excerpt from 'In Pursuit of Music' pp. 128-129 (329 words)

excerpt from 'In Pursuit of Music' pp. 128-129 (329 words)

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In Pursuit of Music

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We had seats on the stage behind the orchestra, not ideal for sound, but giving us a splendid opportunity of seeing those sparing eloquent gestures that were always the very antithesis of the methods of most other precision-bound conductors.  It was uncomfortably hot, and the audience was one of those notoriously noisy Italian ones quite inappropriate to the type of music-making that was taking place, except that everyone was silenced by the breath-taking string crescendos in Cherubini’s Anakreon overture (a piece that had also begun the maestro’s first BBC concert in 1935); and the obvious popular appeal of Vltava called forth shouts of ‘grazie, grazie’ from all directions.  Don Juan, too, was stunning, glorious in its abandon, overwhelming at the climaxes, yet never ceasing for one moment to ‘sing’, and as clear – even from where we were sitting – as the finest playing of a Bach five-part fugue.  (Disbelievers may hear this miracle preserved in the NBC recording.)  But the Pastoral Symphony suffered both from the heat and the maestro’s forward-looking impulse, and his unhappiness was not alleviated by the flashing cameras that greeted its close.

                The Milan concert was a superior replica, with Beethoven’s Zur Weihe des Hauses in place of the Cherubini, an excellent occasional piece, in which the ‘con brio’ of the fugato was taken literally, and why not?  …  At the recapitulation in Zur Weihe the violins threw up an arch of counterpoint that in its long phrasing reminded me of Schnabel’s precipitate, and legitimate, tempo in the first movement of the ‘Hammerklavier’ Sonata.  Both programmes also included Franck’s Les Eolides, and some idea of the maestro’s way with this rarity can be gleaned from his record of Psyché et Eros.  How is it that a supreme interpreter can command interest, even move one to tears, in music that normally leaves one indifferent?

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excerpt from 'In Pursuit of Music' pp. 128-129 (329 words)


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