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Conversation with Eugene Norman. This is another in a continuing series of programs each of which offers the listener a rare opportunity to hear an eminent musician informally discussing his own career and expressing his thoughts about a variety of topics related to the art of music. The regular participants in these discussions are Aaron Parsons professor of music theory at Northwestern University's School of Music and program annotator for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. And George Stone program director for Zenith radio corporation's serious music station WABE FM in Chicago. Today's guest is the distinguished music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra Eugene Armande. Now here is George Stone. Stormy it would seem that you've got an extraordinarily early start in music and that you just have never stopped. Is it accurate. What we find in books and musical study at the age of three.
The truth is that I began to study music. I don't live 10 years before I was born. According to my father anyway. My father was a great music lover always wanted to be a musician and couldn't afford it he had to study medicine and he became a dentist and every day as he crossed the bridge from Buddha to pest to go to the university is still in the middle of the bridge looked down at the on the Danube and he said. When I Get Married My son is going to be named after the Great. I get him by the list which is my own gallery a name translated to English is Jean and he's going to be the greatest violence in the world. And it was in his mind for those 10 years while he was studying and preparing to marry a professional and when he married my mother I was born nine months and
14 days later and my name was yellow which still is in Hungary but I don't go and that was the beginning of my musical life. I was destined to be a musician there was no question about that I would say that this certainly is borne out by what has happened. Just as soon as I was able to pick up a fellow that had a violin made for me about one eighth size I just began to play on it and then the age of three I was studying letters but I could read music. Did your father play in by ear. No no no I had no I mean I didn't know that I couldn't read letters so I was taught music before I was taught reading. Did your father play violin or piano played nothing you just love music it was a great music was this intense love of music that made him interested in seeing that you got off to a proper start with Saudi
cause he even so he wasn't well wealthy enough to give me the finest education he just took somebody was not too expensive to teach me. Thinking that the elementary part of the Mensa part of violin playing anybody could teachers of which is of course the worst possible approach. Luckily I had a little talent so I overcame that and by the time I reached five I penetrated brother enough. Of course this is only something I heard as a child I can't remember it myself but I was taken for examination at the Royal Academy of Music and the professors looked at me I was only a putz. Two and a half feet tall Violet was bigger than I was and the set is the violet calving the boy avoids going to fire with that I had to play in an audition and I was immediately accepted. At age 5 I was already a member and probably until the present day the youngest student ever written. Attending classes at
the Royal Academy of Music is something I'm not particularly proud of as I don't think anybody should be prouder But that's those are the facts of life. I was for a while I went to Khinjan which of course I hated as soon as I was intelligent and grown enough I got rid of that title you know because I'm grown soon became a people love to buy yet there can be years five years later when I was 10 and I understand that this was something of a grueling experience of the demands that he made on you as a violinist. But strangely he didn't like me because I had the same first name. That's curious and he used to call me come here and namesake you play the F rap too. Don't you have you know very well that absolute pitch but he just he just didn't like the idea there was anybody else in the class with the same Christian name. So very strange attitude. Because of this I am sure you have been imbued with a great
admiration for this man by your father. My father told him because of his great admiration for him. He named me after him but it didn't reach him in the same spirit. But it was forgotten. After all I graduated years later not so many years later. You received your B.A. there at about age 14 and a half from 1914. This wasn't so very long after that. Well I spent four and a half years where then I continued post-graduate and studied for professorship. So three years later I became Professor No. 2 years later I got the artistic three years later the professors the artist diploma in violin violin playing. Yes that was covered just diploma I still have it somewhere at home. It's a beautiful diploma very beautifully written and the whole thing is something that everybody had to be very few people got at in those days. Now I don't know what that means but you were attending the University of
Budapest concurrently with some of the year's years at the academy. It was a very strange situation I was already a professor and had to be addressed as Professor at least for one year. Everybody has to be this professor and then you say don't bother. But the first year I was already called professor in the classes but I was still a first year student. Second semester student at the university philosophy strange must have been a heady experience for a 17 year old boy. I had to outgrow that too. Like what field did you specialize in at the university. It was philosophy yes. And of course concentrating on music which is also some something that I haven't done before because music used to be a secondary subject in those days. Of course now there is a professorship in music music to get university but Professor of Music was actually a member of the Academy of Music and he was also
associate professor. You see he wasn't a full professor but were you concertizing then after your graduation from the academy you media as a violinist in the area of the Hungarian The city did well in Hungary Austria and Germany. Because that was just. At the tail end of the war when I graduated in 1917 and I could only go that far no further because of the war being. And sometimes I had to play in Halmos that were being I mean cities which were being bombed near differentiable it was very fortunate. But I have as a fiddle and because I haven't had a leave leg injury at the age of 13 I was not accepted in the army which now I am that they are grateful for. So I just thought I was close there and then to the war as I ever was or ever could be and I wanted to be.
At about this time in your professional career Mr army you also had your first experience as a leader or concert master of an orchestra wasn't it in Germany that you served for a time in that capacity. That was actually almost I would call it a force measure. I was touring in Germany and I was playing with the then very well known. I wouldn't say the most famous but that a well known orchestra called the Blue group in Iraq history. Yes I wondered about it what was it it was a very good I was a resident or because yes it was the orchestra of the blues piano company which built a concert hall very beautiful concert hall called the concert hall. They called it and I played with the orchestra and made my day. Well then you had the opportunity to become concert master of us orchestra
and I assume this was your first experience in this kind of ensemble work. Yes but I really wasn't its concert master I was its soloist. Oh I see. I gave recitals with them and they accompanied me a whole evening with an overture of course to begin with until just before they went on a tour. The concert master got ill. And I have no less work on the program than Richard Strauss which is written for 32 solo instruments with a violin. Plays like yes. So anyway the result was that I was asked if I would jump in and storm India's soloist with this orchestra. You must have had quite a wide variety of concertos that you performed some of these that you were playing at that time as a as a youngster moralists
seem to play today. I played a very strange combination of concerti. You played a major again with us number five. Then I played it believe it or not the 50th song Clinch. Buteux had quite a reach. It was you know particularly in those days yes four and five especially were favorites almost every violence played them and then finished with the Beethoven. My life anybody had the nerve to put the time between Mozart and Beethoven. Well that was me but I didn't know any better. So I have the excuse for I was only 17 years old. And they had the timing called for that. We only had about 90 minutes of music so. But they wanted to and still had to play an overture. So anyway when they went on tour they wanted me to join them at least for the burgers.
And that's the first and only time I met your stars he came to the rehearsal and it was very strange because I had just terrific respect for him and he was an older gentleman compared to me in those days and he was sitting right next to me about five feet away and watching me and I said to the conductor I said to him Would you please tell my sister that I'm sight reading this. He says he knows I told him already. So because it was so difficult you know and I played it and he comes over to me he says go to people who aren't you. So just how do you know he says I can tell by what your bone. He had a famous ball school schooling that was anybody could tell this Who way and I said Yes I said Maestro I show practice at night before we leave tomorrow. So you don't have to practice too much he says just look at some of the passages but you haven't got a natural.
Then I joined the orchestra became concertmaster for the whole tour and I loved every minute of it and then I was glad they offered me the position as concertmaster and they wanted naturally I wouldn't have allowed any with the other one a second associate concertmaster. I told my father about it he says. I was dreaming for years before you were born to die you're going to the greatest soul of violence or your mother going to join any orchestra and that settled it. I didn't know you were in your late teens or years but just watch just approaching 20. Had you any opportunity at the Royal Academy to conduct this that you're all still in your first class one year we had conducting. And apparently it came very natural to me because you see what we had to do We had to play in the orchestra and play for the other student conductors so I was concertmaster in the orchestra and they always looked at the conductor said My God how stupid he doesn't know how to give them
that you know just 10 years old that's all I was. So of course I got my my and I had to conduct it seemed so easy. Do you remember your first tour with this student orchestra there. Yes the first symphony by Beethoven and you know Tom Brady is not easy even now you know that you did you'd conduct all four movements. Yes of course that was all they had to do all of us at first Beethoven first then we had a Mozart symphony minus 40 and. It was very interesting when you look back because we just did it because we had the credits but I actually did as a lot of Ligny a lot of good I get I know that in my later career. Did you think then that you would like to be a conductor. It would never occur to you that you were still under the wing of your father very strongly and I'm going to be a great violence or
something. Well and it was when I never became one. It was with this objective in mind that you came to the United States for the first time. Oh yes I was brought over. Would you tell us about that. There was a concert tour which had been offered. Yes I was concertizing. This was after the war already but we were not welcome. Of the of those parts of the world in the French and other countries you know to form their own country. Yes. So we had to stay in that part and I moved to Vienna to study more and also to concertizing. And one of these concerts a gentleman came over to me introduced himself to me says I'd like you to come to America. I'm a manager. He wasn't but he called me to my manager. Actually was a bootlegger and that's how he made his living. But I did know that and
I didn't speak a word of English. We spoke German then turned out he spoke also Hungary and so he brought me to this country and with another manager whom he picked up somewhere. But I get on TV of 300 concerts in one year. I was almost 21 past 21 and it was it's it's nothing. Because there were three hundred sixty five days so I could easily complete the other cancers. And everybody said it's ridiculous. But anyway I took it. I wanted to come to America. That was my dream since I was 14 years old. I didn't care how I get away. Just come to this country of my dreams and it was the story I had from way back from the Declaration of Independence I know it in Hungary and I know in English too. But it was so important for me to come to this great new world about which I had so much. And this gave video opportunity a perfectly American gave me and I feel like a
movie. And I knew very well those cancers probably will never take place they never did. And after three weeks of starvation and playing for every manager in New York you know it was 1921. Last November when I get cut here expect I spent my twenty second birthday on the boat. And don't ask me what class we came over here and I think you've just told us. Yeah but I was sick from the minute I got on the boat until we got up and still had to give concerts almost almost every day for the benefit of the whole while we were on route our route under 100 on the boat and the benefit of the dead sailors widows and the. After three weeks it was obvious that without money you can get and these men had nothing. They never had any and every nickel in my pocket. Walking abroad when shall I take the subway home should I buy a cup of coffee with two rolls and
butter. So I decided I'm going to buy two horse and a cup of coffee and then I saw an old friend of mine an old colleague from Budapest singer. And she said why don't you play from the start up here to the capital thing. I don't want to play in a movie house. She says a wonderful orchestra. It's a great symphony orchestra the second best August 3 New York and it is 52 weeks engagement and you get a very good salary and she forced me to go and play. Not starvation but this lady this wonderful lady and I went and played for him I remember we played the greater sum out of it was my audition if you please. It was that I'd be playing the piano. I said you're crazy you don't belong here you should play concerts and I know that music happy but I also have to eat. So he gave me a job on the set and stand last time five days later. If I had a concert muster he says hey you blonde come over here and just as I have a lot of
blond hair. So I didn't know what would happen. This concert was the beginning of my career and seven months later one of the conductors became ill. Incidentally Meanwhile I played for such little so as to have a name by Strauss twenty eight times a week. Oh great Scott. And if the fame lasted Stu we separated another 20 times and you know I have heard that when you were playing as a member of this orchestra the Capitol Theater that you not only memorized your own part but somehow you managed to also to memorize parts of the score the score that was being performed so that when suddenly you were called on to conduct Mr. Right he was ill. Thank you no notice conducted by minute afternoon's concert without this guy it was the book you recall what it was. That's
Tchaikovsky Fourth Symphony I don't never forget it. And the Sylvia Molly now had you started this with the idea that you may conduct had you know learned it. Well you know I just knew every score as we learned as we rehearsed it automatically went through me. You see we studied harmony counterpoint and everything and composition I was a pupil of Cordelia for for many years we studied we did we knew everything it was part of the curriculum. Well all music students study hard every one of us have a limit but they don't memorize scores this way. How are you for this particular very special asset here that you with such ease because you normally conduct I think if I may speak about that I had to remember every Because I can today I can play almost 30 violin concertos if I would only practice without music. This is only thirty five years after I last time I mean is
is this a visual memory that you have that is something you can see it's visual and everything else you see discord this with this sense of pitch absolute pitch that you have also helps must be a certain correlation between in the here that very true very true because it helps the combination of both. I do think the memorization of the score is important to a conductor. Here the answer would be a yes and no. After all every conductor is expected to know a score whether you memorize that or not. Actually I mean conducting from memory. Yes I know I know exactly what I want to get to it I know just what you demand. And conducting for more from memory the works. The classic style romantics and early moderns to me it is a tremendous help because I don't have to be bothered with music looking
for notes looking for better use of cars conductors daughter. Just don't be just just to sort of remind themselves where they were at what happens and what they are and if for a moment they are in doubt they just quickly look down. Most conductors but we have a new school of composition which is a very complicated extremely complicated I thought to myself Toscanini who was my musical God still is even though he's no longer with us. I told him my story I know you have the greatest memory in the whole world in the history of the world. Well he tried to push it aside modestly but we know that it was a truth. And of course the memory that he had I don't know of any human being having every day or having had it before or after him since him. But I said to him if you get those very complicated compositions. And in those days they weren't as complicated as they are today. There's rather a score right on my desk here which hasn't hasn't got a note in it. It's all lines that's that's a kind of music a musical reading we never
never learn. It was just on and Tuscany laughed and he said to me car Ormandy it just don't conduct such music because that's not music. But when you face the compositions of this you are forced with just three weeks ago I conducted a new work by a Philadelphia composer I don't know what he's for there was anyways professor of the University of Pennsylvania George Roxburgh and he had all the modern work called the zodiac. It's a cycle of 12 pieces. They are so complicated and so difficult and and not only the rich may kill it which in itself is terribly difficult if you take if I took my eyes off a bar I would have been lost. It's so difficult. But it's all complicated because the instrumentation is an upbeat in the pickle to be followed by a trombone scumming important people of thought on a 30 second beat.
Now if they can have a piccolo or 30 feet away when we are out of luck. I mean it's so complicated music these kind of music of course we are seeing a fact I'm quite sure nobody would conduct for my money and certainly safer to use a score for this is in traditional notation. This is a traditional notation but very difficult. How do you feel about this kind of music of rock very good and this whole company and company. There is such great competition especially good and in texture. I have learned a score I think for her. Once a year ago in the summer time which I do during the summer. Then I put it aside put every one of them until I need them. Then we had unfortunately with a strike and it was going to be played on the second week so I was hoping the stock would be over and I really learned it again it was a new piece for
the thing. And then unfortunately we had to postpone it another year and this year I did the same thing last summer and again just before we performed in December. And strangely because I know my New York audiences after all I've been playing in New York for over thirty six years now 37 years as New York audiences which would have rejected 15 20 years ago applauded the Philadelphia audience as every one of them especially young people just applauded him and bravo for the team. I didn't hear one hear this one but 20 years ago I would have heard nothing but this is a great development that should answer your question no. I'd like to ask a question directed toward your attitude toward this particular piece. It could be any piece of art sort of like what kind of feeling from the heart you do have and you come to the work of the sort he can't do that.
I had to go through an emotional transition. I had to readjust my musical knowledge and history after we were brought out. Very Thought we got was it. I had to adjust myself and first it was difficult. I confess I said I'm going to play this I don't understand it and I don't love it and have a great orchestra. You know I don't mind to tell you they're very vocal in their likes and dislikes especially dislikes and just for fun the obvious he's after anything that it seemed you were just jokingly. And I always say don't say anything until you host a three or four because they love it at the end and really learn to love the contemporary language in music making. I still have my big questions about electronics I think before you ask me what I was about to ask but yeah I have great doubts. I think the zick should be created a human being as
humans human mouths not they're not used to electronic instruments. Do you think that the time will ever come when the symphony orchestra as a medium of artistic expression will become obsolete. Never never. As long as there are Mozart and Bach and Leto and Hyde and many other great music will live I'm convinced. Maybe I'm entirely wrong and you probably come to my grave and say Ormandy we're crazy because they are still very much alike. But it'll be long after I'm dead I really can't I'm convinced that as long as there are geniuses like Mozart and Bach and Beethoven and how music will live as long as we allow it to live and bring it to life because the field is so new at this point it's hard to assess to see too
far into the future because what may happen at least one of the things I can see possibly happening is that the electronic production of songs will give possible new dimension to the. String wins. That's a very passive in this sense because in addition to you know the way you ferryman is now integrated in certain scores I have really hopes that it will make me remember you see we met this new situation on route some 20 years ago when some composers wrote for jazz band and Symphony Orchestra with Lieberman and that piece of Lieberman was offered to me for first performance and I had the score he's a very good friend of mine and I like his piece. I like him very much and I play other pieces he's got many wonderful works. But he tried something
experimented with it and I said to Mr. Lieberman I just can see it. And. The two will never mix they cannot mix but and by the nature of the beast they cannot mix. And he says well I want to prove to you that you are wrong and you know who got the first performance because I unfortunately just didn't have the courage to say it and I think you own Fritz Reiner. And I don't remember how the reactions were but I know he disappeared from there. Do you have that opportunity for chance remember the review of the Reiner recording which appeared in The Saturday Review and I shouldn't attribute but I think perhaps it was urban cauldrons review and the caption on it was after it was Lieberman. It sounds like all OK these marvelous in that you're listening to a conversation with Eugene or Mandy with Aaron Parsons and George St..
A conversation with
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#9 (Reel 1)
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Identifier: 69-12-9 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
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