitschny (1902-1962)

This conductor was born in Moravia. a devout secretly catholic, at his burying, East German hierarchy had to endure a Requiem mass… A gave the best Beethoven’s Violin concerto with Oistrakh, but it is no longer available.
One of his first LPs was Wagner’s overtures for Urania (1952). He recorded a very good Schumann symphonies set by the end of his life. An occasion to listen to Gilels in Mozart’s Piano concerto n° 21 (1960).

First Best Last

Zdeněk Košler (1928-1995)

This Czech conductor studied with Ancerl and had been one of Bernstein’s assistant. 
One of his first LP recordings was Dvořák’s symphony n° 7 (1965). On of his last ones was Smetana’s opera Dalibor (1995). He made a good account of Dvořák’s Slavonic Dances.

First Best Last

Serge Koussevitsky (1874-1951)

This Russian born conductor was appointed conductor of the Boston symphony in 1924. Even if it is not the best interpretation – by far, he ordered Bartok’s Concerto for orchestra. One of his first recordings with Boston was Tchaikovsky’s Symphony n° 4 (1936), one of his last ones, Sibelius’ Symphony n° 2 (1951).

First Best Last

Clemens Krauss (1893-1954)

Could read music before he could spell in his first years. A controversial role during WWII but he had been cleared. From 1929-1933 he conducted an annual concert of Strauss compositions at the Salzburg Festival, thus anticipating the format of the future New Year’s Concerts with the Vienna Philharmonic.
He was best known for his R. Strauss operas. One of his first recordings was Wagner’s symphonic excerpts in London (1949). One of his last ones was the Brahms’ Rhapsody with Kathleen Ferrier (1954).

First Best Last

Josef Krips (1902-1974)

Born in Vienna, worked as storekeeper during WWII… Active in both symphonic and operatic repertoires. “The Viennese conductor”. 
One of his first recordings was Haydn’s symphonies in London (1951). His Schubert’s Symphony n° 9 recording (1958) in Vienna remains famous among others (Mozart). He did a complete Beethoven’s symphonies.

First Best Last

Rafael Kubelík (1914-1996)

My all time preferred conductor, so it’s difficult to write about him in 2 or 3 sentences…
One of his first LPs was Mendelssohn’s Piano concerto with Moura Lympany (1949). He finally succeeded to record Don Giovanni. A “best”? There are so many… Everything on

First Best Last

His last concert (and the best Ma Vlast of all times):


  1. Very Interesting pages.

    For Keilberth Schumann Symphony 4 with German Orchestra of Prague must be earlier. Also Keilberth with this orchestra Reger on Capitol LP. Facsimiles for both online.

    Some places I have read that Kempe’s last recording was the Stravinsky Britten which you show as best.

    One Košler recording earlier than Dvorak 7 was Smetana Polkas with Prague Symphony Orchestra issued on Deutsche Grammophon collection with other conductors. Facsimile online.

    I am always interested in your choices for best. For Kempe I very much like Brahms 4, second recording with Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. For Košler, Prokofiev complete symphony cycle good. For me, Carlos Kleiber is disappointing after all the praise I read – first two Beethoven Symphonies 5 and 7 good, but later recordings too controlled. Father is better – Beethoven Eroica in Vienna wonderful! The recording in Vienna with Kertesz in Brahms St Anthony Variations was not completed when he died, so the recording was issued with the final part performed without conductor, The notes for the latest issue on Decca Eloquence do not mention this at all.

    1. Thanks
      I will check (Kostler : it is because I could find any decent picture). He was surely very good in XXth century music (cf. )
      I agree with youy about C. Kleiber: I was a complete fan of his B 4 (Orfeo) when I was young. I recall I got his B 6 and then listened to Kubelik’s old recording with the RPO and really thought “here is the music”…
      About C. Kleiber’s B 4 I have met a French conductor who was a also a fan and like me got rid of it later on.
      Very interesting about Kertesz. Do you know who conducted a concert in homage to Fricsay, then Kertesz, then Klemperer? : Kubelik.

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