• Vladimir de Pachmann hated music critics and especially a critic who worshipped Chopin. At a concert he knew the critic would attend, de Pachmann walked out on stage, holding a pair of socks. He announced to the audience that these socks had been worn by Chopin himself, then he draped the socks over the piano and played a concert of Chopin’s works. The next day, the critic visited de Pachmann and asked to see the socks and perhaps even touch them. De Pachmann granted the critic’s request, and the critic kissed the socks reverently. Later, de Pachmann revealed to his friends that the socks had never belonged to Chopin and that he himself had worn them for two weeks straight without washing them.
• Conductor Arturo Toscanini once swore in Italian at the Metropolitan orchestra, saying that it played like a pig. After the rehearsal, the remark was translated and disseminated, and members of the orchestra demanded an apology; otherwise, they would not play for him. Toscanini refused on the grounds that his remark was true. However, he did say “Good morning” at the next rehearsal, and the members of the orchestra decided to play once more for him.
• Soprano Frances Alda wrote a book in which she criticized baritone Lawrence Tibbett. Later, she dined with Mr. Tibbett and his wife, Jane. No one said anything about what Ms. Alda had written in her book until Ms. Alda said to Mrs. Tibbett, “I’m surprised you speak to me after what I wrote about your husband in my book.” Very politely, Mrs. Tibbett replied, “But I haven’t read your book, Madame Alda.”
• In early 2008, Maxim magazine reviewed the album Warpaint by the Black Crowes, giving it a mediocre 2½ stars and saying that “it hasn’t left Chris Robinson and the gang much room for growth.” There was just one problem: The reviewer had not heard the album. Faced with a deadline, the reviewer had faked a review. Boo. Fortunately, Maxim was forced to apologize.
• Lilli Lehmann could be a severe critic. After the first two acts of a revival of Tannhauser, a critic asked for her opinion. Ms. Lehmann had not been impressed, so as she walked out of the theater, she told the critic, “Say that Lilli Lehmann leaves her loge [box or seat in a theater] in disgust at the travesty they call Art in this opera house!”
• The very successful and very rich pianist Liberace was not bothered by criticism. In 1954, he told a critic who had written a bad review of one of his performances, “I cried all the way to the bank.” In 1974, he told the same critic, who still disliked his performances, “You remember that bank that I cried all the way to? I bought it.”
• During one tour, Sir Rudolf Bing and the Metropolitan Opera was criticized mercilessly for five days in a row in the Chicago Tribune by Claudia Cassidy. On the 6th day of the Met’s stay in Chicago, Sir Rudolf met Ms. Cassidy as she was entering the theater and said to her, “Oh, Miss Cassidy. I didn’t know you were in town.”
• Charles Ives used his composition “Three Places in New England” to make fun of marching bands in small towns. One of his instructions for playing the piece is to “count as if practicing the beginning and getting it wrong.”
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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