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Arturo Toscanini(1867-1957)
Conductor

As a conductor he was a martinet and his total dedication to the composer was as distinct as William Furtwängler, for example, was not. He began his musical career as a cellist. When he was 19 he found himself as cellist and assistant chorus master, part of an Italian troupe performing in Brazil at São Paulo and Rio. The chorus and orchestra were to be filled out by locally hired talent. The Brazilian conductor Miguez was severely criticized in the Press after a performance of Faust. He sent an open letter to the newspaper accusing ‘the foreign singers’ for the bad performance.
In the next performance the locals booed Miguez down. Toscanini who was late in coming found total confusion in and front of the curtain. One from the audience pointing to young Toscanini shouted,’Let him try! He knows the opera by heart.’ The impresario and the Italian troup turned to the cellist to save day and he did. His debut on the night of June 25, 1886 was a triumph.
2.
When the WWI broke out there were pressures on him to leave out Beethoven and other German composers from the programmes, as concession to prevailing patriotic sentiments. He refused to let politics interfere with music.
In the matter of Fascism he resisted it. When Mussolini became dictator there was directive to display his portrait in all public buildings and play Giovenzza, the Fascist hymn before all concerts. Whole of Italy it was enforced except at La Scala, Milan.
In the end Toscanini had to choose self-exile than give in. In 1943 when Il Duce fell the day after, two big banners appeared in front of La Scala asking Toscanini to come back and he did.
3.
He fell foul with Hitler also. In the summer of 1933 he was invited to Bayreuth to conduct Wagner on his 50th Death Anniversary. Personally it was to be realization of a dream long cherished. But on April 1, 1933 Hitler proclaimed a national boycott of all Jewish shops. Next day Toscanini decided to refuse to conduct Wagner in Bayreuth. Not even Hitler’s conciliatory letter could change his decision.
Later the maestro was in the USA and he was the conductor of N.B.C and scheduled for a rehearsal. The news reached him that Hitler’s troops overran Salzburg, the city of Mozart.
The same day during rehearsal he exploded over a trifle. Having stopped the rehearsal he went to his dressing room, locked himself and wept.
4.
His memory was as keen visually as well as aurally. His photographic memory absorbed a page at one glance in its entirety. One day when he was rehearsing the orchestra at the end of Act I of Tristan and Isolde he suddenly stopped and asked,’where is the cymbal?’
There was no cymbal crash marked in the score. They showed that there was no cymbal marked and he was not convinced. Finally Wagner’s manuscript was fetched and there was the cymbal crash. Over the years it had somehow dropped out.
His rehearsals were quite intense that he once remarked,’every rehearsal is like a concert to me; and every concert like a debut.’

benny

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I record my sorrow at his passing. The world has lost a great entertainer. Music industry shall look for another and I do not think it will be easy.

When Elvis died as a courtesy to the dead I stopped shaking my pelvis; with Michael Jackson I shall go extra mile. He deserves all that I’ve got. No more I shall moonwalk. Instead I shall walk straight. 

Rest in Peace, O great One.

benny

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A Musical Joke©
Arion was the most celebrated musician in his time and he served Periander, the despot of Corinth. After serving him for long he took leave for a certain period. First he sailed for Sicily and went though Italy where his musical gifts earned him great wealth. Then it was time for him to return to the court of his master. He took the same Corinthian vessel on his way back. During his long voyage the crew seeing all those wealth in his possession planned to kill him and divide the money among themselves. That night however Arion saw in a dream a dolphin and it said to him, “ Your life is in a danger. Let us play a musical joke on the villains who are steering your course to a watery grave.” Next morning the crew approached the musician and said, “Kill yourself if you want a burial ashore. Or we will throw you overboard.” Poor Arion of Methymna! He was terrified of water. Much more was his terror to be carried around as a carrion in a ship. So he agreed to take his chances with a watery grave. “Before I jump to my death let me at least sing a farewell song to you. Thereafter you may do what you will.” He put on his costume and gave a song to them. Then he leapt into the sea. The ship with the villainous crew sailed onwards to Corinth.
Arion struggled to keep afloat and at last he felt drowsy and he would have perished but a dolphin  appeared out of nowhere  and it said, “Sing a song so I may be cheered along”.  Arion sang a song as he had never sang before. After he finished the dolphin observed, “ That song you sang for the crew was delectable but infinitely sad. How come you now sing a song of such cheer?” Arion eyed the approaching coastline and he could see the familiar features of Corinth and said, “Out there I sang to the band of thieves as though my life was pouring out of me, syllable by syllable. Literally. But you made me sing as though life was being poured on me.”
Arion after landing ashore went to Periander who didn’t believe his story.  He called the captain of the ship to the palace and asked what befell Arion. The villain replied that he left the singer safe and sound at Tarentum in Italy. At that point Arion appeared before them and the Captain could not believe his eyes. The Despot said, “ You and your crew are worthy of death. I shall spare you if you can sing for your life. Lives of your crew depend on you.”
Poor Captain, he just croaked. Periander had them killed for their villainy.
Since then sailors would rather sing shanty than solo. (ack:Herodotus-The Histories)
benny

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Mozart had unusual power of detachment. From his pupil Attwood’s account we know it in his creative activity as observed.
‘Mozart was observed at the end of a meal to begin folding and unfolding his napkin; with polite excuses he left the room and returned to the company in good spirits. Often when this happened he had completely scored a lengthy work that would never be altered by so much as an accent, bow mark, or staccato dot’.
From Abbé Stadler’s account (incidentally he was the one who put Mozart’s musical affairs in order after his death)’ Beethoven began before he knew his own mind, and altered passages backwards and forwards as fancy directed; but Mozart never began to write until he had arranged the whole design in his mind just as he had wished it; it then stood without change.
Let me finally quote  Mozart’s way of working from his widow.
‘Mozart seldom went to the instrument when he composed…He walked about the room and knew not what was passing around him. When all was arranged in his mind he took inkstand and paper and said, “Now, dear wife, let us hear what people are talking about”. He could as well have been writing a casual letter! (ack: Arthur Hutchings)-benny
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