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Either you’re a Sibelius or a Finale person. There is no in between.
As wonderful as it was to meet Sibelius for the first time, it was even more wonderful to have been able to introduce him, some years later, to the members of The Philadelphia Orchestra. That occurred in June 1955, and there is a rather touching story connected with the meeting. For some months previous I had been in correspondence with Dr. Ringbom, the director of the Helsinki Philharmonic, in order to arrange for the orchestra to meet the master while we were in Finland on tour. Sibelius was very ill at the time, very old and fragile and tormented by ear trouble. The day we were to go to his secluded villa at Järvenpää arrived, and though it was cold and raw and raining, the men were as excited and eager as children. And I was as excited as any of them. Imagine my disappointment when Dr. Ringbom called to confess that when he had written to me in Philadelphia to say that everything was arranged he had not mentioned that Sibelius himself knew nothing about the projected visit. He had only spoken to Mrs. Sibelius, who had agreed at the time but now flatly said no, her husband was too ill to receive us.
There we were, in Helsinki, thousands of miles from home and within twenty-seven miles of Sibelius. “Dr. Ringbom,” I said, “you must not disappoint us. Please call up Mrs. Sibelius and explain to her that this orchestra, from the very earliest days with Stokowski, has done as much to spread Sibelius’ fame as any orchestra in the world. All they ask in return is to see him.” It worked.
My wife and I were havingh tea with him, and the orchestra came in two buses. Even then he hadn’t been told that they were coming. He was so sensitive — perhaps the most sensitive, shy man I ever met in my life — that the knowledge that he was to meet 110 musicians would probably have incapacitated him if he were given too much time to think about it. And those poor colleagues of mine were standing out in the cold rain with thin raincoats on, waiting! Finally I took the bull by the horns and said, “Mr. Sibelius, do you know that the entire Philadelphia Orchestra, the orchestra that played your music when nobody else did, is waiting outside, hoping to meet you? Would you just go out on the balcony and say hello to them?”
“But I cannot speak English well enough,” he protested. “They will not understand me.”
“Speak German, they’ll understand you. Just look at them, don’t say anything.”
And so he got his heavy winter coat and hat — there are pictures of that visit — and came out with me. “Gentlemen,” I said, “Mr. Sibelius needs no introduction.” They applauded him and bravoed him until I had to tell them, “Gentlemen, Mr. Sibelius is not well, but he wanted to come out and say a few words to you.” And then he told them, with the beautiful simplicity of his few English words, how grateful he was to them for playing his music so nobly. At last his oldest daughter pulled him back, saying, “Daddy you’re going to catch cold.” Fortunately, he didn’t catch cold, but we were worried that he might, for it was bitter that day.
He died two years later, in 1957. And I think today we perform his music better for the memory of those few minutes when he came out on his porch and spoke to us. It was an experience that none of us will ever forget."
If you ever feel a little sad, just remember…
Shostakovich was awesome
Vladimir Horowitz said things like “Ah, do you hear that? It doesn’t show a good taste but sounds funny, doesn’t it?”
There is a video of Glenn Gould singing for elephants (x)
Martha Argerich once wore mini skirts and once had to perform in one because she had lost her suitcase at the airport
and Riccardo Chailly looks genuinely surprised when conducting
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