Performers and performances

“Didn’t you like it?”

Leonard Bernstein and Mildred Spiegel attended the Boston Symphony Orchestra season in 1933. They sat, she remembers, in the second …

A bewitched recording

Early phonograph recordings were a little rough. In 1889, pianist Hans von Bülow was asked to play into a phonograph …

A concise rehearsal

Hans Knappertsbusch (1888-1965) was a German conductor. However, he had a dislike of rehearsals. Karajan recalled:One time he was going …

A little ahead … or a little behind

Samuel Sebastian Wesley received great reviews for his conding at Gloucester’s annual Three Choir Festivals in 1865. An critic in …

A matter of tempo

Bruno Walter, Friedrich Buxbaum, and Arnold Rosé were to perform Erich Korngold’s Piano Trio in D in 1910. Korngold was …

A monkey on his shoulder

Cellist Walter Joachim spend some time in Calcutta, India. He recalled: “I bought a monkey with which to amuse myself …

A simple request

Humorists Ilf and Petrov described a concert by Rachmaninoff In New York (November 1935):The night we went to hear him …

A typical recital in England in 1897

John E. Borland described in a paper of June 1897: It was customary to commence with a Bach prelude and …

A very specific error indeed

The following is an account of the conductor Hans von Bülow:The newspaper critics Bülow continued to despise because of their …

A young Josef Hoffmann

The Polish pianist, Josef Hoffmann may have been a child prodigy. Upon hearing him play, Anton Rubinstein, who typically disliked …

Advice to opera performers

In the early 18th century, the standard of Italian opera performances had become somewhat questionable. In 1720, The satirical writer …

Arthur Rubinstein’s youthful practice habits

Interviewer: So many children hate to take music lessons. Can you understand this? Rubinstein: Oh, yes, I was one of …

As good as Paderewsky

“At the end of a dinner he was attending by a lady in Liege, Ysaÿe was asked to listen to …

Autumn Leaves

Pianist Roger Williams on his hit recording of Autumn Leaves (which was recorded three days after signing his contract with …

Baroque they are not

Between 1910 and 1938 the Austrian violin virtuoso Fritz Kreisler produced some arrangements of works by Boccherini, Martini, Couperin, Vivaldi …

Beethoven and the candlesitcks

Beethoven once gave a performance of a new piano concerto in which he forgot he was the soloist and began …

Beethoven conducting

On 5 April 1803 Beethoven conducted an concert of his own works: the First and Second Symphonies; The Third Piano …

Beethoven’s contest

In 1800, an improvisation contest occured between Beethoven and the pianist Daniel Steibelt.It was agreed that Prince Lobkowitz would sponsor …

Beethoven’s duet

Beethoven was premiering his piano duet, March (op. 45) with duet partner Ferdinand Ries.  When a young count spoke loudly …

Brahms’ ladies choir

Brahms formed a Ladies Choir of about fifty singers: “Fix oder Nix” was the motto he coined for them – …

Claudio Arrau in Newcastle

While the Century Theatre in Broadmeadow (Australia) primarily operated as a cinema, it was also hosted concerts, including by the …

Climbing Mount Fuji with a cello in hand

“In 2007 Italian cellist Mario Brunello climbed to the summit of Mount Fuji and played selections from Bach’s cello suites, …

Concentrate on the performance

Daniel Saidenberg ws the first cellist of the Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by Leopold Stokowski.  He recalled:Stoki’s ability to exert disciplines …

Conditions stipulated for the Imperial Court Chapel

The Imperial Chapel Choir was founded in Vienna in 1498 and performed exclusively for the court.  Composers that worked with …

Conducting gloves

The practice of wearing white gloves whilst conducting was common in the nineteenth century. The Musical times reported in July 1884 …

Debussy’s reception in England

In 1908-9, Claude Debussy made two appearances conducting his own works in England.  The Musical Times reported on the occasions …

Don’t wish me luck

“From here on out, I declare that no one ever wish me again to ‘break a leg'”. Joyce DiDonato, American …

Dress regulations for Handel’s Messiah

In the eighteenth century, hooped skirts were a popular choice of ladies dress attire as they enabled a dramatic entrance, …

George Gershwin at the piano

The theatre director Rouben Mamoulian describes Gershwin’s playing: George at the piano was George happy … like a sorcerer celebrating …

Gershwin conducting

Isaac Goldberg described Gershwin’s enthusiasm when conducting: He conducted not just with his baton, but with his cigar, his shoulders, his …

Gershwin’s playing (and sense of humour)

The composer Burton Lane describes George Gershwin’s playing: You could feel the electricity going through the room when he played …

Gramophone: no substitute for live performance

British conductor Thomas Beecham was not too impressed with early recording technology (the gramophone): It was put to him that …

Here’s a pencil … and an eraser

‘The following is an account of the conductor Hans von Bülow:Young composers whom Bülow decided to feature in the concerts …

Hough and Schnabel on piano rolls

I want to believe in piano rolls. The idea that we can insert an object into a present-day piano and …

How not to get an audience

Satie’s ballet Relâche (1924) had trouble pulling a crowd: the title translates as “this performances is cancelled”. Source: Lawrence, Christopher …

How to get an audience

Johannes Brahms and the violinist Eduard Remenyi had been concertizing to great success in Cello and Lüneberg. By this time …

Imogen Cooper on a lesson with Alfred Brendel

He was a wonderful teacher. He is extremely articulate and very demanding. He made no concessions to my age. In …

In the event of a lack of singers

In a letter to his friend Abbé Joseph Bullinger, Mozart jokes about the musical environment in Salsburg. One of his …

It’s the page turner’s fault

Several years ago, Mr. Kalichstein hired a young music student who kept reaching across the score to turn pages from …

Just as we checked the tuning …

In 1853, Brahms went on a tour of German cities with the Hungarian violinist Eduard Reményi.  In the town of …

Karajan and direction

Seiji Ozawa recalls Karajan’s overarching concept of music: I really shouldn’t start comparing Karajan and Bernstein. I’m thinking of the …

Loyalty to a lead

John Sublett (stage name, John Bubbles) was a tap dancer unable to read music.  He was chosen by Gershwin to …

Mahler’s bowing instructions

Rachmaninoff played his Third Concerto in January 1909 in New York, conducted by Gustav Mahler. Rachmaninoff recalled the rehearsal: Suddenly, …

Maiky’s recording of Bach’s cello suites

“The Latvian cellist Mischa Maisky recorded the Bach’s cello suites “at a small guest house he converted into a studio …

Mozart improvising

In 1777, Mozart was having lunch with his uncle at the Holy Cross Convent in Ausburg. Mozart played a sinfoni …

Mozart’s magic ring

When Mozart was in Naples, he so impressed his audience that they suspected “musical sorcery”. They ordered him to play without …

Musicians in Dresden in 1720s

”There was rivalry among the musicians in Dresden in the 1720s.  Daniel Heartz describes some incidents:Silvius Weiss, the famous lutenist, …

Not just a one hit wonder … but there was an audience favorite

Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C-sharp minor proved very popular with the public. At times, it was programmed “by request” (1), and if …

Paderewski, the dandy

Overheard in a New York street car:— Average Young Man (to neighbour): “Everything they say about Paderewski is true. He’s …

Page turning for Beethoven

Ignaz Xaver Seyfried was asked to turn pages for Beethoven in a performance of Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto (5 April …

Paper and matches for maintenance

When Spanish cellist Pablo Casals was in his seventies, he retired from the concert stage and lived in Prades, Southern …

People must hear me

“I cannot tell you how much I love to play for people. Would you believe it – sometimes when I …

Pierrot Lunairre

A performance of Schönberg’s Pierrot Lunaire was given by Artur Schnabel (piano), Boris Kroyt (violin), Gregor Piatigorsky (cello), Paul Bose …

Practising at every opportunity

The conductor Stokowski was co-conductor of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra.  He was rehearsing his own orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures …

Rehearsal conditions must be suitable

Strengthened by his initial triumph and by daily evidences of the ever-mounting appreciation and support of the Philadelphia’s new claim …

Sondheim on audiences

“I do think audiences become more sophisticated. You try something out on them and they say, “Ugh”. You try it …

Stokowski and singers

Leopold Stokowski was staging a concert version of Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov. Natalie Bodanya, one of the finest singers at Curtis …

Stokowski on contemporary music

Leopold Stokowski was a champion of contemporary music. He conducted music without judgement, believing judgement to be the public’s job …

Stokowski playing Bach on the organ

Stewart Warkov, assistant manager of the Symphony of The Air in 1961 described Stokowski playing Bach on the organ:Stokowski played …

Stokowski’s orders

A letter from the conductor Leopold Stokowski to Sylvan Levin gives an insight into his sense of humour: Caro Maestro …

Streisland’s instinct

[Barbara Streisand’s] early voice training amounted to one lesson with a voice teacher. At that session Ms. Streisand sang “A …

The art of playing the triangle

George Plimpton, a writer and sportsman, asked if he could play in the New York Philharmonic for a month to …

The ghost of Paganini

The Belgian violinist Eugène Yasÿe frightened Busoni by playing the Bach Chaconne and Paganini Caprices on a kit violin in …

The London Proms in the 1930s

A recollection of the London Proms in 1936: The behavior of the Promenaders was more genteel in those days … …

The price of an encore

At a concert in London in December 1911, Rachmaninoff was received to great acclaim: perhaps a little too much from …

The silent bass clarinet

During a rehearsal of Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony: Stokowski had inserted a gratuitous part for bass clarinet. “It so happens,” wrote …

The state of opera: 1720s

In 1720 in Italy, opera was largely dictated by the egos of the singers, rather than considering the text, or …

This music is too hard

In 1862 Brahms went to Vienna: Although he been in Vienna only a few weeks, Brahms was already making a …

To be a good player

Bach was once complemented on his organ playing: “There is nothing remarkable about it.  All one has to do is …

Two hands or one

American pianist Seymour Lipkin, a student of Rudolf Serkin recalled a performance of Beethoven’s Hammerklavier SonataBack in the 1970s I …

Vladimir Horowitz on encores

”You see,” he said, ”I have a very substantial program, and after a substantial program, you can’t play a substantial …

What a difference an audience makes

Mozart was in Paris in 1778. He visited the duchess of Chabot, Elisabeth-Louise de la Rochefoucauld, wife of Louis-Antoine-Auguste de …

Where to curse the orchestra

The following is an account of the conductor Hans von Bülow:Bülow’s close relationship with his Berlin audience was not achieved …

Who needs four strings anyway?

In his work Le Streghe (The Witches), the virtuoso violinist Paganini would use scissors to reduce the number of strings …

Word of mouth encore

Leopold Stokowski gave the Philadelphia premiere of Ravel’s Bolero as an “encore” at a Friday afternoon concert.The newspaper critics had …

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