BUT STILL PERFORMING
AND RECORDING ...
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
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.
Copyright © 4 July 2000 Bill Newman,
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