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November 10, 1963 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 1963-11-10
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- -- -N -- - w--

A Conversation with George Szell



WAS AN HOUR LATE for my appoint
ment with George Szell, conductor o
the Cleveland Orchestra-I had forgotten
about the one hour time difference be
tween that city and Ann Arbor. It wa
the only unfortunate occurance of a
Saturday morning which was otherwis
most exciting, as it gave me two hour
of conversation with the man often con
sidered the best conductor in the coun-
try. This community saw him perform
in the Choral Union Series at Hill Audi-
torium on Thursday.
Mr. A. Beverly Barksdale, Manager of
Cleveland's Orchestra, led the way to
Szell's office in Severance Hall. He
knocked on the door in secret code, and
introduced me to Szell, a man of about
six feet and sixty-five years who looks
amazingly young for his age.
Immediately upon introduction, Szell
said: "Tell me about yourself." I began
to wonder who was interviewing whom.
Ten minutes of questions and answers
gave him an insight into the extent of
my musical background and thus an
indication of the tone of the interview.
Now it was my turn.
tion based on a statement made by
the outspoken Russian conductor, Igor
Markevitch. Markevitch contended that
the minimum requisites for success as a
professional conductor are a thorough
knowledge of music history, fluency in
at least three languages, mastery of all
the classical symphonies and six operas,
ten oratorios and accompaniment for all
the major concertos. The conductor says
if one does not know the works by heart
one does not know them. Markevitch also
considers at least eight years of intensive
COVER: The abstract photography of
Robert Chambers. Window at a
laundry, now abandoned, on High
Street in Ann Arbor.
Photo Credits: Associated Press, page
three; Kamalakar Rao, page four
James Keson, page five; Richard
Cooper, page eight.
MOST graduates leave the Univer-
sity with some knowledge of
ancient Greek literature, but few are
able to discuss the literature coming
out of Greece today. Nole Xistris, a
senior in naval architecture whose
hobby is writing, considers "Modern?
Greek Literature: Creating a New
Tradition" (pages three and four).
Nole was born in Athens and came
to the States six years ago . .
Greek pottery-"Ancient Traditionse
in Greek Art"-is on page four.
Roger Lowenstein and Christopher
Cohen, seniors in the literary col--
lege, bring to the Magazine a dis-
cussion of political internship pro-
grams in Washington (pages sevenh
and eight). Lowenstein, in "Wash-
ington Internship: A PersonalR
View," gives a personal account
of his summer as a Con-
gressional aide and Cohen writes
"A Plan for a Washington
Semester." Lowenstein is an English
major, LSA president and member
of the Faculty Curriculum Com-
mittee. Cohen has served on the
executive board of the campus.
Young Democrats and is a past ex-<
ecutive board member of Voice}
Political party. He has worked for
the former Senator Kerr (D-Okla-i
homa) and Senator Ribicoff (D-N
Y New York)... Jeffrey K. Chase, a
Music Literature major and a regu-
lar Daily contributor, drove to
Cleveland to interview that city's

famous conductor, who performed
in Ann Arbor Thursday . ... An ex-
panded two-page Book Review Sec-
tion is on pages five and six.
Page Two

study necessary before a conductor is
ready to take over an orchestra.
To all this Szell replied, "In my opinion
the minimum requirements for being a
professional conductor are, in the first
place, great musical talent, including
natural gifts such as a sharp ear, pre-
ferably perfect pitch, an unfailing sense
of rhythm and a good, quickly-absorbing
and rententive memory. Furthermore,
thorough training in musical theory, in-
cluding harmony, counterpoint and
analysis of form are essential. The con-
ductor should be a very proficient pr
former on at least one instrumnt-in
my personal preference the piano-and
should have some trainig as a composer.
Knowledge of instruments and orchestra-
tion is a matter of course.
"In addition to theory, knowledge of
the orchestral literature, including the
great classical symphonies and concertos
of the repertoire, he should know the
most important operas by Mozart, Verdi,
Wagner and Strauss and should be
familiar with the chamber music litera-
ture, especially the Haydn, Mozart and
Beethoven string quartets and the Mozart
quintets. It goes without saying that the
better he knows these works by heart, the
more complete a musician he will be.
Some musicological knowledge, especially
some notions on the practice of perform..
ance of 17th and 18th century music,
is desirable. It is obvious that it will take
at least eight or ten years of intensive
study to acquire the above knowledge--
probably more. While fluency in at least
three languages is very desirable, I would
not specify this as an absolute condition.
"The qualities of personality which are
necessary for a good conductor to possess
are not easy to define. He should be
equipped with the gift of leader-
ship and should be a pedagogue, a
diplodmat, a poet an a lion-tamer all
rolle into one. First and foremost, he
should have the magnetism which com-
pels others to do his exact bidding
whether they like it or not, but preferably
he should be able to make them like it."
sZELL EXPLAINED that conducting
from memory is not just a showman-
ship gimmick, although it can be one when
done by the charlatans of the profession.
The Cleveland director added that con-
ducting from memory is the private affair
of the conductor and does not necessarily
guarantee a superior performance. But
if a conductor has absorbed the work so
thoroughly that he can dispense with the
score during a performance and yet
exercise complete and thorough control,
so much the better. There is no objection
to his having the score in front of him
during a performance if it is only for

occasional reference purposes: "Koussevit-
sky never conducted from memory and+
yet he gave many fine performances. In+
the final analysis it is the conductor's
knowledge of the score that counts."

Szell is known to conduct primarily
from memory, but he knows the scores
so well that his performances are of the
highest standard. His phenomenal re-
tention and perfect pitch allow him to
duplicate a score note for note on paper
if challenged. But this really doesn't
demonstrate how well a man can handle
the music, only how well he has rote
memorized it. In Szell's case his thorough
knowledge of a score is achieved through
understanding, not "memorizing.", There
is a big difference between the two!
Szell gave a few minutes to discussing
the preparation necessary for becoming
a conductor. "There is no best place or
school in which to study conducting. To
assist a master conductor, to observe
great or even only fine conductors in
rehearsal is invaluable and to the more
advanced and discerning student even
the observation of mediocre and bad
conductors can be very instructive. A few
years as coach in an opera house is
almost indispensable for a complete con-
ductor's training. This is one of the
reasons why I lay so much stress on pro-
ficiency at the piano."
THERE ARE two features of Szell's
conducting technique which deserve
mention. His highly flexible wrist conveys
a singing quality through the baton to
his orchestra. Another habit was de-
veloped during years of conducting in the
opera pit-Szell holds his hands high
so that the orchestra never has difficulty
seeing the baton. He always keeps ad-
ditional backward wrist motion available
for the appropriate passages. His batons,
long and very thin, are made to order
in Vienna. Szell rarely breaks one, but if
he should happen to, the orchestra
librarian always has a spare in the wings
for a ready replacement. Before each
concert Szell takes a small piece of fine
sandpaper and lightly rubs down his
baton to keep its surface blemish free.
David Ewen, in Dictators of the Baton,
writes, "On the stage (Szell) is singularly
undemonstrative, utilizing only those
gestures which are essential for convey-
ing his wishes, and making no effort to
attract the eye of his audiences. His
baton technique is entirely functional, the
last word in economy of motion. And to
the music he brings a classic repose which
sets his concerts apart. The architecture
of the music, the detail of the tonal
design, the composer's thought patterns
-these are what concern Szell rather
than sensuousness of tone or explosive
The pleasure derived from his concerts
comes exclusively from the inexorable
logic of the music itself, not from the
colors, dramatic impulses and contrasts
which so many conductors superimpose
on a score. Szell's performances are dull
only to those who require superficial
trimmings to their music; but to those
to whom the music itself provides the

complete stimulation and aesthetic satis-
faction-the music, presented with pre-
ciseness, transparency and faithful ad-
herence to the intentions of the composer
-Szell's performances provide a reward-
ing experience."
GEORGE SZELL, born in Budapest on
June 7, 1897, is of Czech background
and Viennese training. A child prodigy,
Szell gave his first public concert-playing
piano-when only 11. Five years later, he
made his conducting debut leading the
Vienna Symphony Orchestra in a summer
concert. Only a year later he appeared as
conductor, pianist and composer at a
concert of the Berlin Philharmonic.
Newspapers heralded him as a second
Richard Strauss, the eminent German
composer and conductor, heard Szell and
appointed him to the conductorial staff
of the Berlin State Opera after hearing
him play his own piano transcription of
"Till Eulenspiegel." Two years later he
succeeded Otto Kemperer as principal
conductor of the Strasbourg Municipal
During the 1920's and 1930's he held
important conductorial positions and
guest conducted with great success
throughout Europe.
He was in the United States at the
outbreak of World War II and decided
to remain. He made his New York debut
at the invitation of Arturo Toscanini on
March 1, 1941 as guest conductor of the
NBC Symphony Orchestra. Numerous en-
gagements followed. From 1942 to 1946
he was a regular conductor of the New
York Metropolitan Opera Company.
Nineteen forty six witnessed his ap-
pointment to the present position in
Cleveland. During his tenure there, Szell
has increased the personnel to 105 or-
chestral musicians and organized a winter
season of from 28 to 32 weeks. His
summers and vacations are not spent in
idleness. Among his numerous interna-
tional guest appearances with orchestras
is his annual presentation, since 1947, at
the Salzburg Festival.
MANY CRITICS and music fans con-
sider Szell the greatest conductor in
the United States, possibly the greatest in
the world. I asked Szell just why the late
Arturo Toscanini, the idol of the con-
ductors of the past generation, was so
highly esteemed.
He answered, "I can sum up Toscanini's
greatness in three words-magnetism,
integrity and artistry." He explained that,
until Toscanini, performances were often
arbitrary and personally colored by the
subjectivity of the conductor's judgement.
Toscanini .was historically corrective, but
at times became overly rigid. His influence,
Szell said, has been both beneficial and
detrimental. Those conductors who are
too moved by his loyalty to the printed
score have bound themselves in a self-
imposed strait jacket. This is just as bad
as being too arbitrary.
Regardless, almost every conductor
since World War I has fallen under
Toscanini's influence-even Bruno Walter.
Wilhelm Furtwaengler, the celebrated
German conductor of the first half of
this century was, it is said, too old and
too personally involved in his own inter-
pretations to be affected by Toscanini's
HIS BIOGRAPHERS say that Szell is
a fine golfer and a devotee of the art
of cooking. This interviewer asked about
his hobbies: "My main hobby is music"
was the response. "Everything else is
uninteresting." But the great Cleveland
conductor seems to be interested in al-
most everything. An understanding of
and sensitivity to the nature of man and
his environment helps promote a greater
insight into music. Geor.; Szell has this
insight. Szell is demanding of his mu-
sicians and of himself. Highly disciplined,
Szell directs all his activity toward a single
goal-the accurate presentation of music,
and advancements in its understanding
and appreciation.

As I left, the interview and morning
over, I noticed.Szell throw away a slip-
of paper which read "Appointment-
Jeffrey Chase-b0 a.m."

OVER 10,000 COLLEGE students flocked
to Washington this summer to take a
unique summer job opportunity, one that
provides a totally enjoyable experience
and is at the same time painlessly edu-
cational. The college "interns" went to
the nation's capital to fill temporary po-
sitions in nearly every government agency
and congressional office. They filed and
typed and edited reports and wrote chap-
ters for the books their senatorial and
congressional bosses hoped to publish.
The interns also organized, held a series
of seminars and published a newspaper.
The collegians filled thousands of apart-
ments in virtually every Washington
neighborhood. In general, the invading
horde brought with it a spirit of vitality
and excitement which, though it may not
be missed in the long winter months, cer-
tainly added to the already electric at-
They went to a city which- is aesthet-
ically appealing and, as the nation's capi-
tal, is correspondingly cosmopolitan.
There are free concerts almost every
night on the steps of the Capitol and on
the shores of the Potomac, open air
Shakespearean productions, opera at Car-
ter Barron amphitheatre. On the other
hand, the District of Columbia is quite
capable of presenting a somber impres-
sion. Sixty per cent Negro, with many
overtones remaining of an essentially
Southern city, there is almost neighbor-
hood segregation, helping to foster feel-
ings of unrest. The processes of social
change under tension are immediately
apparent to the northern college student.
This past summer was not any normal
summer. The summer of 1963 was a sum-
mer of civil rights, and that one pervad-
ing issue implanted itself in the minds of
every legislator. The usually high legis-
lative pace during the summer turned
into a congressional logjam. The racial
tensions of the entire nation were chan-
neled into every office on Capitol Hill;
and the eyes of the world were focused on
almost every committee hearing, on the
Justice Department, on the White House,
and on August 28, on the Lincoln Memor-
OF THE TWO principal types of sum-
mer employment, agency jobs and
Capitol Hill internships, the former are
generally more lucrative and the latter
more interesting. My job was of the lat-
ter type; I was an intern in the office of
Representative Cornelius E. Gallagher of
New Jersey. As an intern, there is no
doubt that I was the most expendable
member of the staff. Like most interns,
much of the work I did was like frosting
on the cake, a luxury which is nice to
have, but is not necessarily basic to the
proper functioning of the office. I was
free to research those bills which interest-
ed me most ,and if I decided to hear

Averell Harriman address a group of in-
terns or to see Bobby Kenndy battle
Strom Thurmond at the Senate Commerce
Committee hearing some morning, I knew
the office could continue quite happily
without me.
There was also, however, much substan-
tive work to be done which proved tre-
mendously challenging. Much of the im-
petus for office work came through the
mails. I can only emphasize the great
variety of tasks a congressman is called
upon to perform by paraphrasing some
of the letters:
"Dear Congressman Gallagher:
I would like to purchase a government
surplus whaleboat immediately, could you
send me the requisite information?
"Dear Congressman Gallagher:
On Tuesday my Johnny will be called
to fulfill his reserve active duty require-
ment at Fort Dix. Please have his duty
date deferred,"
Luckily my part of the office work was
oriented in a legislative direction. I had to
answer letters like these:
"Dear Congressman Gallagher:
On behalf of the AFofL-CIO I would
like to urge your immediate support for
H.R. 4965, a vital piece of legislation
which we feel would ...
"Dear Congressman Gallagher:
The Bayonne Women's Political Action
Committee would like to urge your imme-
diate support of..."
These letters were common-requests
from every possible pressure group and
lobbying organization, sometimes deliver-
ed in person, in support of this or that
legislation. Sometimes I knew how to
answer, but on other occasions I had to
do some research to find out exactly what
H.R. 4658 proposed to do, and then I
needed some advice on what position to
take. My job was made considerably
easier because, as a liberal Democrat, I
agreed with Mr. Gallagher, also a liberal,
on almost every issue and thus the posi-
tions to take were rather clearcut. But
every so often I had to answer a letter
like this, and for a long time I could only
stare at the paper in front of me:
"Dear Congressman Gallagher:
I am 85 years old and my husband is
87. We are both living on pensions, but
recently our medical treatments have
become so expensive that we no longer
can afford three full meals a day. Please
do what you can to pass Medicare and to
help us live a happy life. God bless you."'
It does little good to say that "I will do
what I can," or to explain that a legis-
lative logjam has put off Medicare for at
least another year.
fice activities were confined to two
principal areas, Foreign Affairs and Civil
Rights. Congressman Gallagher is a mem-
ber of the House Foreign Affairs Com-
mittee. He is an articulate spokesman for
the administration and floor manager of
the House Foreign Aid Bill. There is noth-
ing which gave me better insight into the
congressional machinery than organizing
material for the committee debate. I was
allowed to stay in the chairman's office
during committee executive sessions and
on the other side of a closed door where
the committee debated various amend-
ments to the bill. Also in the room was a
group of hectic young men representing
the Executive Branch, some from State
and the Agency for International Devel-
opment and one official from Defense.
As debate continued these "whiz kids"
stood, ears pressed against the committee
door, apprehensively awaiting its outcome.
From time to time a congressman, usual-
ly Gallagher, came into our room (as the
door would open, we all would scurry to
chairs and couches, looking busy with
something -other than eavesdropping) to
confer with these young men, who be-
tween them could muster a convincing
argument on "every conceivable issue from

aid to Indonesia to Yugoslavian food
loans. These men were charged with
writing the Executive Branch position
papers or reports on every proposed com-
mittee amendment, written as if the
President himself had dictated them. To a
lesser extent, all my work for Mr. Gal-
lagher was of a similar nature; every re-
port, press release, statement, and letter
had to be written as if he himself were
the author. And because of this, I began
to understand the tremendous responsi-
bility which lay with the young men as
they wrote: "The Executive Branch
strongly opposes this amendment be-
cause ...'
Those who were close to the fight for
foreign aid this summer well remember
that most members of the House were not
particularly kind to the administration.
Because myoffice was especially close to
this battle, the ultimate rejection of the
administration's requests came as a se-
vere disappointment. I was particularly
disturbed by the often irrational opposi-
tion which came up in House debate. Un-
der the guise of "preventing the spread
of socialism" through a slash in govern-
ment loans, men like Otto Passman of
Louisiana, E. Ross Adair of Indiana and
H. R. Gross of Iowa were apologizing to
their constituents for the passing of an
old order; in their economy-minded at-
tacks they sought to recapture a bygone
age when America and Europe were sep-
arated by a vast expanse in time and
space, and when deficit spending was still
considered the seventh mortal sin. Their
attacks were successful: foreign aid
stands alone, unprotected by lobbying
pressure, easy prey to those who wish to
make a general attack on administra-
tion spending.
THE CIVIL RIGHTS issue was also of
congressional concern this summer.
Congressman Gallagher had co-sponsor-
ed the President's bill in the House and
was firmly committed in support of the
proposed legislation. His active participa-
tion promoted surprisingly little constit-
uent interest but there was a tendency in
the mails to reflect much of the tension
all over the country. Though Jersey City
and Bayonne comprise an extremely lib-
eral constituency, most of the letters were
decidedly against the new legislation. This
is often the case when the congressman
is firmly committed in one direction; peo-
ple in support do not feel the necessity of
writing. In the case of civil rights, the
assumption was that the "silent majority"
was with Mr. Gallagher all the way. This
was later borne out by hundreds of sig-
natures on petitions which were sent in,
in support of the Pre'sident's proposed leg-
I researched the President's bill for
several weeks and eventually answered
almost every letter related to the civil
rights bill. Purely racist letters were treat-
ed in summary fashion. Rational-but-un-
favorable letters required some explana-
tion. The following is an example:
"Dear Congressman Gallagher:
I am a resident of Jersey City and in
many ways a supporter of civil rights leg-
islation. But I feel the President is ask-
ing the people of the U.S. to swallow too
much this time. If the public accommoda-
tions title is passed, you and your buddies
in Congress will have robbed Americans
of our last supreme right, the right of
private property and of association."
This kind of letter was relatively easy
to handle, because New Jersey has had
stringent public accommodations legisla-
tion since 1884, much more restrictive
than that presently before Congress. By
pointing this fact out and also showing.
how so-called private property rights have
never been "supreme" in our legislative
history, the President's bill could be plac-
ed in its proper context, as an evolution-
ary document rather than a revolutionary

mer was m
ute testimony :
ed before the I
in support of t
bill. I worked
ment, which a
port of the he
our office mim
a copy with
concerning civi
ficial office "p
short statemen
of the summer
nizations such
ies Garment V
tions in suppo:
received a copy
Work in thi
tivities outside
The tremendo
lege students w
time social wo
ganizers who wi
sive programs i
One of these p
Action Project
extension of th
ment. Two ni
hundred other
city to tutor N
school students
difficulties. I
knowledge of
able to impart
course of the si
we became fir
periences with
eye-opening. C
stopped in at t
at length with
the Army rese
a Washington
returned from
at Fort Knox,
brief stop on t
he had driven
Kentucky to 1
hurry, as the o
would be go 154
through northe
ton? I was too
had taken the :
have stopped
ance that he w
from hostility;
through small
and Western MJ
might have f
bumper at exa
one side of tow
him to get ner
limit, thus subj
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began to becon
mendous press
to carefully ph
which is secon
er. A weeken
operation: the
relatives at the
Negro hotel, t
modations poss
ate the tota
rights issue ha
mer activity. In
letters and sta
ings there were
Judiciary Comi
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there were the n
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when I tutored
there was my
been integrated

A Personal View

Representative Gallagher


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