Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Out with the old

Working on my book this morning I began growing nostalgic for those emperor-like, old-man conductors the likes of which we used to see. And everyone used to bow and scrape before them.

I was thinking at first specifically about Serge Koussevitzky. I love how he looked on the cover of Time! He may not have been able to get where he did without marrying into a fortune, but still. What presence he had.

Then there was this letter from George Szell so I thought about him.

The stories I have heard about him! Harry Taub who used to be the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra's associate concertmaster used to play with Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra. He told me that once Szell was unhappy with the violin played by one of the violinists. And the violinist went out and bought a new car. And Szell made him take the car back and buy a new violin instead.


Harry Taub said that illustrated the respect Szell commanded, that not only did the violinist immediately obey him, but the car dealer took the car back without a fight.

That is something!

Now we live in this age of the young, with the New York Philharmonic being handed over to Alan Gilbert. Here, watch Alan Gilbert: A Day in Pictures.

And the Los Angeles Symphony going to Gustavo Dudamel.

No doubt they are fine musicians, these young conductors.

But I miss the mighty maestros of yore.

1 comment:

  1. Did you know Rachmaninoff despised Koussevitsky and wouldn't work with the Boston Symphony because he was conductor? Apparently Koussy was somehow connected with the publishing house in Russia that bought the C sharp minor Prelude for a flat fee and made a fortune off of it. Koussevitsky never offered to make good on that and R. never forgave it.