Wagner on conducting
This post from A.C. Douglas deals with some of Wagner's comments on the art of the conductor.
Listen, I got into a discussion with another blogger about Parsifal, and - more appropriately - Boulez' 1970 Bayreuth recording of the piece. My point was that Boulez' driving tempi created an internal pulse; the other blogger suggested that properly modulated tempi will do the same thing. I assume that Wagner agreed.
However, beating time and trusting the ensemble to know how both read music and play their instruments accordingly is another, fully appropriate, approach. Granted, any trained monkey can keep 6/8 time, but there is something to be said about keeping the beat and bringing the sections in on time. Is that inspired? Not particularly, unless the band knows its business.
It is an interesting factoid, though, that Wagner was quite a great conductor. He was, of course, eclipsed by Gustav Mahler.