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LIBOR PESEK in conversation with Bill Newman


<< Continued from page 4

'I want to go back to our school study times at the Academy, between 1951-6. Ancerl wasn't a conductor-genius like, say, Bruno Walter. His concerts were well-shaped, but there was no mystery.' He gave magnificent performances of Kabelac's Mystery of Time and Martinu's The Parables in London's Royal Festival Hall! 'Maybe so, but neither piece has any hidden contents - you prepare them well, and they "speak" for themselves. I saw Talich - there was someone quite different. Nobody knew where the downbeat was (like Furtwängler!) but I remember, as a boy, standing behind the orchestra next to the organ and looking into his eyes. He was doing the last movement of Suk's A Fairy Tale (Radúz and Mahulena) - The Curse of Runa, and before he started his upbeat, something appeared in his eyes, and I felt terror at what came out as some vision of the curse in his mind. It was wonderful and fascinating. But the ungenial Ancerl was an excellent conductor who was generous enough every second or third week to invite the big maestros of the world. We pupils experienced Erich Kleiber, Charles Munch, George Szell, all paraded in front of us. They were all different, and in those days Czech Philharmonic rehearsals started on Saturday and went on to Thursday when there was the first concert. There were five rehearsals for each concert, and we had time to watch and see how things should be done. Sir John Barbirolli came, and also brought the Hallé Orchestra. Except for Toscanini and Walter, they were all there.'

You've missed out Rafael Kubelik, whose early plum-label HMVs of Smetana, Dvorák and Janácek made such a tremendous impression, and who returned for those final concerts. 'Of course, he wasn't there during that period, but his recording of Ma Vlast with the Boston Symphony was wonderful. We are lucky as conductors, because when we have come of age we can still listen to the recordings of the great masters who are all dead. There is nobody to come to and say: "Professor, how shall we do this?" but everything is possible, in both positive and negative ways. It is strange, for instance, how poor the reproduction is in what was for me an extraordinary experience - a live Boston Symphony concert with Munch conducting Brahms 2, Honegger 3 and Ravel's Daphnis & Chloë Suite 2. Even though the Czech Radio recording is nothing to write home about, some inner message still comes through.

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Copyright © 4 July 2000 Bill Newman, Edgware, UK


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