Some insight on Leinsdorf - through interviews

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Some insight on Leinsdorf - through interviews

Post by Lance » Fri May 04, 2018 11:59 pm

There are people that either are very pro Leinsdorf or very con. I, personally, have generally found him to be more adequate in performance through recordings than not. We have talked a lot about Leinsdorf in one or two threads on CMG. What I got from two interviews with Bruce Duffie — that are back-to-back here — gives enormous insight into the mind and manner of conductor Erich Leinsdorf. He comes off as being highly intelligent, a thinking man, a man who knows what he wants to do in music and recordings. I learned a great deal about the way he thinks. I could not find any fault in the man.

Therefore, my opinion of Leinsdorf just went up a few more nottches because I like what he says and the way he says it. None of this may change your opinion of Leinsdorf, but you might, perhaps, find it eye-opening! Comparisons will always be made amongst conductors. Of course, the final proof is in the music-making. Leinsdorf could not have been THAT bad given the number of orchestras he has conducted and the huge numbers of recordings he made.

I would appreciate your feedback if you take the time to read these interviews.

Here's the link:

http://www.bruceduffie.com/leinsdorf.html
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Re: Some insight on Leinsdorf - through interviews

Post by John F » Sat May 05, 2018 2:54 am

Leinsdorf was indeed a very intelligent and articulate man. His two books, "Cadenza" (memoirs) and "The Composer's Advocate," subtitled "A Radical Orthodoxy for Musicians," are well worth reading. I learned a lot from the second of these; though Leinsdorf's prose style is rather stiff and formal, it is always clear, and what he has to say is always sensible. Something like his conducting. :)

But being an excellent talker does not equate to being a top-flight musician. If it did, our constellation of the great musicians would have quite a few unfamiliar stars in it, while some very familiar stars (Toscanini!) would be dim or gone. Neither does having exceptional technical skill and know-how. Leinsdorf himself recognizes this, in a telling comparison between Gennaro Papi, his colleague at the Met, who conducted countless opera performances securely without rehearsal or even the score, and Serge Koussevitzky, whose conducting technique was notoriously weak but who, Leinsdorf rightly says, "was nonetheless the musician of consequence. In the bluntest terms, one handled traffic, the other made music." In those terms, Leinsdorf sometimes did indeed make music, but too often was the most efficient of traffic cops.

Naturally enough, Leinsdorf values the qualities he himself possesses. But what he doesn't tell us, because he can't, is how a Toscanini - Leinsdorf's early mentor - achieves results on a level that a Leinsdorf doesn't and evidently can't reach. As he observes about musical performance, "Sound is a part of personality." Well, there you are.
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Re: Some insight on Leinsdorf - through interviews

Post by RebLem » Sat May 05, 2018 4:35 am

Sometime back in the 1950's or 60's, LOOK Magazine did a feature article on Leinsdorf. He had had quite some difficulty getting into the US--he was on one of those ships the State Dept was trying to turn back, in the late 1930's. He was allowed in thanks to the intervention of a young, then freshman Member of Congress from Texas by the name of Lyndon Baines Johnson, and Leinsdorf became a lifelong admirer of his. He was so involved in politics that he even subscribed to the Congressional Record.
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Re: Some insight on Leinsdorf - through interviews

Post by jserraglio » Sat May 05, 2018 8:40 am

In the first interview I found Leinsdorf's off-the-cuff comparison of the voices of Flagstad, Varnay, Nilsson to be fascinating and helpful. Haven't read the second one yet.
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Re: Some insight on Leinsdorf - through interviews

Post by maestrob » Sat May 05, 2018 10:50 am

L: No. I make here a very clear distinction — and I have written about it — that recordings should never be used by the professional performer as a study aid or as a means to learn the music. As such, recordings are absolute poison for the professional who misuses them. For the public, I think they are a great and lasting benefit.
Here, I disagree with Leinsdorf. Recordings documant the performing history of a particular work, and thus should be used by the musician to familiarize oneself with repertoire. I don't mean that one should copy a certain single recording when interpreting a piece of music, just that it's useful to know what has come before the present.
EL: No because I think that both opera and concert are suffering from too much travel of its major participants. The performing organizations for opera and concert are institutions that thrive on permanency and residency, and not on peregrinations of its major participants. Therefore, I don’t think we are progressing; I think we are getting more and more cynical about the whole thing. Many years ago, the brilliant critic Virgil Thomson — who spent a few years at the Herald Tribune in New York [see my interview with Virgil Thomson] — wrote that the conductor who goes conducting various orchestras reminds him of the preacher who finds a pulpit in every town where he can give his sermon. The congregation may change, but it’s always the same sermon by the same preacher — no matter if it is Baptist, Methodist, Congregationalist — and so do we musicians, without too much responsibility! This is so particularly in opera. Opera is based on a sitting ensemble, and this doesn’t exist anymore. Recently in New York, we prepared for four weeks this rather difficult comedy, Arabella. We perform it in the next three and a half weeks seven times, and then everybody is gone to the four winds. By next year when they try to revive it again, there’ll be a different this and a different that, and everybody will be different.
Here, Leinsdorf is being impractical, even he admits it at one point. He is living in the past, and thinking of past glories, yet Leinsdorf himself led many great opera (and symphonic) recordings and performances in the modern environment. What makes the modern environment so unpredictable is the evolution of the human voice vs. signing contracts 5 years into the future. As an example, look at how Netrebko's voice has changed so dramatically over the span of the last decade!
EL: Yes, and anybody here who comes out with these foundation grants and hangs around the orchestras is never going to get much benefit from it. You can’t learn what is known as the métier because I don’t think there is a technique of conducting. Because it’s something that you can’t practice, it doesn’t have a technique. You can’t practice conducting.
This is nonsense! I practiced and learned conducting at Juilliard with La Selva for six years, working on symphonic and operatic repertoire. In an earlier comment, Leinsdorf suggested that young conductors should learn their art in the opera houses of Europe. Perhaps. La Selva was willing to teach what he knew in class, and was teaching at Juilliard when this interview took place. Obviously Leinsdorf was unaware of this, so I can only surmise that he is speaking from his own experience. No technique of conducting, indeed!

Thank-you Lance, for bringing these interviews to our attention.

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Re: Some insight on Leinsdorf - through interviews

Post by John F » Sat May 05, 2018 4:20 pm

To give Leinsdorf's views a proper hearing you need to read "The Composer's Advocate," not these interviews that don't and can't do justice to his arguments.

In "Cadenza," Leinsdorf writes of being in a hotel room next to a young conductor of a major symphony orchestra, and heard him playing records over and over again. This was during the Salzburg Festival of 1937 when he was Toscanini's rehearsal pianist. Leinsdorf doesn't name Barbirolli but that's who he means; he concludes that Barbirolli was learning the music from the records, and objects in the same terms as in the interview.

In general I think Leinsdorf is right - a professional musician should learn music from the score, and only later if at all hear others' interpretations of it. His music-making should express his own personality, not a synthesis of other musicians'. But Barbirolli's was a special case. The New York Philharmonic appointed him out of the blue, following some successful appearances as guest conductor; Barbirolli had mainly conducted operas, he had only recently taken over the semiprofessional Scottish Orchestra whose season was short, and he didn't have sufficient repertoire for the Philharmonic's long season, so he had to prepare it in a hurry. I imagine it must take far longer to learn a piece from scratch with a score than by ear with recordings, well enough to get by anyway.

As for the value of music directors spending more time with the performing organizations they are hired to lead, who can doubt it? We have the example of James Levine, not so far in the past, as evidence of how this can benefit the organization's standards and its performances. There are many more examples in Europe if not in the U.S.

But I agree that Leinsdorf is being unrealistic when it comes to opera casts. By the end of the 1950s, none of the major opera companies had a resident ensemble on salary from which to cast operas consistently season after season, as they had before the War. Without such an ensemble, the principal roles in each opera must be cast more or less from scratch every season, and the conductor can only do his best to make an ensemble of them during the few weeks of rehearsal. Same story with opera recordings, many of which are made with singers who have never sung the opera together before. The choice is between stars who will come and go, and lesser lights who are happy with steady employment, and at the major houses, only the stars will do.

Leinsdorf conducted the Met's new production of "Arabella" in 1983, and he was right that the cast would not be the same for the revival, except for Kiri Te Kanawa in the title role. (The conductor was different too.) It couldn't be the same - ten years passed before the revival. In 1957 when Leinsdorf first conducted "Arabella" at the Met, Rudolf Bing still had an ensemble of stars. Leinsdorf's first cast included Lisa Della Casa, Hilde Gueden, and George London, who recorded the opera that year for Decca/London; Bing actually persuaded them to sing the opera in English. After three years "Arabella" was revived with the same principal singers except for Anneliese Rothenberger replacing Gueden as Zdenka. Times have changed since then.
maestrob wrote:Leinsdorf himself led many great opera (and symphonic) recordings and performances in the modern environment.
Somehow I haven't heard any of them, none in which I'd call Leinsdorf's conducting "great." His opera recordings were cast by the record companies, and if you're recording "Turandot" and RCA Victor signs Birgit Nilsson and Jussi Bjorling to sing the main roles, the result is bound to be impressive. But Leinsdorf's conducting doesn't propel his opera recordings to greatness, he just doesn't stand in the way.
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Re: Some insight on Leinsdorf - through interviews

Post by david johnson » Sun May 06, 2018 4:29 am

For all of you who do not like Erich: please send to me all of those wretched recordings you have of him. It's only through my great concern for your ears that I make this noble offer :wink:

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Re: Some insight on Leinsdorf - through interviews

Post by jserraglio » Sun May 06, 2018 8:26 am

Furthermore, this ungenerous assessment runs, his studio operas were impressive largely due to the fact that his conducting did not stand in the way of whatever greatness they achieved.

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Re: Some insight on Leinsdorf - through interviews

Post by John F » Sun May 06, 2018 9:26 am

jserraglio wrote:
Sun May 06, 2018 8:26 am
Furthermore, this ungenerous assessment runs, his studio operas were impressive largely due to the fact that his conducting did not stand in the way of whatever greatness they achieved.
That is indeed my assessment. What competence could achieve, Leinsdorf achieved reliably. More than that, he achieved only infrequently. I simply don't understand what all this todo about Leinsdorf is actually based on.
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Re: Some insight on Leinsdorf - through interviews

Post by jserraglio » Sun May 06, 2018 9:59 am

John F wrote:
Sun May 06, 2018 9:26 am
I simply don't understand what all this todo about Leinsdorf is actually based on.
The current NBA playoffs might exemplify how basic fairness in assessing any group's leader's performance largely depends on outcomes. When the Cavs play great basketball, not that they always do, to argue they played well because coach Tyronn Lue didn't stand in the way of star players like LeBron James and Kevin Love simply won't wash. Lue shares the blame when they lose, credit when they win. Likewise with Leinsdorf in opera: cheers for the many gems he recorded, jeers for the occasional dud.





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Re: Some insight on Leinsdorf - through interviews

Post by Heck148 » Sun May 06, 2018 1:55 pm

I found this most interesting - at the start of 2nd interview:

<<BD: As you approach your seventy-fifth birthday, what is the most important or the most surprising thing you have learned about making music?

EL: That it is better not to be affiliated with any organization. That it is better to be a freelance, self-employed, strolling player, than be the musical head of any orchestra, no matter how distinguished.>>

That's how his career went, whether Leinsdorf wanted that way or not. Classic "sour grapes"....certainly an intelligent man, he was never able to achieve and maintain a successful permanent music director position...he was the stereotype guest conductor - large repertoire...he knew lots of music, he just couldn't, as a rule, conduct it with much life or spirit. as John says - all too often - an efficient traffic cop...

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Re: Some insight on Leinsdorf - through interviews

Post by Heck148 » Sun May 06, 2018 2:01 pm

John F wrote:
Sun May 06, 2018 9:26 am
jserraglio wrote:
Sun May 06, 2018 8:26 am
Furthermore, this ungenerous assessment runs, his studio operas were impressive largely due to the fact that his conducting did not stand in the way of whatever greatness they achieved.
That is indeed my assessment. What competence could achieve, Leinsdorf achieved reliably. More than that, he achieved only infrequently. I simply don't understand what all this todo about Leinsdorf is actually based on.
Exactly...the guy simply was not a top level conductor...a journeyman, in reality....

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Re: Some insight on Leinsdorf - through interviews

Post by jserraglio » Sun May 06, 2018 2:33 pm

After almost a decade in Rochester and close to another in Boston, EL decided to pursue lucrative guest gigs. I had thought doing good by doing well was part of the American Dream, esp. for a naturalized citizen and war vet who returned home to find his old job gone to a rival soon thereafter. Not to compare him with Stokowski, a far greater conductor with many decades in Philly before hitting the road.

Length of service is not always required for one to render service. The brief interregnum Leinsdorf provided between Maazel and Dohnanyi in Cleveland produced some fine performances.

I think it is arguably unfair to call a Leinsdorf studio opera performance impressive in one breath while belittling his direction of it in the next.

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Re: Some insight on Leinsdorf - through interviews

Post by Heck148 » Sun May 06, 2018 5:56 pm

jserraglio wrote:
Sun May 06, 2018 2:33 pm
After almost a decade in Rochester and close to another in Boston, EL decided to pursue lucrative guest gigs.
Because he couldn't cut it. His tenure in Boston was a real mess, he nearly killed the BSO...a real low point in that orchestra's history. His years in Rochester weren't anything great, either, Leinsdorf calling Rochester a "dead end". not at all popular with the musicians, his departure was welcomed by all sides. His interlude in Cleveland was actually his 2nd go in that city - he was conductor there for c. 3 years, starting in 1943....his contract was not renewed...as always with Leinsdorf - someone was out to get him, to undermine him, to block his efforts.
Length of service is not always required for one to render service. The brief interregnum Leinsdorf provided between Maazel and Dohnanyi in Cleveland produced some fine performances.
With EL, the shorter the time, the better off for the orchestra.. :P

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Re: Some insight on Leinsdorf - through interviews

Post by jserraglio » Sun May 06, 2018 6:19 pm

In the 40s he was drafted and served his country as a newly minted citizen. He returned to find himself supplanted by an older, more experienced, admittedly superior conductor, but surely one can understand why he would be pissed off.

Despite that firing, his 40s recordings with the Clevelanders are excellent, a wonderful Antar and Debussy/Leinsdorf Pelleas Suite, for instance, as are the mid 80s broadcasts with the same orchestra. Sometimes less can be more. Think Defauw, Rodzinski and Martinon in Chicago.

There is a superb Schmidt 2nd with the VPO that alone nearly justifies his peripatetics.

Re his being despised by the BSO players, I would reboot Laura Ingraham — "Shut up and fiddle."

Serving as MD of the BSO back then must have been a bit like managing the Yankees under Steinbrenner, but w/o the pennants to compensate. At the very mention of Leinsdorf's name (and Munch's and Ozawa's for that matter) critics then and now pull shanks outta their bloody socks.

Critics be damned, I have kept every BSO LP I own from that era. I love that Boston sound.

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Re: Some insight on Leinsdorf - through interviews

Post by Lance » Sun May 06, 2018 11:56 pm

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com ... SY355_.jpg

Here is an interesting review that appeared about RCA's Boston Symphony edition of Beethoven's nine symphonies:

"This set represents the least expensive way to obtain a viable edition of the complete Beethoven symphonies (minus overtures). To call Leinsdorf's cycle "viable" might seem like damning with faint praise, but I don't mean to disparage his efforts by using this adjective. On the contrary, this set as a whole is competitive, even if not every symphony (or movement within a symphony) measures up to the highest standards set by the likes of Toscanini, Furtwängler, Walter, Jochum, Solti or Karajan, among other distinguished competitors. In fact, some symphonies and movements in this cycle may be said to surpass the efforts of those podium giants. So, for instance, the first two movements of Leinsdorf;s Ninth are more fiercely intense, even terrifying, than any recorded performance of which I am aware; and the entirety of Leinsdorf's First surpasses Toscanini and Solti for wit and élan. The Second, Fourth and Eighth are at least as fine as those of the above-named conductors (and I have heard all of their Beethoven cycles). Leinsdorf's Fourth, for instance, is as genial as Walter's but as rhythmically snappy as Solti's or Toscanini's. Moreover, Leinsdorf builds the climax in the first movement of the Second (which occurs midway through the coda) as effectively as Solti's analog version, but without the latter's overemphatic brass; Leinsdorf's resolution of the tension is perfectly placed--just after the trumpets have their moment in the sun. Leinsdorf's eighth, like Toscanini's, is light on its feet, appropriately witty, but expansive enough to enhance the scale of the work beyond its usual diminutive status. Leinsdorf's Seventh, while not a patch on any of Toscanini's justly famous accounts, remains a strong, trenchant account, graced by superb playing from all departments of the BSO. The first movement may be a bit sedate for some tastes, though the dotted rhythms are nicely lifted. Thereafter, Leinsdorf chooses tempi that seem just right, and the finale is appropriately boisterous.

The relative disappointments in Leinsdorf's cycle are the Third, Fifth and Sixth. Other commentators on this website have already weighed in about the shortcomings of his "Eroica," and I generally concur with their critical assessment. For whatever reason--perhaps because these recording sessions occurred early in the conductor's tenure with the BSO--the reading, though well enough played, is entirely risk-averse in a work that is all about taking risks. The result is curiously faceless, though I rather like Leinsdorf's wistful way withe Marcia Funebre; at least he doesn't "tear passion to tatters," as do too many interpreters of this movement. The Fifth is really pretty good; the BSO plays valiantly and the interpretation is "consensus" in the best sense of that word: nothing eccentric, every "t" elegantly crossed and every "i" dutifully dotted. And yet something is missing; here again I prefer an element of brinksmanship in a work that pushes the envelope of classical propriety at least as far as the Eroica. Leinsdorf's "Pastoral" is an interesting, if not entirely convincing account. Instead of painting the landscape with sweeping strokes of the brush--the usual "Romantic" interpretation epitomized by Walter, Böhm and Jochum--Leinsdorf favors an intimate, scaled-down approach, with finely etched detail and ensemble work that at times reminds one more of a chamber orchestra than the hefty sonorities one expects from the BSO.

Those sonorities, however, are the chief glory of this Beethoven cycle! That great orchestra, still in its prime, plays with all its wonted precision, polish and kaleidoscopic array of colors. The solo passages are superbly rendered (as we would expect from the BSO of this vintage), with some of the most elegant phrasing I have heard on record. The choral and solo singing in the finale of the Ninth are likewise exemplary. The engineers, by and large, do their part admirably, except in the Eroica, which sonically--as well as interpretively--makes a somewhat faded impression.

No notes or texts, of course; this is Sony's Bargain Basement. Yet despite my several caveats, I can confidently recommend this set to collectors who might want a memento of the BSO in its glory days (not that they are a shabby ensemble today -- far from it!), or who are simply in the market for an inexpensive way to acquaint themselves with this most famous of symphonic canons. Overall, you won't be disappointed. Leinsdorf's riveting Ninth is alone worth the price of admission, and I would argue that the majority of the other symphonies are far more than merely--'viable.'"
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Re: Some insight on Leinsdorf - through interviews

Post by Lance » Mon May 07, 2018 12:15 am

I guess I'm somewhat in the minority regarding Leinsdorf. I, too, have enjoyed many of his recordings on several labels. He may not always be my first choice in some repertoire, but I still stand with his Schubert Mass No. 6 in E-flat with the Berlin Philharmonic from EMI (now Testament) as probably the finest version of the work I have ever heard on disc.

Just a look at some of his collaborations indicates the man could not have been all that bad. Lazar Berman, Itzhak Perlman, Leontyne Price, Nathan Milstein, Traubel, Melchior, John Browning, Pennario, Earl Wild, Erick Friedman, Artur Rubinstein, Richter, Cliburn, Pinza, Domingo, Fodor, Birgit Nilsson, Bergonzi, Milnes, Merrill, Caballé, Robert Peters, Peerce, Tozzi, Tebaldi, Bjoerling, Eileen Farrell, Szeryng, Marilyn Horne, etc., et al. Aside from collaborations, his total output on many recordings, with many orchestras, including the Czech Philharmonic (one of my favs besides the Boston and Chicago) is huge.

Anyway, some of my own thoughts on trying to justify why I find Leinsdorf at least somewhat noteworthy!
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Re: Some insight on Leinsdorf - through interviews

Post by jserraglio » Mon May 07, 2018 3:12 am

Lance wrote:
Mon May 07, 2018 12:15 am
I guess I'm somewhat in the minority regarding Leinsdorf. I, too, have enjoyed many of his recordings on several labels.
The CMG majority's contemptuous dismissal of Leinsdorf is not necessarily the last word. On another forum, with many discriminating listeners and musicians, members have of late been sharing a lot of Leinsdorf broadcasts. So far, I cannot recall a single negative assessment of those performances.

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Re: Some insight on Leinsdorf - through interviews

Post by John F » Mon May 07, 2018 4:38 am

Lance wrote:Just a look at some of his collaborations indicates the man could not have been all that bad.
Lance, as I said, the soloists don't choose their conductor in recordings and performances. It's the record company, the opera company, the orchestra, etc. Leinsdorf was RCA Victor's conductor of choice for some of its complete opera recordings; his virtues of reliability and efficiency are highly prized when a project has to be completed on time and on budget. The fact that Victor recorded Leinsdorf in a half-dozen operas and Fritz Reiner in only one does not reflect their relative quality.

Whatever the Leinsdorf enthusiasts here and in other forums may feel, Leinsdorf's recordings were received by professional critics with limited praise at best. For "The Marriage of Figaro": "The conducting is brisk, shipshape, and often superficial in thoughtful soliloquy and in most of the deeply expressive passages." (C.J. Luten) For "Turandot": "Leinsdorf hardly finds much poetry in the score, but at least his direction has plenty of energy and theatrical muscle." For "Macbeth": "Erich Leinsdorf, a fine musician, does not seem to be at his best here... At times Leinsdorf seems impatient with the music and rushes it in a way that makes the composer's effects sound perfunctory - the introduction to "Vieni! T'affretta!" sounds almost flippant here, like something from a Rossini comic opera." (Roland Graeme) I've already quoted Jon Alan Conrad's assessment of Leinsdorf's "Die Walkure" as a "highly adequate accompaniment." These are from the "Metropolitan Opera Guide to Recorded Opera."

In the 3-volume "Opera on Record" it's much the same story. William Mann on "Figaro": "Leinsdorf's reading is scrupulous and attentive, smartly paced for gaiety, uneventful in reflective or radiant music. He makes "Dove sono" sound almost somnolent." Lionel Salter on "Don Giovanni:" "There are, sadly, far fewer pros than cons about the Erich Leinsdorf performance... Leinsdorf's unimaginative, routine direction... Ensemble is sometimes ragged, especially in the last scene." Charles Osborne on "Lohengrin": "I am no enemy to Leinsdorfian briskness, but the poetic baby appears to have been thrown out with the ponderous bathwater, and all one is left with, orchestrally and chorally, is healthy but intrinsically meaningless sound." And so it goes.

Of course all such opinions, professional and amateur, are governed not only by one's knowledge and experience but by taste, which are always necessarily limited. The fact that Leinsdorf appears to be no critic's favorite conductor doesn't preclude you, jserraglio, et al. from liking his recordings, for your own reasons. I like some of them myself, for example "Die tote Stadt," and actively dislike few of them, mainly his superficial view of Mozart's operas. Nobody is going to persuade me that I'm mistaken, and of course I'm not going to persuade anybody that they are. Enough, already!
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Re: Some insight on Leinsdorf - through interviews

Post by jserraglio » Mon May 07, 2018 5:24 am

We agree about Die tote Stadt, tho' little else. A recording I first discovered as hilites of on 8-track cassette and played till my car wore out. Along the same lines is a fabulous Schmidt Second with the VPO.

Reiner, way more than old enough in 1911 to have knocked up Leinsdorf's mama, was physically unable to enter RCA's opera recording studios after 1963, just when Leinsdorf was hitting his stride in Boston. Two careers, two different trajectories.

Indeed, Leinsdorf was no Reiner, no Szell, no Toscanini. Stokowski? Not even close. But neither was he a mere routinier.

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Re: Some insight on Leinsdorf - through interviews

Post by Lance » Mon May 07, 2018 10:38 am

Yes, I realize that soloists don't choose the conductor, but I can't imagine a pianist with the status of a Rubinstein, or a Nilsson, or any major artist who has a most distinguished career, pairing themselves with someone whom they would not hold in very high esteem, especially if they have left identical repertoire with other conductors. Rubinstein, for example, made many recordings with Leinsdorf including Beethoven's 5 with the BSO. [Interestingly, Rubinstein's finest Beethoven 5 for me was with Krips and the Symphony of the Air], someone like Eileen Farrell, who was hugely outspoken about her conductors, made a very fine recording with Leinsdorf/Rochester of Wagner's Siegfried, act 3, scene 3.

In the end, of course, it is an individual's choice of who does something musically that touches them even if they are not experienced musically. We can all cite critics opinions of artists and repertoire that were later considered very much out of line with their own comments. So we must then let our own musical ears decide. [I know several people who thought the Telemann Society under Richard Schulze was the greatest musician since bread became sliced. Me? Couldn't take it at all.]
John F wrote:
Mon May 07, 2018 4:38 am
Lance wrote:Just a look at some of his collaborations indicates the man could not have been all that bad.
Lance, as I said, the soloists don't choose their conductor in recordings and performances. It's the record company, the opera company, the orchestra, etc. Leinsdorf was RCA Victor's conductor of choice for some of its complete opera recordings; his virtues of reliability and efficiency are highly prized when a project has to be completed on time and on budget. The fact that Victor recorded Leinsdorf in a half-dozen operas and Fritz Reiner in only one does not reflect their relative quality. [cut to here]
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Re: Some insight on Leinsdorf - through interviews

Post by Rach3 » Mon May 07, 2018 11:08 am

Lance wrote:
Mon May 07, 2018 10:38 am
Rubinstein, for example, made many recordings with Leinsdorf including Beethoven's 5 with the BSO. [Interestingly, Rubinstein's finest Beethoven 5 for me was with Krips and the Symphony of the Air]
Quite agree with you about the Rubinstein / Krips "Emperor".In fact, feel it on elf the great ones period. While I have not heard the rest , have been informed the rest of their set of the LvB PC's is also fine. Re-issued on cd, cheap,I've been tempted, but have so many already.

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Re: Some insight on Leinsdorf - through interviews

Post by Lance » Mon May 07, 2018 12:50 pm

Ah, but ARTUR RUBINSTEIN! I'd walk the earth to hear him play!
Rach3 wrote:
Mon May 07, 2018 11:08 am
Lance wrote:
Mon May 07, 2018 10:38 am
Rubinstein, for example, made many recordings with Leinsdorf including Beethoven's 5 with the BSO. [Interestingly, Rubinstein's finest Beethoven 5 for me was with Krips and the Symphony of the Air]
Quite agree with you about the Rubinstein / Krips "Emperor".In fact, feel it on elf the great ones period. While I have not heard the rest , have been informed the rest of their set of the LvB PC's is also fine. Re-issued on cd, cheap,I've been tempted, but have so many already.
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Re: Some insight on Leinsdorf - through interviews

Post by jserraglio » Tue May 08, 2018 5:45 am

Here is a performance that touched the musically inexperienced me, a rarely performed but beautiful work for piano left hand and orchestra by Richard Strauss: Parergon zur Sinfonia Domestica, for piano, left hand & orchestra, dedicated to Paul Wittgenstein.

Erich Leinsdorf conducts, with Jorge Bolet and the BSO from Tanglewood 1964. I excerpted this work from a broadcast provided to members of another board and uploaded it to YouTube. Excellent sound for the time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6dc41y90Co

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Re: Some insight on Leinsdorf - through interviews

Post by John F » Tue May 08, 2018 7:59 am

Lance wrote:I can't imagine a pianist with the status of a Rubinstein, or a Nilsson, or any major artist who has a most distinguished career, pairing themselves with someone whom they would not hold in very high esteem
Nilsson's memoirs may say whether this was true of her or not. I lent my copy to someone and never got it back, so I'll check it out at the library. The "Turandot" with Leinsdorf was her first recording of that signature role. She recorded it again six years later, perhaps as soon as her contract with RCA allowed, this time for EMI with Molinari-Pradelli and, significantly, with the Calaf of Franco Corelli, with whom she was famously not on the best of terms. If there's a story behind this, doubtless Nilsson tells it; she was candid about such things.

As for Rubinstein, I don't have his memoirs handy but they're at the library; it will be interesting to find out what he has to say. He recorded quite a few concertos with Alfred Wallenstein, nobody's idea of a great conductor but no doubt compliant with Rubinstein's interpretive wishes. I suppose some artists might prefer that to struggling with a Toscanini or Fritz Reiner about tempos.

There are any number of concerto and opera recordings with illustrious soloists and also-ran conductors. Heifetz rerecorded the Sibelius concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra but with its associate conductor Walter Hendl rather than Fritz Reiner. I certainly can imagine many artists, even the most famous ones, accepting the record company's choice of collaborators no matter who. I should think it depends mainly on the repertoire, the money, and the record company's ability to promote and sell its records..
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Re: Some insight on Leinsdorf - through interviews

Post by Rach3 » Tue May 08, 2018 8:53 am

John F wrote:
Tue May 08, 2018 7:59 am

As for Rubinstein, I don't have his memoirs handy but they're at the library; it will be interesting to find out what he has to say. He recorded quite a few concertos with Alfred Wallenstein, nobody's idea of a great conductor but no doubt compliant with Rubinstein's interpretive wishes. I suppose some artists might prefer that to struggling with a Toscanini or Fritz Reiner about tempos.

I find no mention of Leinsdorf or Wallenstein in Rubinstein's first book,"My Young Years", not surprisingly.I dont have his second.

In Harvey Sach's bio , just 3.

At page 270:
" Rubinstein, like other outstanding musicians, had strong ideas about the interpretation of the pieces he played, but he was always ready to reexamine his approach and to take seriously the points of view of other musicians whom he respected.For all these reasons, many conductors refused to limit themselves to customary managerial channels in their efforts to secure Rubinstein as a soloist, but also wrote to or phoned him directly to say how eager they were to have him perform with their orchestra.His files contain alluring letters of this sort from Mitropolous,Ormandy,Munch,Leinsdorf, Sargent,and many others. " ( I left out first names .)

One thus surmises AR respected Leinsdorf ?

At page 390:
After a discussion of Rubinstein receiving royalty checks from RCA of approx. $ 1.1M for all or part of 1980 :
"Early in the following year ( 1981 ) - according to an RCA interoffice memo - Seth Frank, one of Rubinstein's lawyers, had informed the company that ' in his view Mr. Rubinstein would be offended at the prospect of RCA releasing any of his recordings on Gold Seal ' - a mid-price label.'Frank therefore has rejected our request to so release the Beethoven concertos ( conducted by Eric Leinsdorf ) and suggests we refrain from making any other similar plans involving Mr.Rubinstein's recordings while Mr.Rubinstein is alive.'"

At page 408:
About a rehearsal with Wallenstein in 1965-66 to prepare a live concert of both Brahms PC's " with a rather good pick-up orchestra " :
"Two details of the rehearsal of the Second Concerto are fixed in my memory.Before the second movement, which begins with three quick bars for the piano alone,Rubinstein waited for a moment, looking expectantly at Wallenstein; when nothing happened, he asked the conductor ' Aren't you going to give them a downbeat ?' The piano enters on the second beat of a bar in 3/4 time, and Rubinstein, who had the piece in his repertoire for many decades, knew that if a conductor fails to to indicate all three bars of the rest to the orchestra, some players may make wrong entrances later on.Wallenstein seemed not to understand what Rubinstein was getting at."Give them a beat,' Rubinstein said.Wallenstein still looked confused." Like this', Rubinstein said.He stood up, gave a vigorous downbeat with his left arm, and continuedpunch out the downbeats of the following three bars while his right hand played the piano's opening passage.After that, everything went smoothly."

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Re: Some insight on Leinsdorf - through interviews

Post by John F » Tue May 08, 2018 11:46 am

Thanks for this - interesting stuff.
Rach3 wrote:many conductors refused to limit themselves to customary managerial channels in their efforts to secure Rubinstein as a soloist, but also wrote to or phoned him directly to say how eager they were to have him perform with their orchestra.His files contain alluring letters of this sort from Mitropolous,Ormandy,Munch, Leinsdorf, Sargent, and many others." One thus surmises AR respected Leinsdorf ?
Surely it's the other way around - Leinsdorf and the others respected Rubinstein, or at least the prestige and box office pull he would bring to their concerts. Now if Rubinstein had written to those conductors saying he was eager to perform with them...
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Re: Some insight on Leinsdorf - through interviews

Post by jserraglio » Tue May 08, 2018 12:14 pm

Rach3 wrote:His [Rubinstein's] files contain alluring letters of this sort from Mitropolous, Ormandy, Munch, Leinsdorf, Sargent, and many others." One thus surmises AR respected Leinsdorf?
John F wrote:
Tue May 08, 2018 11:46 am
Surely it's the other way around . . . Now if Rubinstein had written to those conductors saying he was eager to perform with them...
It would seem to follow from that hypothetical that an eminent soloist like Rubinstein could exercise a measure of indirect control over choosing conductors he respected for his recordings and performances. Whether or not he did I dunno.

But it appears that Rubinstein did express publicly his high opinion of one of the conductors on Rach3's list, one that several here hold in low esteem. Did Rubinstein respect Leinsdorf? There is some evidence to indicate that he did. And as in so many other things, Rubinstein's taste in conductors strikes me as being that of a musical connoisseur.
Rubinstein speaking about Leinsdorf @ 4'33" wrote:The recording of the Emperor was made in Boston, with my friend Leinsdorf, who's a brilliant conductor, who brought the Boston Symphony to its old peak again. They are wonderful, a great thing to play with them.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KArRa4miOVo
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Re: Some insight on Leinsdorf - through interviews

Post by Lance » Tue May 08, 2018 4:17 pm

Very interesting interview with Rubinstein. He felt the BSO was back to it's old glory under Leinsdorf. He indicated a special affinity for his recording with them of the "Emperor."
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Re: Some insight on Leinsdorf - through interviews

Post by jserraglio » Tue May 08, 2018 6:14 pm

Interestingly, Rubinstein volunteered his praise of Leinsdorf and the BSO without prompting from the interviewer who had simply asked AR where his new recording of the 'Emperor' was made. Furthermore in this interview, with some warmth and enthusiasm, Rubinstein called not only Leinsdorf but Picasso his friend.

I suspect Rubinstein knew a thing or two about conductors, as he did about language; and brilliant doesn't strike me as a word he would have used about a mere journeyman conductor RCA had stuck him with. No, clearly he relished the opportunity to perform and record with his esteemed friend Erich Leinsdorf.

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Re: Some insight on Leinsdorf - through interviews

Post by Heck148 » Wed May 09, 2018 9:12 am

jserraglio wrote:
Tue May 08, 2018 6:14 pm
I suspect Rubinstein knew a thing or two about conductors, as he did about language; and brilliant doesn't strike me as a word he would have used about a mere journeyman conductor RCA had stuck him with. No, clearly he relished the opportunity to perform and record with his esteemed friend Erich Leinsdorf.
sorry, this means little - because a famous soloist gets along well with a conductor is no guarantee of greatness of the conductor - Kirsten Flagstad's favorite conductor was Edwin McArthur [(24 September 1907 – 24 February 1987) an American classical music conductor, pianist and accompanist; and she insisted that he conduct her performances wherever she went. an accomplished pianist, he also was her accompanist for song recitals, esp Scandinavian songs that she presented.
I played for McArthur, when he conducted at Eastman...a rather nice gentleman, an ok conductor, not terrible, but certainly not outstanding...apparently the chemistry between Flagstad and McArthur was very comfortable....likely the same between Rubinstein and Leinsdorf. IOW - Rubinstein's endorsement itself does not raise Leinsdorf above his somewhat better than mediocre status.

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Re: Some insight on Leinsdorf - through interviews

Post by jserraglio » Wed May 09, 2018 9:47 am

Heck148 wrote:
Wed May 09, 2018 9:12 am
sorry, this means little - because a famous soloist gets along well with a conductor is no guarantee of greatness of the conductor
A member here challenged the notion that Rubinstein respected Leinsdorf, suggesting that surely it was the other way around. I merely provided a bit of evidence indicating that maybe the admiration ran both ways.

You, of course, are as free to doubt Rubinstein as I am to credit him. Rubinstein's taste in conductors strikes me as excellent, but I willingly concede I feel that way b/c his opinion exactly coincides with my own. Everybody looks out their own window.

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Re: Some insight on Leinsdorf - through interviews

Post by John F » Wed May 09, 2018 3:22 pm

I now have Birgit Nilsson's memoirs, "La Nilsson" - highly recommended. And here's what she has to say about her opera recordings with Leinsdorf:
Birgit Nilsson wrote:In the summer of 1959 I recorded both "Don Giovanni" and "Turandot." In "Giovanni," which was recorded in Vienna, I sang the role of Donna Anna. The "Turandot" was recorded in Rome at the Academy of Saint Cecilia. Erich Leinsdorf conducted both recordings for the American label RCA. Leinsdorf (like Georg Solti) had worked with Toscanini as coach. Leinsdorf was an experienced and intellectual conductor. His feelings were not given free rein; everything was under cool control. Above all, his rehearsals, which could smack of the schoolroom, were very interesting and educational.
Nothing about the actual conducting. And this about the RCA Victor "Walkure" :
Birgit Nilsson wrote:The conductor of the RCA recording was Erich Leinsdorf, with Jon Vickers singing a superb Siegmund. Gre Brouwenstijn was Sieglinde; George London, a great actor and singer, sang Wotan; Rita Gorr sang Fricka; and David Ward, Hunding. It was an especially good recording.
For which she gives Leinsdorf no credit. It's not as if Nilsson was indifferent to the qualities of her collaborators. Immediately before the first quotation she writes of Hans Knappertsbusch, who conducted Wagner excerpts with her for Decca,
Birgit Nilsson wrote:The conductor was the great Wagner master, Hans Knappertsbusch. "Kna," as he was called in the opera world, was known for hating to rehearse. But he was able to inspire musicians to great performances through his personality alone. Often he surpassed the well-rehearsed Wagner performances of other conductors.
Such as Leinsdorf? :mrgreen: She has much to say about Solti, who she calls "great," and who wrote the foreword to "La Nilsson." The absence of any comment about Leinsdorf's conducting is unusual for her and so significant.

What it signifies is not clear. Writing about the "Walkure," she says:
Birgit Nilsson wrote:When I arrived in London and found that Rita Gorr was to sing Fricka instead of the already contracted Grace Hoffmann, I was astonished. I called Grace in Stuttgart and asked if she were ill. She said she was fine and only waiting to hear when she was expected in London. When I told her Rita Gorr was in London and was to take over the part of Fricka, she was shocked...It was later revealed that the conductor, Leinsdorf, had rejected Hoffmann. Earlier, when making a recording with him, she had asked him if he could make his beat clearer for her. Leinsdorf never forgot this and held it against her.
Nilsson and Hoffmann were friends, she calls her a wonderful singer, and when Nilsson found out that RCA wasn't going to compensate Hoffmann for the broken contract, she and George London refused to sing until Hoffmann received her due. As for her opinion of Leinsdorf, for whose rehearsals she offers ambiguous praise ("schoolroom" suggests pedantry) and no comment at all about his conducting, draw your own conclusions.
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Re: Some insight on Leinsdorf - through interviews

Post by jserraglio » Wed May 09, 2018 5:09 pm

If 'schoolroom' implies Nilsson found Leinsdorf pedantic, then 'very interesting and educational' suggest that in spite of his faults, she found Leinsdorf's rehearsals very engaging and enlightening.

Re his conducting. I think it questionable to draw negative inferences from what Nilsson does NOT say—she doesn't comment on him even though she speaks highly of other conductors—her silence could mean many things: indifference, approval, neutrality, disapproval or nothing at all. Or it could signify an active personal dislike for the man. Who knows?

To speculate—She probably didn't like this Leinsdorf guy one tiny bit after he rejected her friend Grace Hoffmann at the last minute for the RCA Walkure record. BTW, so much for the notion floated here that Leinsdorf had no say in choosing the recording casts of his operas. So maybe there was a good deal of personal animus, but in spite of that, Nilsson's generally favorable view of Leinsdorf's contribution to the RCA Walkure is implicit in her calling it 'an especially good recording'.

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Re: Some insight on Leinsdorf - through interviews

Post by John F » Thu May 10, 2018 1:38 am

jserraglio wrote:I think it questionable to draw negative inferences from what Nilsson does NOT say—she doesn't comment on him even though she speaks highly of other conductors—her silence could mean many things: indifference, approval, neutrality, disapproval or nothing at all. Or it could signify an active personal dislike for the man. Who knows?
And I think you should read Nilsson's memoirs if you really care what and how she thinks. Her grievances against Herbert von Karajan are serious and emphatic, artistic as well as personal, yet she gives some of his performances her highest praise. For that matter, she's generous with her praise of also-rans like Berislav Klobucar and Heinrich Hollreiser - she describes a Hollreiser "Rosenkavalier" in Vienna as "wonderfully conducted," but I heard him conduct that opera in Munich and there was nothing wonderful about it, to the contrary it was one of the dullest "Rosenkavaliers" in my experience. To praise a Hollreiser to the skies while remaining uncharacteristically silent about Leinsdorf, in an otherwise consistently forthright book, speaks volumes. Indeed, it seems to me she went out of her way to find something to approve in her Leinsdorf experience, whatever her opinion of him as a man, and even so could say nothing favorable about his actual conducting. Leinsdorf also conducted quite a few of her Met performances; she doesn't mention these at all.

Lingering resentment at his and especially RCA's treatment of Grace Hoffmann, though possibly a contributing factor, is not enough to explain all this. The best we can reasonably conclude, really, is that she didn't think Leinsdorf was a bad conductor. Not a witness for the defense, then, however much you may want to make her one.

Going back to Lance's comment Nilsson and other top artists not "pairing themselves with someone whom they would not hold in very high esteem." In an ideal world that might be so, but the evidence is that they do it all the time, as these pairings are usually beyond their control.
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Re: Some insight on Leinsdorf - through interviews

Post by jserraglio » Thu May 10, 2018 5:11 am

John F wrote:
Thu May 10, 2018 1:38 am
To praise a Hollreiser to the skies while remaining uncharacteristically silent about Leinsdorf, in an otherwise consistently forthright book, speaks volumes.
If you insist on speculating about Nilsson's silence regarding Leinsdorf's conducting, you should construe that it meant she approved, not that she disapproved. You say she praises everyone else lavishly but is curiously silent about him. Since you can't be sure what that silence truly says about her opinion of his conducting, it should be seen, if anything, as an affirmation. Better still, nothing should be read into it either way.

Arthur Rubinstein's view was more direct and far more definitive: "My friend Leinsdorf's a brilliant conductor, who brought the Boston Symphony to its old peak again. They are wonderful, a great thing to play with them." Unlike Nilsson. this great artist offered a clear-cut, perspicacious judgment.

You take the liberty of recommending a memoir to me. I think you should read James Comey's, if you haven't already. Conductors and music directors, leaders of all stripes, yes even politicians, would profit from reading it as he has, handsomely, from writing it.

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