Bernard Gabriel; 36; What does it take to make the big time as a musical performer today? Robert Gerwald
This is Bernard Gabriel. What does it take today for an artist to make the big time. How important is the element of luck in a career. Must a gifted musician have a sizeable wad of money to put into his own launching. With today's opportunities and today's competition is it easier or is it much harder than it used to be to attract worldwide attention. Well these are some of the questions that I'd like to put to Robert G Wald Who's with me at the microphone and he is the manager of Jose Turby the master virtuosi of New York and a great many other individual artists and Tina's famous in the musical world. If anyone should know the answers to some of these questions I think it's he Mr. G will know in a way there are a multiplicity of opportunities open to a young musician at present which weren't there half a century ago. Areas TV radio films High Fidelity recording concerts that sometimes strange times of the day and night and in all manner of unlikely spots. And as I've had occasion to mention in the past places like the
Fulton Fish Market which has had symphony orchestras I once covered a concert in a shoe store and I was at I think by now too many times on the air but to all kinds of strange places and. Well there of course are the competitions the international competitions which didn't really exist in a big way 50 years ago. How do these things these pluses and minuses balance. Do you feel that a gifted newcomer has an easier or a more difficult time today. Mr. Gabriel I would say frankly that today it is probably more difficult for a newcomer to achieve star status as a classical performing artist. However if he is one of those fortunate fuel that does the rewards are tremendous. But again we do have the problem that the vast majority tastes in this country and to a marked degree in Europe as well
amongst audiences are toward more popular type attractions in spite of everything being done about building new whole beautiful new performing arts centers we are not keeping pace with developing new audiences. And so the young artists of the future cannot develop more of them cannot gain major careers unless we have the audiences who are interested enough to come to the concert halls. Why do you think that it is more difficult today just that one. I think audiences Yes and also yes we have another problem. You must remember that classical music should be considered a form of enjoyment a form of entertainment. But there are also other competitive influences in our society. Other so-called competitors of leisure time many people for example today find greater enjoyment sitting home and listening to many artists on recordings.
Others are interested in different types of entertainment. Theatre or dance for that matter one of the major areas of the Performing Arts in terms of development in this country has been the dance modern dance which is gained a tremendous following in the country compared to let's say a decade ago and then of course there are the popular performing arts. Younger people have a tendency to find as we say to quote them their thing in terms of an identity with rock music with soul music with folk music. For example I represent. The beer is family and they are one of the leading traditional folk groups in this country they play about 80 concerts a year now and they started eight years ago as a regular concert performers there was no real market for them. Today they play all the major colleges and universities. So we have the problem that for the young solo artist and I want to confine
that the young solo artist has the difficulty of not really having as great an audience for his art as one would imagine so I go back to the premise that we must interest young people in attending recitals and attending concerts of young artists. But now you say 50 years back we had the theatre then didn't wake up and there were some dance groups not as many Not as many you know I would say it's an amazing phenomena of this country that dance has developed a popularity. Not only that classical white ballet is the great dance companies of Europe which have come here but the modern dance companies Cunningham's group Cameron done him. These these are the ones who have nurtured an interest in the dance and amongst young people surprisingly they are interested in this form of expression. You don't think that 50 years ago people sat home listen to old fifty seventy eight no
matter for a photograph. I remember the late me Shelmon who I represented at one time who was one of the few artists to have gone through the various phases of recording development he made the ole cylinder disc. In fact I think yeah that's right I think he recorded his Tchaikovsky violin concerto in all of the different developments of the recording I mean there's a lot of cylinders. That's right. And at that time of course it was an expensive novelty to have a phonograph in your home. And then each record is about two minutes or whatever. That's correct. Naturally many of the early Caruso records were originally on cylinder then we went of course to shellacked disc. But again. There was not this widespread interest in proportion to the total entertainment field however and I want to point out something else. The solo artists of yesterday and there are some who are still performing today
such as the Rubenstein's the Horowitz's the Heifetz's. I even have to say a voice struck and Richter and some of the new generation have this great ability to communicate their rot. And I'm hoping that the new generation will bring a second golden age to classical music as a solo performer. What about competition itself among performers do you think there was as much competition say 50 60 years ago among pianists and violinists as there is today. In other words just so many good pianists today do you think there were that many. Actually I would say no. For another reason. The question of course we must equate the European situation differently from that of the United States. We have matured since World War 2 as possibly a major musical country in the development of young artists. Many of the great teachers of Europe were forced to migrate here due to World War 2 and the previous nazi
occupation of Europe and they developed many students here in the performing arts whether they were violinists whether they were pianists whether they were cellists they created some of the great instrumental musicians they taught either as private students or at the famous music schools Curtis Institute Juilliard. Manhattan School of Music and others. Then they created their disciples who are now the teachers of today so that we as a country probably are turning out a much higher percentage and a larger total number of fine musicians that weren't will say in the world 50 years ago. And so therefore I would have to say that the competition is much keener Today today and this is probably one of the difficulties isn't it. I mean if you have a relatively small audience and you've got just a great many fine artists Well it makes it harder for each one although when you think back to the early days of operate even more than 50 years
ago I mean in the days of Caruso and Melba and people like that which is now what perhaps. Well 60 years ago or more there seem to have been plenty of enthusiasm and plenty of paying customers around for a great number of celebrities in that field or luminaries. What if you want to call them because they certainly were a lot of names that you could just spring off you know and each one was almost a household word you want me to do what I can do it and keep going for about a good minute for you they're going to try to. Well I know you don't like many of the great names of 60 years ago but again remember we had primarily one method in which we could see and hear these performers and that was a live presentation. And so for example if a great artist like John McCormick came to a Midwestern city it would appear they once lived. It's true you could buy his recordings but there was this great element of the artist live performing before you. We
take for example I represented Laurence Tippett In his last years as a performing artists and as a radio commentator by the way but not in the way he did a very fine classical music show. The mutual network. And Larry Tippit was the first great American born singer. And it's an interesting stocks yes don't you going to pass by rows upon sell. Well Larry to buy I don't know how to do you know it was the first to gain immense popularity as a so-called American trained American born singer. And it's interesting to note that some famous people such as the Thomas Watson Sr. contributed to his career to help him in terms of his musical education. And Larry Tippett was the first classical singer when he appeared in concert to incorporate within his regular program what we call popular music Glory Road and things of that nature without a song. He would he created it in
formality of presentation which until that time if an opera singer did go out on tour and many of them regrettably still do today in these live presentations would only sing Arias. So he mixed so programming becomes an element too of how to interest and captivate an audience. You know I'm still amazed whenever I think back to the reading that I've done about people like Adelina Patti around the turn of the century that she she could sing as you well know as often as she chose and never for less than $6000 when the dollar was what it was at that time. And then you think back to Cardozo who with no benefit of TV or radio or films could amass a fortune of something like 10 million dollars. And through personal appearances entirely I did pretty well to fill armories around the country and was you know a household word. And I'm just wondering today how many performers could equal such a feat with all the commercialization and the advertising in the
media that we have. I regret today that I can probably count them on my 10. Jones other one possibly not insert iron in a positive way. Yes probably still great. National figure in terms of developing an audience interest in probably all of this concert still remains sold out the Grand Master of the mall ATA Rubenstein Peace Corps. It's an incredible thing I was in London recently and Wilfred van why Cool is the English manager for Mr. Rubenstein said he had one little announcement in the London papers. Mr. Rubenstein would give two concerts in London they were sold out the next day he sold out the same day. This was for Britain of course this is considered unusual but that has always been my pattern. But if you think about adding a patty say in one thousand five or ten singing for no less ever and often more than $6000 a performance now by today's standards that would certainly be around twenty
five thousand dollars a performance wouldn't it. I would think so well when the dollar is depreciating value yes. I think even Rubenstein and even Joan Sutherland might have a pretty tough time getting that kind of money for a public appearance. Again it goes back to the fact that we did not have that many competitive outlets of leisure time activity. We did not have really leisure time most people were working not a 48 hour week but a fifty or fifty two hour a week and the excitement though of a great artist to come to hear them to be part of them for their communication of their art in person to be there that evening is something that was you know there was there was music in the elevator. That's exactly it. You know there wasn't so much that you just couldn't stand when you walked into a park you couldn't get such a thing as silence in the summertime as today. However I'm also struck by the fact that there is apparently a great and enormous
silent paying audience if imaginations can be stirred sufficiently. And I think they're back a few years to the Bolshoi when it came here and for well over a month I was able to fill to capacity at high prices the old Metropolitan Opera House. That's about 5000 or close to that wasn't it seats. And then after a month or five weeks so there you couldn't get a seat. Then they took over nothing less than the old Madison Square Garden with its 14 to 18000 seats and that went on for a number of weeks now. This meant that a couple of hundred thousand people were paying high prices and cheering and getting all excited about a Russian ballet. Now where are all these people at other times when so many artists have trouble filling even Town Hall or small. Well again it goes back to several factories. This of course was the first appearance of probably the world's greatest ballet company the legendary Bolshoi. That's number one. So many people.
Number two as I said we have developed a dance a ballet audience. And this of course was their first opportunity then of course in New York City in the metropolitan area. We have a great many people of Russian extraction. Most of whom had migrated to this country first generation. And also the second generation that they had told about this wonderful company that some of them had seen or heard about in Russia. And they poured out so many of them were in essence a one time audience though I don't think they do a quest go to other attractions but getting back with my own experience with the master virtual scene in New York we have developed a new audience approximately 18 percent of our first subscription season at film on a call. Were people who had never gone to a concert or had bought tickets for a concert series. Why did they come. Well we offered other opportunities we offered them a free party. We used as we say the gimmicks of the
day as you aptly put Bernard the Madison Avenue approach. We also gave them music evenings which were informal get togethers where they meet socially where they would hear a famous authority on music talk about the music and also demonstrate elements. People want to learn and also above all of our programming was entertaining. It included new things that included repertoire for example. It's a strange thing in New York City with all the music that we do present here. We presented for example two years ago in the master virtual SI series. All of the Paris Haydn symphonies in one season. Now this hadn't been done in New York in over 20 years. Yet in London or in Berlin or in Paris every few years there is a so-called cycle of these symphonies so that we presented music that had not been heard regularly a great deal of the musical literature we don't hear it might not be the greatest thing written by a famous composer. Well we're hearing it but well worth hearing.
I'd like now to get to that first big question. What does it take to make the big time for a newcomer today. I would have to say he should have an exceptional ability. This would be a prerequisite though there is some tendency to have what we would call mediocre standards accepted in certain artists. But basically he should be an outstanding talent and that talent should be one whereby he is able to communicate his art to the public because the final arbiter is the public and not the critic so technique and tone and all such matters are not primary. No the communicative quality that I had trouble as it is yes is the big thing. Yes and some of the younger people do have this. In fact as I said before I hope that we will have a golden age because I'm noticing amongst them younger men and women. And by the way this is an amazing factor.
Many of the younger women have this Communicate of skill but not many with a great deal of what you'd call magnetism though. No but I want to get out on a stage they like better ask you to hold your spellbound. Ah but then there are those who I've heard who are studying now. The ones in the 20 learning that. That have the ability to communicate I've sat and listened Yes their skill is not polished their technique still needs development. It was a well-known concert pianist understand this but they have a little something and I'm. I haven't heard it I'm going to be Liza was that or somebody now they're what we've called in there in preparation they have not been brought out to the public as yet. That's an important factor to artists should not be presented until he has developed all of his skills and is prepared to enter the musical arena as a proficient artist. All right he's got to have great talent and be communicative. How about money. Do you think he has to have a or I should say do you think but must he have a lot of money either by from his own coffers or from an angel to launch a career.
I would think that he would need a certain amount of financial assistance so that he can continue his art without the financial pressures upon him. There are certain materials he requires There are certain. Publicity aides which he would need and there's another factor I bought from you that for you the manager and also a manager must feel that there is an opportunity that this artist is going to develop and he places his time and his efforts into it. But again I think most people who my colleagues in the field feel that part of it is our obligation to develop an interest in young artists. How much money does he need. I would say that it depends upon the type of program that has been laid out for him by the professional management in the thousands. I would have to say all right what about the element of luck. How important is that in the launching of a new career.
I would think it has a certain effect but for example let's say that there is a young pianist very vibrant well valued. All right now let me go to Van Cliburn right Van Cliburn was a fine artist before he won the famous Russian competition. However his career was in a somewhat hazy areas very precarious. I think that this season before he won the competition the number of performing dates was less than a dozen for him. It is as though he had gained recognition as being a fine artist but suddenly the first American to win this great competition. And that Texan an interesting personality. Yes luck did have something to do with it and he became a household word in the right. And we watch Eugene list. Yes again Andrei Watts is a fine young artist one of the great artists I think of the future the interest and here I come to another point the interest of a great conductor such as Leonard Bernstein interest in
Mr. Watts. He presented him with the New York Philharmonic he gave him that major exposure. In other words I think a great way for an artist to gain popularity and exposure is where a famous conductor presents him with his orchestra mentions him to another conductors as I've had. Mr. Watts he's wonderful why don't you and other words get a good conductor like mentor. They like you and that brings me to the next question. I believe it was Maurice who once said that he felt the most important attribute that a public performer could have was the ability to make an audience like him on stage. And he differentiated this quality from sheer personality or stage magnetism. He felt for instance that if an audience felt kindly towards an artist that he'd excuse him all kinds of sin. Do you agree with that. That's a little different from just sheer personality because you can have a very imposing person come out in the stage and Rivet your attention at the same time. You might not like him you may not feel kindly disposed toward him. On the other hand somebody else might come out and disarm you with a
smile and you don't care of EU has a lot of clinkers you know you just got to like even clap for him and root for him anyway. Well I think I have to go back in essence when I was very young Mr. De sicking came out on the stage and I think his audience liked him to begin with. You know he's back. They basically like all around others Yeah very recently about why they felt that he was a great artist and that he gave them an evening of wonderful music again we go back to his ability to communicate his art to them I would have to say that when the late great dame Myra Hess walked onto a stage the audience liked her she could do no wrong. And you feel that this is also very I think this has a factor with the artifice you know it without mentioning names you mentioned a violinist well known today let's not mention names here. No of course not but you felt that his personality while fairly arresting. It was a detriment to him on stage.
I think that walkout and his physical appearance tends to take away from this man's great art. The audience doesn't immediately know he has to win their affection to a degree. Of course he's a great artist and he's able to by the time the evening is over. Let me ask you Do you feel that gimmicks in a serious artist or are good or bad coarse gimmicks are not really new department. Well there's some question as to whether he was just plain loony or whether he was very smart. You know talking to the audience and putting Chopin's quotes socks on the piano and all this kind of thing and then rescue again to mention that name played with a darkened stage and I think shot and used to talk intimately to his audience there been all kinds of gimmicks in the past. But in general do you think when an artist does something extra musical that you feel is kind of for sensation or for effect is this good does it help him or do people look on a serious artist doing this kind of thing with a certain suspicion. Well first of all I am not a purist but one thing that I do demand of any artist would be that in the presentation of
his music that he does not dilute any of that standard of performance. I don't care whether he adjusts his seat. I don't care whether he talks to the audience because many of the people are interested in him I think one of the problems we have in developing an interest in solo recitals is that certain people who would come to hear these artists find a coldness in the report they would like someone to say the next work I'm going to play was written by him. And also I think lighting affects remember we are in a competitive situation I go back to this question that other media we have become refined in terms of the techniques of television live theater for that matter so that lighting effect is important sustaining a mood. So you're not against all no I'm not against it no no as long as it does not take away from the musical performance itself.
I certainly agree with you there. I do want to get to your own career as a manager Robert G Wald. What's in the offing with some of your artists. Well my management is rather diversified I have represented artists from Woody Herman and his concert band through to Jose to be one of the great pianists of our time. I have had the exciting challenge of developing artists such as Gary Carr the young virtuoso the double bass who everyone said you cannot make or develop an interest in the double bass as a solo instrument but yet if the artist is great enough he started That's right because of it's he never attained fame that way he became of course a famous conductor and actually we've only had three great double bass virtuosi in that if you want to I ever heard dragon had a dragon and he made a major career by the way in the early part of the 19th century. I have for example I'm presenting a very fine pianist look we go Sean skeet.
Who has been by the way compared to Richter by the Cisco examiner who will be presenting a concert under my auspices at Carnegie Hall on February 25th to try and catch that and then I also would bring him back for his second Carnegie Hall appearance in two years of air and Roseanne. The violin a violinist and Aaron of course who is an American born in Chicago has received tremendous acclaim outside of this country as yet we haven't discovered one of our own. I know that many concert managers are concerned if not alarmed at the persistence and almost complete takeover of the musical interest of college students by rock n roll and hence they're worried about the audiences of the future now do you feel that this is even though it's been around for quite a while. Rock n Roll that is a passing fancy or are you honestly very concerned about it. Do well. I book a great deal of artists and attractions I say of different types at colleges and universities. The predominant
presentations on what we call concert series are more popular type attractions. There is for example a swing toward films to a great degree. I have a very wonderful one man show The Canterbury Tales which is. Performed by Rob Inglis the Australian actor. Now this program's been sold out in the three touring years in which I presented at colleges at colleges and universities. The young people love it. Now this is Chaucer supposedly not saleable but the problem is that many of the auspices many of the college advisors tend to follow what the students want and it's regrettable that a great deal of the popular performing acts and I don't say only rock music or soul music or even the comedy people are not top in quality. We seem to be devoted to a great deal of mediocrity. However there is one thing that a great deal of
the artists that do perform at the colleges though they are of a mediocre nature you still find some very fine ones in the field of rock and soul music and I feel that these tastes of the students will continue but at the same time let's develop a new taste for the most serious type of music musician and musical literature. Tell me in closing that you will that you feel that there will always be an audience for good music what we call beauty. I would say over the next terrible because I like rock too but I want serious music. I would think that until the year 2000 it would all still around. There will still be audiences that will go to opera and go to concerts after that I will not venture any prediction I feel better. Robert G Well my thanks for joining me and for the opportunity of hearing your views regarding the fast changing kaleidoscope that makes up the music scene today. This is been Bernard Gabriel repeating once more the words of Rachmaninoff when he said that one life was hardly enough to give for music.
But that music was quite enough to feel a life. This program was acquired with funds provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. This is the national educational radio network.
- Bernard Gabriel
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Identifier: 70-16-36 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
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