<< -- 3 -- Bill Newman AFTER ANTAL DORÁTI
But my piece is not a continuation of my earlier reminiscences spent alongside the conductor who enriched my musical years at EMI Records when, as Manager of the Mercury Living Presence classical label, I was responsible for choosing, progressing and publicizing the repertoire selection for UK release, and made sure I went to all the yearly recording sessions supervised by Wilma Cozart, Robert C Fine, Harold Lawrence and Red Eberenz, either at Watford or Wembley Town Halls between 1958 and 1963. That, I have written about elsewhere.
I entered Doráti's life after his tenures with the Dallas and Minneapolis Symphony Orchestras. The London Symphony Orchestra became my scene of operations professionally as a record executive, and away from my EMI commitments as Chairman and Programme Organizer of the LSO Club. The Doráti influence on 'The Boys', a title invented by Malcolm Smith that stuck firmly to their orchestral personnel at the time, dubbed him as the finest of all orchestral trainers, although their taskmaster often denied that description, preferring to be acknowledged as 'one who showed them the way'. I well remember the tantrums that followed the showdowns, but there were generous and unexpected accolades as well, like the straight recording run through after a magnificent RFH performance of Tchaikovsky 5 the night before, which resulted in a champagne dinner at Doráti's expense.
I also still hear similar stories following his appointment as Chief Conductor to the BBC Symphony Orchestra but, as one musical commentator put it: 'London Orchestras then needed a good shake up, periodically!'
Doráti whisked me off to a rehearsal session at Maida Vale Studios, long after Mercury had been bought out by Philips Records, as they were known in those days. I had met him by chance outside Ibbs and Tillett, Musical Agents of Wigmore Street. He was proud of their recent performance of Mahler's Symphony 6, and I was continually following the progress of a number of BBC Symphony EMI recordings -- notably those sponsored by the Gulbenkian Foundation -- on the HMV label. Certainly, that fat note book he carried around everywhere which contained copious suggestions for new scores to study and perform, was bearing fruit.
The time he spent abroad with other orchestras in Stockholm and Washington DC involved different record labels, and we lost touch. Eventually, in 1975 came a fresh change of responsibility with his takeover of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London, and an expansion of repertoire that included Haydn Oratorios, Dvorák orchestral works, and a complete set of Beethoven Symphonies that coincided with a series of concerts at the Royal Albert Hall. I went round back stage. Yes, he still remembered me, but his attentions were strictly taken up with the music he was performing. It was the very last time we spoke and his recording commitments were now with companies ouside my particular orbit.
Then, in 1977 came the offer of a Musical Directorship to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. I watched progress from afar and listened to discs following their release by Decca, but not until now have I had any real gleanings of his work with them, as shown on various videos of the complete Beethoven Symphonies following an introductory repartie with actor E G Marshall. The selected excerpts were further evidence of a re-evaluation of outlook, stylistic maturity coupled with steadier, broader tempi and richer tonal involvements with sectional forces.
What I didn't know, and had no ideas of -- until I eventually had in my possession a set of Haydn Keyboard Concerti and some of his Sonatas on the Vox label -- were his various professional meetings and eventual marriage to a new partner hailing from Innsbruck in Austria, who was trained at the Salzburg Mozarteum. Hodder and Stoughton's 1979 publication of Notes of Seven Decades, the official and highly readable Antal Doráti autobiography that should be on every music lover's bookshelf, explains everything in the most endearing fashion.
Copyright © 10 August 2003
Bill Newman, Edgware, UK