Matheopoulos, a London music-journalist, offers interview/profiles of 22 living conductors (plus the late Karl Bohm)--in an uneven, opinionated survey which, nonetheless, is several cuts above the usual interview-anthology. Some of the profiles are edged with critical remarks, bits of probing observation. (On Claudio Abbado: ""Away from the music, I feel that he is sleepwalking, not wholly there."") On the other hand, Herbert von Karajan receives three times as much space as most of the others, eight pages of pin-up photos, and a gushy fan tribute: ""If there is on this planet another human being as misunderstood and misrepresented as Herbert von Karajan, I have yet to meet one. . . the first and in many ways the only conductor fully to grasp the significance of this century's technological advances for music. . . everything about this man is chic."" Still, the interview material itself--filled out, in agreeably assorted formats, with biographical run-downs--is unusually varied and informative. The conductors discuss stick technique; opera-conducting (""a bit like driving a car in Israel,"" says Zubin Mehta); repertoire; rehearsals; singers, musicians; training. Leonard Bernstein talks about his guilt-crisis after his wife's death. There are rewarding musings on specific composers by specific conductors: Haitink on Shostakovich, Colin Davis on Haydn, Mackerras on Handel and Janacek, von Karajan on Schoenberg--or on opera (""you could never kill a singer with trombones""). And though Matheopoulos' commentary can descend to the trivial (""On the day of a performance, Davis tends to have a normal day, with a big lunch cooked by his wife--some rice dish plus a little wine""), she includes comments from London-orchestra musicians and major soloists. Serious music-readers, then, will want to ignore the defects here--which also include dated data and inane chapter subtitles (Seiji Ozawa: ""The Funny, Fantastic Japanese"")--to sample the generous flow of information and first person testimony.