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April 21, 1964 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1964-04-21

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The lsic ust Sound Like,

but its effects were tastelessly
In contrast, Toscanini, or The
Maestro, as his musicians called
him, considered the role of per-
former only as that of a. re-
creator: The performer should be
inconspicuous by his presence, put-
ting the emphasis on the music
rather than on himself. He should
follow strictly every note and mark
in the music, not superimpose his
personality and preference upon
the composer's intentions. The
noted opera composer Puccini, his
friend, aptly stated, "Toscanini
conducts . . . not as the score
requires, but as the composer
imagined it, even though his hand
may have failed him in the mo-
ment when he had to put upon
paper that which he had so clearly,
Toscanini's penetration into mu-
sic was so deep that he could
take apart a score of music and
reassemble it, retracing the lines
of thought of the composer. This
is how he learned the music he
performed. Toscanini could see
through the shortcomings of mu-
sical notation and could get to
the heart of the musical com-
munication the composer was
after. Through total understand-
ing, Toscanini could perform a
work as the composer intended it
to be heard.
.* *
ONCE, during a rehearsal of'
Beethoven's Ninth Symphony,
Toscanini gave the orchestra such
insight into the work that, at the
end,- they ,stood up and cheered
him. After stopping their actions,
The Maestro, with tears in his
eyes, said in a pathetic voice,
"Please. Please. Don't do this to
me. You see, gentlemen, it isn't
me. It's Beethoven!"
Appropriate tempos were of spe-
cial concern to Toscanini. He got
his clues for tempo both from the
composer's tempo markings and

the character of the piece. He
did not lull over highly romantic
passages or accelerate in vitally
rhythmic ones, as others did.
Rather he achieved the desired
flexibility within the limits of a
specific tempo, by employing subtle
shades of dynamics (loud and
soft) and by his sensitivity to the
technique with which the notes
were attacked and released.
Precise entrances, transparent
textures, instrumental balance
and, with singers, clarity of dic-
tion, were aspects of performance
for which The Maestro tirelessly
worked. The technical perfection
characteristic of American orches-
tras today has its beginnings in
the example set by Toscanini's
dynamic leadership.
ONE DAY during a rehearsall
of Beethoven's "Eroica" Symphony
(originally dedicated to Napoleon)
in Queens Hall, London, 1937, the
tempo was too slow and the char-
acter too majestic. The Meastro
stopped the orchestra and, in a
mixture of three languages which
he hoped would come out English,
shouted, "No! No! Nein! Is-a not
Napoleon! Is-a not 'Itler! Is-a not
Mussolini! Is Allegro con brio!
From the beginning-Bitte!"
World War II had great emo-
tional effect on Toscanini. He was
firmly against the dictatorial
forms of government of Germany
and Italy and on the side of the
Allies. In fact, on days when the
Axis Powers were gaining ground,
The Maestro became sad and re-
cluse-often refusing all food and
visitors. But when the Allies did
well, he would be in the best of
Toscanini had the rare ability
for vivid, accurate communica-
tion. Through a combination of
speech and gesture, he could make
the subtlest nuance picturesque to
his singers and musicians. For

example, once when the orchestra
was playing too heavily, he pulled
out his breastpocket handkerchief
and let it float lightly to the
floor. "Like this. TlM music must
sound like this," he said. The
Maestro got his result.
were concentrated and intense.
Sometimes he would sing along
with the orchestra in his low,
coarse, cracked voice without
realizing what he was doing. Dur-
ing one dress rehearsal in Slaz-
burg, his voice howled above the
instruments, he stopped the or-
chestra in amazement: "For the
love of God," he cried, "who is
singing here?"
His passionate devotion encom-
passed all music, not just the mas-
terpieces. During a rehearsal of
an insignificant little Italian
piece, Toscanini is known to have
roared, "Put your blood! I put my
blood!" And the musicians for-
gave his emotional outbreaks.
They understood he did not rage
out of self-indulgence, but from
extreme musical sensibility, intense
concentration and a profound, al-
most physical suffering from in-
justices done to music. Honesty
and courage, bigness and nobility,
sincerity and depth characterized
Toscanini and his music; senti-
mentality and tawdry luster and
passion were noticeably absent.
Toscanini always maintained
that the music is the great thing,
not the performer. "I am not a
great man," he would say. "Is
enough to be a man!" He refused
to accept honorary degrees: "I am
a moosician, not a doctor." Once,
when listening to a radio program
of recorded music, the announcer
explained that the work just con-
cluded was conducted by Dr. X;
tomorrow's broadcast would fea-
ture works conducted by Dr. Y
and next week's schedule would

include a festival of music con-
ducted by Dr. Z. At this, Toscanini
began to twitch his moustache (he
frequently did this when he be-
came angry) and the madder he
became the faster he twitched.
Finally his rage broke the silence:
"Veery interesting. Everybody is
a doctor. I am the only 'con-

1 IllI
DURING Toscanini's almost 70
years of public performance, he
strove to perform only what was
in the printed score-to be a ser-
vant of the composer. And this he
did with an amazingly consistent
high level of artistic authenticity.
What we remember most about
this man is his influence upon the
standard of musical performance.



Enjoy theFinest
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Closed Monday -- Q
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The Student Government Council strongly endorses
the Friends of the Cooperative Bookstore, Inc.
in their efforts to open a
by the fall semester
Membership entitles you to a vote in the running
of the bookstore, to a share of its ownership.
Obtained on the Diag, I.Q.C. Office n the SAB, and at the
Artist's Gallery, 330 Nickels Arcade (above Blazo's)

French Opera Short of Ideal.

SAINT-SAENS:"Samson et Dali-
lah." Rita Gorr, Jon Vickersand
Ernest Blanc. Georges Pretre
conducting the Orchestra of the
National Opera Theatre, Paris.
Choeurs Rene Duclos. ANGEL
stereo SCL. 3639, $17.98 (Mon-
aural CL 3639, $14.98).
SAINT - SAENS' "Samson et
Dalilah" can claim its place in
the opera repetoire on the basis
of its many attractive melodies
and its elaborate, colorful orches-
tration. It is a shame that the

Of Year

opera is not heard more often.
Those who know only one or two
arias from it (e.g., the famous
"Mon coeur s'ouvre a ta voix")
will be pleased to discover that
the opera as a whole in no way
falls short of the beauty of those
excerpts. There has been no com-
plete recording of "Samson et
Dalilah" in the American cata-
logue for years, and to Angel goes
the credit for making this music
once more available. Lovers of
French opera will buy this re-
cording without hesitation, but
for other listeners, this realiza-
tion of Saint-Saens' music falls
somewhat short of the ideal.
Jon Vickers (who is not yet
completely at home in the French
language) is the most satisfactory
member of the cast. The character
of Samson in the opera is like a
cardboard cutout of a real man-
he is subject to only two emotions,
love and duty, and he is torn be-
tween them in a most conven-
tional way. Almost all of Samson's
music is of the stirring, martial
sort, with plenty of high notes,
and Vickers performs this with
fine spirit and no apparent vocal
strain. His work in the short love
duet is less satisfactory-there, he'
cannot cope with the soft, legato
phrases Saint-Saens has written
for him, so that his words of love
have less tenderness than one
could desire.
As much cannot be said for the
other principal, Rita Gorr as Dal-
ilah. Her tone is sufficiently rich
and vibrant, her range is adequate,
her lower and middle registers
blend nicely-yet with all these
resources, she fails to project a
convincing Dalilah. Granted that
the Philistine woman (in the
opera) is a thin, character-even
her subtleties appear rather open
-yet there are more possibilities
in the role than Mme. Gorr finds.
She fails to express those few
emotions which Dalilah does feel
and display-seductiveness, hate
and triumph. There is never any
doubt in the libretto, from Act II
on, that Dalilah intends only to
destroy Samson, yet Gorr fails
to put enough "bite" into those
lines in which she expresses her
intention. Even her "je l'abhorre!"
in Act II, Scene 2, falls short of
the ultimate impact it should have.
Worst of all, Mme. Gorr does not
convince us that Dalilah is truly
a seductress.
The most revealing comparison,
which can be made here is be-
tween Rita Gorr and Maria Callas.
Callas has recorded Dalilah's two
big arias-"..Printemps .qui comn-
mence' and "Amour! viens aider
ma faiblesse" - on Angel (S)
35882. Forthese excerpts, she,
assumes a dark color to her voice;
in contrast, me. Gorr colors her
voice hardly at all. Callas, limited
by having to project an entire
characterization in only two brief
arias, yet manages to create a
Dalilah who, if not deep, is still
compelling and genuinely seduc-
tive. She achieves this result in
ra - -4, -, I -M U:+i n ....

son et Dalilah" is ultimately an
opera for two stars, assisted by
soli, chorus and orchestra. In this
performance, the Orchestra of the
National O p e r a Theater (of
France) and the Choeur Rene
Duclos perform with a great deal
of verve and are obviously quite
at home in the music.
Top honors in this recording,
however, must go to the conduc-
tor, Georges Pretre, who, when re-
quired, can move his forces at an
exhilirating speed, without los-
ing any instrumental precision, as
in the famous "Bacchanale" or
the revolt of the Hebrews in Act
I; yet he can be supple and sen-
sitive to orchestral balances so as
to bring out the exotic tone-color-
ing Saint-Saens wrote into the
opera. Thus Pretre takes full ad-
vantage of the orchestration,
which is, after all, one of the
strong points of the work.
Angel has rewarded Pretre's
achievement with a sound which
vividly captures the orchestra, yet
comes perilously close, many
times, to distorting vocal passages.
The stereo effect is satisfactory,
though nothing to excite lovers
of the sort of "ping-pong" stereol
London often uses.
"Samson et Dalilah" is worth
getting to know, and it is unfor-
tunate that its only recording does
not show it in the best light. What
is needed most here is a mezzo-
soprano who thinks about the role,
comes to intelligent conclusions
and embodies those conclusions in
her interpretation. Rita Gorr is
not ideal in this respect, but she
is always, acceptable, always a
good musician. This together with
Jon Vickers' exciting Samson and
Pretre's e x c e 11 e n t conducting
(which makes us look forward to
his "Carmen," planned for re-
lease) makes a "Samson et Dali-
lah" which is a worthwhile addi-'
tion to anyone's opera collection.
-Peter Bickelmann

THE MAESTRO at the foot of the grand staircase in his Riverside
home. Toscanini's son recalled- how proud his father was of the
stairway and how he would, somehow, make his guests aware of
its presence.
London Issue Designed
To Delight Wagnerites
I WAGNER: "Lohengrin." Elisabeth as, portraying Lohengrin, and Elis-
Grummer (s), Christa Ludwig abeth Grummer, in the role of his
(is), Jess Thomas (t), Dietrich lover Elsa of Brabant, offer the
Fisher - Dieskau (b), Gottlob good singing. Although t h e ir
Frick (bs), Otto Wiener (bs). names might be unfamiliar, it is
Frik (s),Oto Wene (b)"no reason to avoid this album.
Chorus of the Vienna State After all, progress and increased
Opera and the Vienna Philhar- understanding are achieved only
monic, Rudolf Kempe, conduc- by investigation into the unfamil-
tor. Angel S 3641 E/L. Five SD iar.
29.90. Angel 3641 El. Five LP. Thomas has a rich, powerful
$24.90. voice well suited to the heavy de-
mands inherent in this Heldenten-
l WHEN A NEW recording of or role. This young singer will, I
S"Lohengrin" comes out, Wag- am sure in not too long a time,
nerites get excited. Both the his- master the subtle dynamic nu-
torical importance of this music ances not yet perfected in his sing-
drama to the output of its com- ing, and might even become one of
poser and the lack of a satisfac- the leading Wagnerian tenors of
tory performance on record gives this generation.
sufficient reason.-f Grummer sings in the dramat-
This recording should keep them ically expressive tradition of the
happy for many years to come. true Wagnerian. Her control of
And if it doesn't, it will probably the lyric line and fine points of
be many more years before an- phrasing are evident. Very rarely
other new version will compete on her vibrato warbles a little too
the public market; this one in- freely-but only very rarely.
volved 17 recording sessicns, a to- It is with Dietrich Fischer-Dies-
tal recording time of over 55 hours, kau that most of the disappoint-
451 takes and the employ of exact- ment lies. Usually one can count,
ly 300 people-singers and, orches- on him for a sterling perform-
tra members included. A typically ance, but here he sings in a heav-
"Wagnerian" undertaking. ily accented, broken manner. His
Friedrich of Telraud doe o
This Angel "Lohengrin" con- coneyrh elramic noes not
tains mostly good singing, but convey the long, lyric line, but
some bad. The leads of Jess Thom- rather a series of divisionsof
line. Unnecessary accents and





. s"


FRANZ LISZT, Piano Concerto No.
i in E-flat major; Piano Concerto
No. 2 in A major. Byron Janis,
pianist; Kyril Kondrashin con-
ducting the Moscow Philharmonic
Orchestra (in the First Piano Con-
certo) and Gennadi Rozhdest-
vensky conducting the Moscow
Radio Symphony (in the Second
Piano Concerto). MERCURY
stereo SR90239, $5.98 (monaural
MG50239, $4.98).
MERCURY Records has recently
gone in for recording con-
certi in a big way, so it was in-
evitable that they should get
around to recording the two Liszt
piano concerti sooner or later.
But this is more than just the 18th
version of the E-flat major and
the 12th of the A major to enter
the catalogue; it is undoubtedly
the best of each.
For one who admittedly has not
heard each and every record of
these works, this may seem like a
rash statement; one need only lis-
ten to these magnificent perform-
ances to realize that it is, if any-I
thing, an understatement.
Lisat c i mands great v~iuosity
in both of these works - from
pianist and orchestra ali e--and
yet there are many wcma ts of
great beauty in both concerti
which Janis does not overlook. He

i sI

Hindemith and Bartok:
Especially Fine Sound
HINDEMITH: Concert Music for Strings and Brass. BARTOK: Music for
Strings, Percussion and Celests. New York Philharmonic, Leonard
Bernstein conducting; Columbia Stereo MS 6579, $5.98. Monaural ML
5070, $4.98.
WITH THESE TWO WORKS, Bernstein shows his close affinity to
contemporary music. And rightly so. If the young performers do
not champion contemporary music-"their music," who will?
Bernstein gives the Hindemith Concert Music a dynamic, secure
reading. This piece is scored for a four-voiced string section, four
horns, four trumpets, three trombones and tuba. With all this
brass, the, piece can't help but sound festive-at least in the faster
Bernstein is careful not to let the brass dominate or drown out
the strings. He achieves a balance in which the melody always comes
Especially in the Bartok. the texture is most transparent. Bern-

heavy attacks are the cause. This
is unfortunate, because under-
neath the distraction is a great
feeling of drama and expressivity.
Christa Ludwig's Ortrud, wife ofG
Friedrich, Gottlob Frick's Henry
the Fowler, King of Germany, and
Otto Wiener's Royal Herald range
from good to passable.
Rudolph Kempe commands a
fine group in the Vienna Philhar-
monic Orchestra. Their sound is
full, their tone is vibrant. The I
Chorus of the Vienna State Opera,
under the direction of Dr. Richard
Rossmayer, does a fine job.
The recorded sound is spotty,
ranging from most realistic dur-
ing the accompanied vocal parts,
to a slight haziness during some
of the purely orchestral portions.
to a definite fuzziness during much
of the choral work.
"Lohengrin's" historical signifi-
cance lies in the fact that it is
the culmination of nineteenth cen-
tury German romantic opera and
the beginning of the real Wag- 1
Inerian music drama. It draws its
c,,i it from 1 gYnd, andf fnllrPnvio



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