[I originally got the manuscript for this from Margaret Copeland. She was a student of Mr. Weaver and passed them along so that they could be printed. In February 1999 I finished the job and sent it to be published in a musical journal. That magazine passed away before this could be printed. I am publishing it here as it offers some interesting insights to the life and art of Leopold Stokowski. RMSII]
This book is a gift from Sherril Kannasto, a wonderfully sensitive flutist and friend.
November 6, 1990
Today is the first day of my new book. As a young child growing up in Cumberland, Maryland I was lucky to have parents who had a love for music. My mother played some piano and my father was able to play violin, some piano, saxophone, clarinet, trumpet and trombone. He also could play banjo and guitar. When he was very young (I believe he told me he was five or six) his father became ill and was bed ridden the rest of his short life. They were very poor and my father would go into the saloons with a banjo he had repaired and would sing and dance, accompanying himself with the banjo. The men would give him nickels and dimes and were delighted by his performances. I once told this story to Sir John Barbirolli, and he told me that when his family first moved to London, they also were not well off and he played his cello in the streets. Passersby would drop coins into his cap.
My early recollections were of my mother and father playing piano pieces late at night when I was in bed. Also having my father hurry home from work and then drive away with the other men to play for a dance somewhere in the area. Later, when I was a little older, I joined his orchestra, playing alto sax and clarinet. I'm ahead of myself. When I was five, I began to play violin – taught by my father. I still have my half size violin. Lessons were off-and-on and by age seven I dropped away from it in favor of other activities. Later, when my friends began to take up wind instruments and became members of the high school band, I couldn't resist and began to play sax and clarinet. I think I was fifteen when I joined my father's dance orchestra.
While I was still in junior high I bought an oboe form our only local music store. I believe it cost thirty dollars and it did not have a reed. This was a used English military system instrument and was the only oboe in the entire area. In those days none of the schools had any oboes or bassoons, but some of the high schools did own some old saxophones, clarinets and some brass instruments. Of course, no oboe reeds were available locally, so I bought the oboe without having any idea whether or not it could play. However, I was very optimistic when we ordered two reeds from Carl Fisher in New York. It took several weeks to get them and my father told me that he thought the reeds needed to be soaked in water before playing them. This we did and, after much experimentation, finally achieved the first primitive squawks from the little beast. My band director gave me a beginner's book of music for bands and wished me good luck. After a summer of intense effort and much practice, the oboe began to respond to my wishes and my first piece performed at school was "Illinois Loyalty March" in A Flat Major and the trio in D Flat Major. No fingering chart was available and it never occurred to me to send off for one – so the fingerings were my own. Later it turned out that they were, for the most part, the accepted ones. I used this oboe all through junior high and high school. In my junior year I played first oboe at All State, and it was here that I first saw other oboes. They, of course, were the standard French Conservatory system and used quite different fingerings than my English Military system oboe.
Incidentally, Sir John's wife, Evelyn Rothwell Barbirolli, plays the English system oboe. Her oboes are modern and have many more keys than mine had.
I didn't switch over to the French type until after World War II. Just at the end of the war I was stationed at the Alamdea Naval Air Station across the bay from San Francisco. I sold my old oboe and bought a modern French system. It took me months to make the switch from English to French system. In the United States probably all or nearly all oboists play the French type. Loree is the preferred make, although Marigaux and Rigoutat oboes are also used. Helm. Holliger, the famous Swiss oboist, plays a Rigoutat. We played several concerts together in Houston in the early 1980's and we compared oboes. He told me he never played a Loree he liked, but he did like mine. I told him the same thing about Rigoutats. His played extremely well.
During my senior year in high school I was offered a complete scholarship to Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore, but I refused the offer. Somehow in my mind I thought all the students in a major music conservatory would know Everything about music and I knew so little. My parents couldn't convince me to go. So instead, after graduation I went to an aviation school in Glendale, California. One of my schoolmates heard me practicing my oboe and suggested I try out for the Glendale Symphony, which at this time as a community orchestra of about 75 players. As a result, I played first oboe with the orchestra for a year. This was 1940-41. I still remember the first selection I performed with them. It was Tchaikovsky's Symphony #4 in F minor.
I'll try to write down some of the things that occurred during my long tenure with the Houston Symphony. The first conductor during my stay in Houston was Efrem Kurtz. He spoke several languages – the least of which was English. Directions to the orchestra were a mixture of French, German, Italian and English. Endings of sections were usually primo volta and secunda volta. It didn't take long to learn that! He used to say, before we would go on tour, "Don't vorry – I vill arrange" and "eat vell and sleep vell – und don't play in the powzes." He was nice to work with – once we solved the language barrier – and he was a very musical man. At Christmas time he always gave gift wrapped boxes of candy to the children of orchestra members.
He left the orchestra in 1953 and two years later Leopold Stokowski became the music director. The Maestro always wanted his name pronounced "Stow-koff'-ski" and of course we did. With his arrival my music world turned into a wonderland of sounds and expressive concerts which I had not known before. Not at first, actually, because in 1955 we musicians had no job protection – this would come later for all American professional orchestras. We played at least six weeks into that season wondering if he liked our playing or not, for he said nothing. However, the manager told us that he was pleased and we were all greatly relieved.
At time went on, "Stokey", as we called him in private, began to show approval of our work and, forgive me, mine in particular. At times he would say to one or another musician, "Listen to solo oboe – learn to phrase like solo oboe." He never called us by name in front of the orchestra. It was always 'solo flute' 'second clarinet' 'solo bassoon' etc. But he knew our names and used them when he spoke to us privately.
On Sunday rehearsals he always invited the children and would meet with them at intermission. Our children still remember meeting The Maestro after all these years.
Stokowski was a master painter of orchestral colors. He realized that a solo flute playing in the low register would not be heard against the entire string section. Forty sting players – each playing pianissimo – will collectively sound nearly mezzo forte. To get around this he would have only a double string quintet play during a very quiet flute or oboe solo. He called this little group "Camera". Often he would say, "Camera" while we were playing and later when the soft solo ending he would call out "Tutee" and the rest of the strings would join in. This was a very effective way of controlling volume levels and made our little solo lines much easier to play. Other well-meaning conductors would ask us simply to play louder than suggested by the composer in order to be heard in the solo lines. I also remember him saying to the orchestra, "Don't be mezzo forte players – learn to play pianissimo all over your instrument! And give first best – always!"
As much as The Maestro liked children (he told me he had five) he disliked photographers. We were rehearsing in the old Music Hall in Houston and an UN-invited photographer made his way into the hall from side doors just in front of the stage. He had several cameras around his neck on straps and more equipment under one arm. When Stokowski saw him, The Maestro rushed from the podium, directly at the stranger. Without a doubt Stokowski would have literally thrown the photographer out (The Maestro was about six feet tall and in his youth an amateur boxer*) had the man not turned with a very startled look and made a hasty exit with cameras and equipment clattering as he rushed to safety. Needless to say, he did not return. When The Maestro returned to the podium we gave him a standing ovation as he proclaimed to us, "I hate photographers!"
Other humorous incidents happened during his six years in Houston. By the way, he always called it "Hooston"! He also said "mick-rophone" for microphone. One day we were rehearsing and a deliveryman came into the empty-seated hall with a large package. We were playing a particularly quiet passage when the man came on stage and walked directly to the podium, tapped The Maestro's arm and said, "Mack, can you tell me where to find the librarian?" We musicians were stunned by this sudden interruption. 'Stokey' stopped and with a look of mock horror, stared at the man. This lasted several seconds and the man just patiently waited. Then Stokowski gradually changed expression to a nice smile and gave the necessary directions. The deliveryman said, "Thanks, Mack" and went on with his duties. We all had a good laugh, including the conductor.
At that time our principal clarinetist was Roger Hiller (later first clarinetist with the Metropolitan Opera in New York). We were playing the Tchaikovsky 6th Symphony and in the opening measures of the solemn introduction of the first movement, Roger unfortunately played a glaringly wrong note. He was transposing and had a momentary 'glitch'. The Maestro heard it, of course, but said nothing. It was during a concert and Stokowski showed no irritation or displeasure. After the concert ended, Roger was very distressed and asked me what he should do. My advice was to go to Stokowski's dressing room and simply say he didn't mean to play the wrong note and he was very sorry and would not do it again. Roger agreed and knocked on the dressing room door and entered. In three minutes or so he was out again with a beatific smile. He told me that he had, in so many words, begged for forgiveness as I had suggested. Upon hearing this, Stokowski put his hand on Roger's shoulder and said to him, "Just remember, my son, that only God, and perhaps the Pope, never make a mistake." With that advice, Stokowski added, "See you at tomorrow's concert."
Many other events occurred during those years and if I think of others I'll write them down. By the way, Stokowski did not ever go by air. It was by train, or if to Europe by ship.
Another comment – Maestro Stokowski never used a baton. All the other conductors did some using just hands in particularly soft or delicate spots. One who did this often was Leonard Bernstein – a very sensitive conductor. Stokowski's noting Houston's large number of churches and commenting, "Hooston must have many evil people to need so many churches."
One evening at the Music Hall, where we were performing in those years, a very unusual situation developed during one of Maestro Stokowski's concerts. First I must tell you that on more than on concert, if the first composition was not too well known, then when the orchestra finished the piece "Stokey" might not turn and bow, but instead would simply begin the next selection. (He seemed to enjoy fooling the audience with his little game.) On the night of this concert was a little known work for strings and percussion. The rest of the orchestra was off stage. Suddenly the personnel manager came running back stage telling everybody to go on stage as quickly as possible! We, of course, were puzzled. When we arrived on stage The Maestro looked at me, smiled and said, "Welcome aboard!" At this time I had no idea what he meant by this intriguing remark, but later all was explained. "Stokey's" little trick of starting the second selection on the program, if the audience didn't realize the first piece had ended, had backfired. The Maestro did finish the strings and percussion piece and just stood without turning to the audience. Of course, they didn't realize it was ended and didn't applaud. The next piece, which called for full orchestra, was then begun with the conductor working with the first violins. After the first eight measures or so, he turned to give me the cur to begin, but, of course, we were not there. The entire woodwind and brass sections were all off stage! Surprised, "Stokey" stopped conducting until we could all arrive. The audience had a good laugh and applauded our arrival. The selection was started again – this time with full orchestra – and I think the audience gave us more applause than usual when it came to a successfconclusion.
Mr. Stokowski rarely said very much to me about expression in music – such as: faster, slower, longer, shorter, louder, softer, etc. Sometimes he would ask, "Can you more?" or "Can you less?" He was speaking of volume levels and if the question was to me, if I could do more or less, I would answer, "Yes, sir!"
One day he sat beside me at intermission of a rehearsal and gave me some thoughts about the piece we would rehearse the next day. These are almost his exact words. "Tomorrow we play Ibert's Escales and, as you know, slow movement is small oboe concerto. Just remember you are naked female Gypsy dancer, with slave bracelet on ankle, dancing in dusty street by firelight, surrounded by circle watching, often." He then stood up and left me to think about this comment. Next day, when we played the second movement I pretended to be that Gypsy dancer. My effort was successful because he put his hands together, as if praying, and nodded his head up and down. This was, from The Maestro, his highest form of praise. It was an exciting moment for me.
One common trait among all the great conductors – they rehearsed the works in order. If we played a symphony, always the movements came in order. The only exception was if a number of instruments played only in the last movement. Some conductors would do that movement first. Not Stokowski! In the Beethoven Symphony that used trombones in the last movement, the Fifth, they had to wait!* By playing in the order that the composer had written, one seems to have a better idea of phrasing, etc. because each movement is related to the next. It was always easier to have the "build up" and then the solo – rather than starting directly at the solo, or worse yet in the middle of a solo. The English conductors had a nice way of working. [Keep in mind that Raymond does not seem to recognize Stokowski as English. RMSII] If the orchestra had trouble with some particular spot, the conductor would simply say, "Have a go at it," and then would step off the podium and let us "woodshed" or work over the part. After five minutes or so the conductor would step up on the podium and try the place again. This saved a lot of time and gave us a few minutes to try to clean up our playing.
During the middle '50s we were blessed with a number of excellent guest conductors. I've noticed that when one has a truly great music director guest conductors are always of the highest caliber. Obviously the music director is secure and is not threatened by any guest conductor. You can get a good idea how some other directors feel about themselves by the quality (or lack thereof) of the guest conductors they select.
My musical world came tumbling down when it was announced that, after six seasons, "Stokey" would not return. He made a short speech to each audience and said that he had many personal problems and had decided to return to New York City. It was rumored at the time that he wanted to use a chorus of black people for a concert and this, in those years, was not allowed. [According to some sources he wanted to use the chorus in a performance of Orff's "Carmina Burana and the board refused to allow this. Stokowski supposedly resigned in protest. RMSII] I do not know if this was true or not, but The Maestro was far above prejudice or discrimination in any form.
The following year was a mixture of guest conductors. Several from England: Sir Thomas Beecham, Sir Malcolm Sargent and Sir John Barbirolli. Charles Munch, from the Boston Symphony and Pierre Monteux. Of course Monteux is the man who first conducted Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" in Paris. He also premièred Stravkinsky's Pétrouchka and Ravel's Daphnis and Chloé. I really enjoyed working with all these conductors. Each had musical ideas to share with us and all seemed to have a way with making the music "come alive" and in almost the same way. Tempos were always playable, and to me seemed ideal for the music. All the great conductors have the ability to move along in the relatively uninteresting sections and then take time to bring out the more interesting parts. I quickly realized by this time that there were other fine conductors besides Stokowski.
One in particular was Sir John Barbirolli. A most sensitive man and a joy to work with. He had a wonderful sense of humor and, above all, an elegant way with music. He would coax the most delicate and beautiful phrases from the orchestra – more than once to bring tears to the eyes. Although Sir John was a rather small man physically, he was a giant musically. Sir John was born in Venice, Italy and his family moved to London when he was still a young boy. With an Italian father and French mother and growing up in the Cockney district of London, he became very fluent in all three languages. He spoke perfect Oxford English, but when very angry or unhappy with the way we were playing, he would literally degenerate down to Cockney English and become quite intelligible. After uttering a few "ows" and "gows" and other gibberish, he would pause – smooth his hair with his hands – and then tell us a joke or funny story, all in flawless Oxford English. [Stokowski also spoke OE when he first came to this country. Even press reports of his first year in Cincinnati commented on his perfect English accent. RMSII] Sir John once told us of auditioning a double bass player. He asked the man to play a line from Other. [I am not sure what is referred to here. I am not aware of any piece so titled. My guess is that Raymond wrote that with the intention of going back and filling in the correct referent later, then didn't get around to it.] This particular section for bass had a high E Flat Major. When the fellow seemed unable to play the part, Sir John, who was an excellent cellist, took the man's bass and, as he said to us, "I actually found the note." To this the auditionee exclaimed with obvious admiration, "Way up there?" Then added as an afterthought, "I've never been up there before!"
Maestro Barbirolli was born in 1899 and spent a period of time growing up in London. During World War I he was with the British Infantry. His Sergeant Major was a very large Irishman who would call him "Bob O'Rielly." Sir John learned quickly that when the Sergeant shouted, "O'Rielly, front and center" he was talking about Barbirolli. Apparently he thought Sir John was Irish! Sir John was with us for six years and we loved him. After memorable concerts most of the orchestra would form a long line just to congratulate him. In his final season with us we were rehearsing the last movement of Brahms' Symphony #1 when Sir John suddenly fell on the podium. He had had some kind of seizure. Helped to his feet, he insisted on conducting the rest of the movement. The manager of the orchestra stood with him on the podium to prevent him from falling again. Sir John arrived at the last chord and continued to conduct – on and on. We in the orchestra played the last note over and over again until the manager gently told him the symphony was over. Many in the orchestra were crying because we realized Sir John thought he was dying and he wanted to go into the mysterious beyond while conducting his orchestra. Happily this unusual collapse was a reaction to some medication and he lived on until his 70th year. One small note, even though Sir John spoke Italian perfectly – when he used the word Andante, if he was speaking English, he would pronounce it, "AN-dant-ee with the a's pronounced as in the word 'ant'. I always meant to ask him about that word, but unfortunately never did.
Sir Thomas Beecham was quite an interesting conductor. He possessed a dry sense of humor which occasionally came out at rehearsals. He did fly from his home in England but said he kept his eyes closed throughout each trip and pretended he was in his living room at home! He made it very clear upon his arrival the first time that if it was too warm he would wait until the hall was cooled sufficiently before he would begin rehearsing. He often came to the hall half-an-hour late (even when the hall was cool) and left a half-an-hour early. He satin an office swivel chair at rehearsals and wore bedroom slippers – even to concerts. I still remember him coming on stage with a slow, deliberate gait and with his white sock showing clearly through the large hole he had cut in the toe of the right slipper. At concerts, upon arriving to the podium he would first bow to the orchestra and then to the audience. He would often tell us, with his back to the audience of course, a little joke between movements of a work. People would come to us after concerts to find out what Sir Thomas had said between movements. At his first rehearsal with us he conducted about two measures and then put his baton down. Of course we all stopped playing. He said, "I've given you the tempo if the piece – do you want me to give the tempo of every bar?" After that we soon learned to continue unless he signaled us to stop. After playing entirely through a symphony, he glanced through the score commenting, "That was oll right – that was oll right – this too." While he was doing this, our Concertmaster was looking through the first violin part. When Sir Thomas finished looking through the score and announced that all was well, the Concertmaster asked if they might try a section in one of the movements. Sir Thomas stared at him for several seconds and then signaled us to play. After fifteen or twenty measures he stopped and said to the Concertmaster, "Anything else you'd like to hear?" This comment did the trick and the rehearsal was over.
I forgot to explain the hole in Sir Thomas' slipper! He suffered from gout and the large hole relieved any pressure on his big toe. Since the hole was in his right slipper, it was plainly visible to the audience. I think he rather enjoyed this little display of individuality. On the programs he was always listed as Sir Thomas Beecham, BART. BART simply means Baronet.
The thrill I got when Pierre Monteux said to me, when I asked him for his picture, "My boy, your playing fascinates me." Overwhelming.
Charles Munch saying to the orchestra just before our first rehearsal of Berlioz' Symphonie Fantastique, "You know the symphony, I know the symphony, let's play!"
Sir Malcolm Sargent on tour with the Royal Philharmonic and hiring a cab from Galveston to Houston – fifty miles – just to come back stage to say hello to us members of the Houston Symphony.
My memory seems to glide from one time to another without too much order. [I had considered taking the recollections, like those above, and rearranging them into a more coherent order. Reading this last line, however, made me reconsider. I decided to leave the order in its original format to give it a more natural, conversational style.]
This morning Sir John popped back once more. We were on tour somewhere in the Northwest and our chartered plane developed hydraulic failure. For safety, the pilot decided to make an emergency landing at the military field at Klamath Falls, Oregon, because, although he was able to lower the landing gear, we had no flaps or brakes. This meant higher than normal landing speed and a much longer run on the ground. As a pilot myself, I reassured the nervous musicians that all would turn out okay. Sir John took it all in stride, like the veteran traveler he was. He was sitting in the rear of the plane and commented, "We all have to go sometime, but it would be a damn shame to go without at least a good three hour rehearsal on a Mahler symphony. Or pilot did an excellent job getting the plane down safely and by that evening we were all ready for our next concert.
Other times, with other conductors, the memories are not as happy.
José Iturbi, the Spanish pianist and conductor, was a guest with us on one occasion and he was playing piano and conducting at the same time. When we had a solo passage to play he would suddenly jerk his head up at the exact instant we were to play. Without a preparatory beat, this makes solo playing very uncertain. Most pianists who are also conducting will either conduct with a hand gesture or, if both hands are busy, will in time raise their head and then nod at the moment of entry for a solo instrument. I tried several times to play on Iturbi's 'jerk' but could not get it exactly. I asked him if he could give me a preparatory beat and he suddenly became very angry. He said to me, "You are a troublemaker!" Later he complained to the orchestra manager and was assured I meant no disrespect (which, of course, I didn't). He was very much nicer to me at the remaining rehearsals and he did, in fact, manage to give the important preparatory beat!
Ernst Ansermet, then the conductor of the Suisse Romaude Orchestra, which he founded, was working at rehearsal with us one morning and he made a comment to the bass section. We didn't hear it clearly and our principal bassist asked him what he had said. Ansermet's response was, "I said it was UGLY!" He was getting along in years and obviously didn't feel well. He was born in 1883 and this was about 1960 or so. I believe he died within a year after his guest visit to Houston. [Notice that Ansermet was a year younger than Stokowski!!! RMSII] Ansermet had orchestrated from the piano Six Antique Epigrams of Debussy. One of these was a short cadenza for oboe which is very difficult to play at any speed with the usual French fingerings. Using my own fingerings, I was able to play the cadenza much faster than usually done. I thought this would not only sound well, but would impress the maestro. Wrong!! After I played it, he looked at me and said, "Too fast." Later, at the same rehearsal, our principal flutist played a nice solo that was marked piano dolce. Again, Ansermet stopped and complained that it was too loud. I became the next victim. My next solo was also marked piano dolce. 'I'll play it just as marked – very softly and sweetly' I thought to myself. Wrong!! Again he stopped the orchestra. "Don't you see this is a solo? Play it out!" So much for second guessing Ansermet. In spite of these little problems, guessing what he might want, I enjoyed playing concerts with Ansermet – he was a very musical man.
One day the orchestra was rehearsing a commissioned work. It was composed by someone to be performed at the dedication of a building or something. The composer wasn't present at the second rehearsal and during a particularly awkward spot, Sir John stopped us, and with a thoughtful expression commented, "This is the kind of music, had I thought of it, I wouldn't have written it down." So much for that!
While guest conducting in Houston, Sir Malcolm Sargent told us a story one day during rehearsal. They were playing a concert during the Second World War. It was in the Royal Albert Hall with the London Philharmonic. As they began to play Beethoven's 5th the air raid sirens started to scream. Normally everyone would hurry to the underground bomb shelters until the German Luthwaffe had finished the raid. Sir Malcolm said he was tired of the bomb raids and also quite angry about them. So, he turned to the audience and announced his intention to conduct the symphony in spite of the bombs. He told the audience and the orchestra they of course were free to go, but he was staying. Not one musician or one member of the audience left Albert Hall! Sir Malcolm added that during this performance the building next door was a direct bomb hit and was destroyed. A bomb splinter, still smoking, also came through several feet high up on Royal Albert's wall above where the audience was sitting. No one was injured and conductor and orchestra received a great ovation when the symphony ended. Sir Malcolm added that the orchestra never played better than that night they defied Adolph Hitler's bombers.
From 1936 through 1939 or 40, Sir John Barbirolli was the Music Director and Chief Conductor of the New York Philharmonic, following Artruo Toscanini's tenure. He told me an interesting story while we were walking arm-in-arm aboard the Staten Island Ferry. Manhattan was a great Island of Light – a huge pile of jewels gradually growing smaller as we neared Staten Island. Off to the right was the Statue of Liberty looking stately and serene. It was a beautiful sight. Sir John said the last time he was in New York Harbor it was pitch black, a great contrast to the scene I've just described. He said he was troubled that his countrymen in England were being bombed by German airplanes while he was safe in New York. He was particularly concerned about his mother and decided to return. At this time, during the war, one didn't go to another country without official permission. Sir John said he put through a transatlantic telephone call to Sir Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of England, to obtain permission for the dangerous voyage. Sir Winston's secretary answered telling Sir John that the Prime Minister was having a meeting – but he would convey the request. Moments later, the secretary relayed the following message, "If the damn fool wishes to return to England at this time, he has my permission!" Sir John resigned his post with the New York Philharmonic and in a very short time was aboard a freighter headed for England. They made it all the way to England without incident although there were German U-boats in the Atlantic at the time.
I can't think of Sir John without remembering many happy moments making reeds and playing oboe duets with his lovely and very talented wife, Evelyn Rothwell Barbirolli. Incidentally, the name Evelyn in England is pronounced with only two syllables, Eve – as in Adam and Eve – and Lyn – as in the name Lynn. In those years we all smoked and many times the room would be filled with cigar smoke. She and I both enjoyed a good cigar, but of course in the privacy of the studio, never on the street. Lady Evelyn was a wonderful soloist and made a number of recordings during her playing career. Often when we would play duets together, she would comment, "Mind you, that's a nasty patch of notes!" Or if she missed a note she would say, "Oh, damn – sorry, Ray."
Another conductor I worked with was Heitor Villa-Lôbos conducting his own works and speaking very little English.
Bruno Walter was an extremely talented man and a joy to work with.
Hans Schmidt Isserstadt, the blond German conductor who looked fierce but had the soul of the poet. With him on the first time through Richard Strauss' Don Juan he made a comment I couldn't hear, but a friend, Wayne Crouse, told me he had said, "couldn't be better" referring to my solo. After the first play-through, he skipped this solo and didn't play it again until the concert. He was a guest only once – too bad – the orchestra played extremely well for him.
Of course, some conductors get your attention in another way – egotism! [Interestingly, Stokowski is never charged with this sin. RMSII] When Carlos Chavez came to guest conduct he said, "You have played Schéhérazade many times before – but now you really play it!" Actually, as I recall, his performance of the work was rather pedestrian.
I had the pleasure of working with Igor Stravinsky on several occasions. A most interesting composer (profound I should say!). He told a small group of us once about his talk with Samuel Golden at MGM Studios. Sam asked him if he would consider writing a symphony for an upcoming movie. Golden thought a four-movement work would be perfect even though he knew that Stravinsky often did two or three movement symphonies. This was just fine, Stravinsky told him. They talked money and when it would be finished, etc. They shook hands and just as Igor was about to leave, Samuel said there was one more tiny detail he had forgotten to mention. Each movement of the new four-movement symphony was to be exactly one minute in duration! Stravinsky said good-bye and never returned.
Artur Rubenstein was playing with the Houston Symphony with Sir John conducting. All went well early on, but Rubenstein began to play louder and louder until he finally pounded the keys with his fists! Sir John was visibly concerned, "Dear man, what's wrong?" "This is a terrible Steinway Piano!" said Rubenstein. A search went out for another Steinway that would be much better. In short order men were there with the better piano. All went well and that night at the concert Rubenstein played beautifully. He played an encore that was fantastic. Afterward we gathered around him backstage and he looked up at me, smiled and said that this other piano was just as bad, but he played it for the musicians. Later that month he sent down from New York, by air, one of his personal Steinways. A very big gift to the symphony and it, even then, must have cost thousands of dollars.
I remember my last performance in Carnegie Hall. I sat on the stage for 30 minutes after the concert. The stage hands went about their jobs of clearing the stage and putting things away, without any show of impatience. The stage was empty except for me, my stand and chair. When I left, one man came out and took my things off the stage and turned off the lights.
*Raymond's actual comments here did not identify the 5th as the symphony. My thanks to members of Classical Forum for helping me make that determination. Hey, I don't have to know it all and I am sure many of our readers appreciate this new data.
Copyright © 2001, Robert Stumpf II.