David Bruce: Resist Psychic Death — Music

Music

• Otto Klemperer concentrated on the music while he was conducting. Once, he was conducting a Beethoven symphony at the Royal Festival Hall in London when his violinists noticed that the famous conductor’s fly was undone. The first violinist attempted to get Mr. Klemperer’s attention by rolling his eyes, and at a break in the music, Mr. Klemperer asked what was wrong. After hearing that his fly was undone, Mr. Klemperer merely asked, “What’s that got to do with Beethoven?”

• Feodor Chaliapin admired Enrico Caruso, and as a tribute to him, he once wrote a glowing appreciation on the walls of Mr. Caruso’s dressing room at the Metropolitan Opera. Of course, this was greatly prized by the Metropolitan Opera, and for years the tribute was not touched — when the room had to be painted, the painters painted around the tribute.

• Sir Thomas Beecham once had to cancel a week of rehearsals for a concert at which Brahms’ Second Symphony would be played. This made a young musician nervous because, as he told Sir Thomas, he had never played Brahms’ Second Symphony before. Unperturbed, Sir Thomas replied, “Then you’ll just love it when you play it at the concert.”

• Mrs. Elizabeth Billington, a soprano, once received a wonderful compliment from Franz Haydn, who saw a painting that Joshua Reynolds had created of Mrs. Billington. Haydn told the painter, “You have made a mistake. You have represented Mrs. Billington listening to the angels; you should have made the angels listening to her.”

• The BBC Orchestra was and is composed of truly fine musicians. Once, Arturo Toscanini led them in a rehearsal of a new piece of music by Vincenzo Tommasini. The musicians sight-read the music so well that Mr. Toscanini, astonished, said to them, “I do not understand — how can you have seen this music before?”

• Sir Thomas Beecham was a feisty conductor. When he was old, he conducted the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Delius’ “Brigg Fair,” and he sang along with the orchestra. However, he heard the audience coughing, and he suddenly turned around and shouted, “Be quiet! I can’t hear myself sing!”

• In Richard Strauss’ AlpineSymphony, a passage of music portrays a storm. During a rehearsal conducted by Mr. Strauss, the first violinist dropped his bow. Mr. Strauss stopped the rehearsal, saying, “Gentlemen, may we pause briefly? Our leader has lost his umbrella.”

• Ludwig van Beethoven once lived in a house on whose window shutters he made musical notations. After the famous composer moved out of the house, the landlord auctioned off the shutters.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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