In a Queens boiler room, armed with little more than a champagne cork and a length of wood, Richard Horowitz helped bring to life some of the foremost symphonic music in the world.
Mr. Horowitz, who died on Nov. 2, at 91, was a renowned musician in his own right, a retired principal timpanist of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. But in the rarefied artistic circles that were his orbit for more than half a century, he was also known as a maker of conductors’ batons, a fine trade plied by only a handful of people around the globe.
Esteemed as a Stradivari of sticks, Mr. Horowitz created bespoke batons for many of the most eminent music directors of the 20th century, among them James Levine of the Met, Leonard Bernstein, Karl Böhm, Sarah Caldwell, Colin Davis, Christoph von Dohnanyi, Erich Leinsdorf, Thomas Schippers and José Serebrier. His art married the skills of a physician, a palm reader, a carpenter and a Savile Row tailor.
Conductors’ batons are veritable extensions of their arms and must be made with heft, length, flexibility, balance and comfort in mind. Over-the-counter models, whose sticks are often fiberglass, can weigh an ounce or more, which in the course of four Wagnerian hours can leave the hand aching.
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