Of course it’s pretty vital that a conductor has an overall sense of a work.
A composer’s (sometimes!) carefully constructed opus – a climax here, rest points there – can easily be wrecked by maladroit stick waving and/or misplaced peaks or troughs. So, if there’s no handy composer around to ask (they’re pretty often dead); and, while listening to other interpretations can be a help or hindrance; studying the score is absolutely de rigueur.
The first people you have to convince of the ‘rightness’ of your vision of the piece are frequently your toughest critics: the orchestra. If it’s standard repertoire (see the Schubert above) many of them will have played the piece many, many times; it’s the coupling of an in-depth knowledge of the work and having something to say about the music that will keep them on your side.
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