Arthur Nikisch (Hungarian: Nikisch Artúr; 12 October 1855 – 23 January 1922) was a Hungarianconductor who performed internationally, holding posts in Boston, London and—most importantly—Berlin. He was considered an outstanding interpreter of the music of Bruckner, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven and Liszt. Johannes Brahms praised Nikisch's performance of his Fourth Symphony as "quite exemplary, it's impossible to hear it any better."
On 1 July 1885 Nikisch married Amelie Heussner (1862–1938), a singer and actress, who had been engaged the preceding years at the Kassel court theatre with Gustav Mahler. Their son Mitja (1899–1936) later became a noted pianist.
He was a pioneer in several ways. In April 1912 he took the London Symphony Orchestra to the United States, a first for a European orchestra. On November 10, 1913, Nikisch made one of the earliest recordings of a complete symphony, Beethoven's 5th, with the Berlin Philharmonic, a performance later reissued on LP and CD by DGG and other modern labels. He also made a series of early recordings with the London Symphony Orchestra, some of which display the portamento characteristic of early twentieth century playing. These and the recordings with the Berlin Philharmonic also demonstrate that orchestras then made more frequent use of on-the-string bowing Bowed string instrument extended technique#Bowing techniques than their counterparts today.
He died in Leipzig in 1922, and was buried there. Immediately after his death, the square where he had lived was renamed Nikischplatz, and in 1971 the city created the Arthur Nikisch Prize for young conductors.
His legacy is as one of the founders of modern conducting, with deep analysis of the score, a simple beat, and a charisma that let him bring out the full sonority of the orchestra and plumb the depths of the music. Nikisch's conducting style was greatly admired by Leopold Stokowski, Arturo Toscanini, Sir Adrian Boult, Fritz Reiner, Ervin Nyíregyházi, and many others, including George Szell, who called Nikisch "an orchestral wizard." Reiner said, "It was [Nikisch] who told me that I should never wave my arms in conducting, and that I should use my eyes to give cues." A film survives of Nikisch conducting; after seeing it Herbert von Karajan described how impressed he was by Nikisch's use of his eyes instead of hand motions.