Illnesses and Injuries
• In 1951, renowned conductor Herbert von Karajan prepared to make a recording of Bach’s B minor Mass. He rehearsed the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde chorus and the Vienna Symphony 70 times to prepare for the recording, but he came down with a case of blood poisoning two days before the first recording session. Nevertheless, he conducted from a stretcher, raising one arm into the air, and the recording was outstanding.
• When George Plimpton attended Cambridge, he got sick. Unfortunately, the housekeeper talked to him for a very long time. Growing tired, he wanted her to leave, and trying to be polite, he said to her, “I must ask you to leave now. My favorite radio program is just coming on.” As she was leaving, George turned on the radio, only to hear the announcer say, “Come now, children, clap your hands!”
• Luigi Cherubini once insulted Hector Berlioz, who got his revenge at a performance of Cherubini’s Ali Baba. Berlioz sat in a front seat at the opera and yawned. Loudly he said, “I’ll give 20 francs for one musical idea.” Later he said, “I’ll give 40 francs for one musical idea.” As the opera progressed, Berlioz kept raising the price he would give for the presence of a musical idea in the opera, and then finally he left, saying, “I give up. I’m simply not rich enough.”
• At one time, wealthy amateur conductors could hire famous orchestras and conduct them. One such conductor hired the Vienna Philharmonic, which is composed of truly professional musicians. Unfortunately, this amateur conductor decided to show off, so he lectured the Philharmonic about how to play music. This was and is not wise. The musicians of the Philharmonic got their revenge by following the amateur conductor’s beat.
• Opera singer Nellie Melba could be very rude. Once, she and Mary Garden were invited to give a concert at Windsor Castle for the King of Greece. At the supper following the concert, Ms. Melba said, “What a dreadful concert this would have been if I hadn’t come!” Lord Farquhar started to compliment Ms. Garden, but she said simply, “Please don’t bother about me, Lord Farquhar. I love Melba’s rudeness. It amuses me.”
• Yankee pitcher Lefty Gomez frequently came off the pitcher mound to complain to umpires. During one game, he complained too often to umpire Harry Geisel, who told him, “One more time, Lefty, and you’re outta here!” Sure enough, a few pitches later Lefty came off the pitcher’s mound, and Mr. Geisel thought that he would have to throw him out, but Lefty said, “I didn’t come down here to argue about that pitch, Mr. Geisel. I just wanted to ask you how you spell your name. The umpire replied, “G-E-I-S-E-L.” Lefty then said, “That’s just what I thought — one eye.”
• John Dexter used to produce operas in Paris, although he spoke English and a young woman would translate his comments so that other people could understand them. Occasionally, Mr. Dexter would become really angry and curse people in English, and the young woman would diplomatically translate his comments. However, Mr. Dexter knew enough French to be aware of what the young woman was doing, so he would order her, “Tell them what I reallysaid.”
• With the heavily accented Georg Solti as conductor, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra recorded Benjamin Britton’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. Maestro Solti was supposed to later record the narration in several languages: English, French, German, and Italian. However, one day he announced to the orchestra that the recording would not appear for sale. Why? He joked, “No one can understand me in any language!”
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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