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Conversation with Hans Schmidt is that 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 a professor of music theory at Northwestern University's School of Music and program annotator for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. And George though I'm program director for Zenith radio corporation's serious music station WEAA FM in Chicago. Mr. Parsons and Mr. Stone have as their guest on today's program the Berlin born conductor Mr. Hans Schmidt that although he has been a prolific composer it is as a conductor that he has won his international reputation in his early years he conducted some of the smaller German opera houses and eventually in 1935 became the first conductor of the State Opera in Homburg and later Director of Music at the Berlin opera
in 1945 he founded the North German Radio Symphony Orchestra of Hamburg known as the NDR of which he is still the principal conductor. He has also been principal conductor of the Stockholm Philharmonic and has been in great demand as a guest conductor in the major opera houses and concert halls throughout the world. Now here is George St.. Mr. Smith first of all be I say that it's a great pleasure to have this opportunity to continue with you and the conversation we began earlier in the year and in our last conversation. You mentioned that you had recently conducted your 100 different orchestra. I think it would be interesting to know if you think orchestras have distinctive personalities in the way that conductors have distinctive personalities or soloists. Do you think this is true. Yes absolutely. All of us have. I
think sometimes national condition you know I guess the sounds of the German notice that a French artist other than the name is August or perhaps it's the question. Of the most elite fall and August. So when you are listening to English August those perhaps not so satisfied as in good fun. Vienna in what respect do you think the difference would be apparent. Perhaps here the example you say have a comparison Continental artist.
Mostly we play and look. But on the other side I have the good and they all kissed us on the continental shelf. The Middle Europe yeah history and I have less power so I spoke his forefinger once but he was pleased with the wonderful are playing like chamber music to play that would be sensible. But he's not just tangs gave to us was I. This is an especially in England. He and I made things quite other. I must say because this is another song many nationalities out here together so you can't say it's an American all guess you could say it isn't Continental you
understand that's a very interesting point. As a matter of fact I don't know that we've ever gone into it before. But when one looks over the roster of say the Chicago orchestra it immediately becomes very apparent that what Maestro has said is true. You find the Czechs and good Germans and got in the US and some Italians and so on. And it is. It like America is kind of a melting pot. I have a little yeah yeah. But this perhaps to come. Talking Point of our speaking. You can find in the great American orchestras all the qualities together of Jack you know. Yes you think this is part of this movie because of the musicians themselves who make up the orchestra the brass players the
German orchestra have been trained according to certain methods of German teachers when the woodwinds particularly when say in the L.A. have a certain particular quality sound because of the instruction that they have had which is perhaps a national characteristic. Also this is carried into the orchestra. Yes but in America where you have a melting pot there is no unified way that the oboe sounds you know. Oh it's all the brass. Yeah I think you can hear this many parents off this many Italian friends. But here you have the one of us could be German brass but never any Tell us when you go into Scala to listen one of the 10 you know
of course that play best of all. But if you know my standing by Richard Farleigh. And you will find the process a little bit too had not power. This is not spam or this. If you listen Oprah she talks have you can do Wagner and book and big brass things of DAWs. So let's just so I think by little and little the orchestras here lose their national quality and come together to win over national quality in your national Yeah internationally. Yeah but if you follow it you must have all the best.
What effect do you think a conductor might have on an orchestra say such as the Chicago orchestra if he has a French national. Point of view which he brings to the orchestra or a German let's say a Russian. What effect will the conductor have in shaping the sound of the orchestra. I have an ex perience about 30 years ago. Sabotage one of the greatest conductors of all time and he was an sot of success of Toscanini Scala came to Belize and conducted us to a food bank lends a billion film on it. Barry if you don't want to go always in my Jewish voice who we see in the concepts concocted for me perhaps the greatest has one did I want a quiet other then
back great. The orchestra was as you know one of the best in the world. Yes. Now can you tell when you're just a loss. Quite a lot. Different from the way I don't get underfoot why I'm different and this was a funny thing he did the things while flipping off walls event he did such things its nature must have been Italian saying so but he did false. One of the most just pieces. It was quiet. I did and and I thought it was a good piece. He was such a good conductor that he could change it. Listen I told the whole
fall men had bits off that there was talk about the costs of asphalt and I guess if he has not then. But the billion this was your question is right and conductor can change it. And August I would like to ask a question on that point. Having conducted 100 different orchestras. Yeah I miss parts of the world. These obviously are all good orchestras but how many would you say are great orchestras and how do you distinguish a truly great orchestra from a good competent ensemble. It was good I was.
You mean the dividends to be a great kiss and a good cultist. Yes OK so I must be always a good orchestra but it just can't be all but it's a great orchestra guy let's have two great guest us folk that is. I mean that you talk about some funny for me a great orchestra and you know if you know Nick Babs is the main difference between the boys that Vienna is in just line and blow and play only insightful and subscribing concepts I think concepts only holds season was no 12 hours of concert because I'm tired. Yeah so I know the 12 programs. Yes all 24 of the arguments compiled on the
test. Yes and I think yes but the whole delay to get back to also see this orchestra is a great. I know many things that I did all the big you know if you end up in the morning mist and I came two weeks ago me fellows fist in one week and very different and it was a great joy to play even more chamber music. And then the great things this can be the best August the Vienna Philharmonic. Yeah. One of the really great artist but on his other side the police so on interested in the music. So I never can think that he can play and
I must say again perhaps it's just as important for you to know you I customed on this orchestra you know they're very good. But you asked Boy. Then I have the impression you don't know how good this August is you know how often he you know I know them and I think eight years of playing disciplined. He's marvelous in comparison with his other orchestras inspired off the many quite different tapes under the musicians and the moment of playing there. I only remember often an overall body is not missed was on the channel and the violence and this is astonishing on that it is very very difficult to
find in German August us because the duality of a musician is just doubling the whole they are more assertive personalities. Yeah yeah. And here then you suddenly can just play pianissimo so nobody can see how it is possible that sitting in a seventies thanks. The owners Charlie and double basses. I just sound like one string quartet from five five men. Yes it's my list you must do this. Pianissimo it's much more difficult and needs much more force as fortissimo you must take away the ball must be on one hair. That's astonishing on every post. IPL concept but
not many of us ever will. They vote and their reaction is so fast as I'm sometimes asked him how is it possible. I think of only one thing I'm afraid. S Because see if you make it. They told me quite quite simply you are a professional. We are professional and I think and have. Well that's fine. Granted both parties make that corner of the game but I'm pathetic. Mr. Smith as you move from one of these 100 orchestras to another as a guest conductor do you have a particular image of sound in your own head in your own mind which you will try to achieve when you face the orchestra say for the first time. Yes I have. But sometimes I would be surprised
by the unexpected sound and I accept it because it's just a speciality of this August. Very good. OK so sometimes Japanese orchestra so funny thing you think because it's got the point. And yeah Valka going back in when the orchestras want to play and the players have a good but not quite good enough. It's not yet been there now. You're not speaking of the quality of the playing but rather the feeling for the literature is this what you mean. Often it is it seems just sorta quality they have in this column of toll it's a part of the VDU a must have. The British love this thing. Look for Mozart the play a very much better then
they have the elegance and much better than for Beethoven was there is there now and then it comes to same. But Tchaikovsky is very good. Perhaps they came to the ball and I don't know five. That or the Iraqi mob was feeding him and well this is it. It's a sort of near Oriental awesome. Yeah most interesting musical life. If you go back for for just a second here to what you said a moment ago when we were talking about good orchestras and great orchestra that I inferred from your statement that in your judgment a good orchestra can on occasion be a great orchestra and that perhaps this would be the person leading at the time an orchestra is sometimes capable of
playing. Well of course not usually Yeah yeah yeah. Schmidt is a data Toscanini can go to an orchestra of that kind. And the Orchestra will play for them. Yeah better than that orchestra can play. Yeah yeah yeah. This was often mentioned in connection with Toscanini and singers so frequently Toscanini would take a comparatively unknown singer or one who who was known but didn't have so great a reputation and he would inspire that singers to form better than he could. The ways of writing and you think conductors do this with history and just suppose you must have of course and you must have that another thing where the balance just has imagination. The
piece of cause and you must give and take on them. You must let them play. So for me and I have all the feeling we can make music. It must always ice in the middle of the conductor as must be and then. Can you have a date. OK Mr Obvious just decides only so all you must have like Toscanini ed for. Oh no Paul them one week they houses them and it's all about what the conductor wants sometimes. But
the plot is wonderful to know this. Oh boys don't whine. I mean it only then accompanies please play this wonderful don't I not theme and we went this mama's how the orchestra was protection for his mob just let this thing with a dog test its some human qualities I would like them to talk about rehearsal because this is when you do what it is necessary to do to give us a performance such as that on the other night.
How do you begin to rehearsal. Oh I believe the BS o and BS of the later the better because that knows and can play. For two I must have a question for Mark. What do you do. And I contact them to play and then the movement stops someone's on of this and this and that I have a feeling of it on the boat about much more technical things. I'm dancing then. As placebo feeling. And this comes later and I don't. Yeah it's not necessary to peek
over something I remember when I played first time the second somebody by bombs. In the rehearsal I played the whole movement without interruption. And it was my last performance just as August I was clapping their hands after that. I want them. It's not necessarily something that I think it could be other but it's not something important to be just one detail and then a line down the line that you know. Do you rely upon gestures and facial expressions.
But I say this first. Playing through that first movement of a Brahms Second you were communicating with the orchestra even though you didn't stop them and speak to them. Now you use gestures. Yeah of course. And for YEAH YEAH YEAH. But yeah they must know what I'm hoping to listen. And I must show them. And this is one of experience of many many guest conduct this year. Actually we saw a lot of music. And so it's very difficult to them and you must be very clear. Intention there was sure a limit. Emotions must be cleared you can count on something. But he and I make a nice monkey business.
They tell your boss you must conduct must contact Very with passion and on like a performance and the fact that the housing market is and point is less good. Let's speak about sometimes peace you know to what you said the same to me. I did that I think you know there's this wonderful second movement of the boy in this and I thought be BOEM BOEM BOEM BOEM BOEM in this old school printed boink you take only and the climax. We take each node one bow. That's all I had nothing else to say for the whole movement
and we've played this piece. But you can do this only this great orchestra when you are going to introduce a new composition to the orchestra such as that I had seen when I had when you do quite I think of then I know what is technically difficult and I began to say only the violins this sometimes and this and that. So now let's play that together. Till then it was yesterday I had one off and said well that he had all things in mind I told them. It's bad off the tee off this piece. Is this a piece you have conducted a number of times. Yes.
Do you feel that the time allotted given to you. For me her soul to prepare for a concert is sufficient for your needs. You mean you are in the country or with his own orchestra. So here in his arms he is short 10 minutes before. That's a very difficult piece. When I have this piece in The Post I need one more. I thought this time it was it was difficult to come out. As for this concert but I could in this case begin last week Haydn symphonies so there was a boiling sense all taken care of and so on. George was forever
touchwood value values that the sad thing now in our home morning and that as a result as I see this as I think it is it's in now because the orchestras are so professional with your own orchestra and how do you have adequate rehearsal there with your you know on tracks you know much more. That's a bad look. Oh OK you know that radio just a lot. No don't tell one full name and we have to dub a concert to pants a whole bunch of it and I have in every new thing. And on the other side
we have not such a bitch. All of it is plate. Wow. Like these great August that the play all week three times at least public concerts and so I need more time for the houses and I can stay in Section and when the sections a bisection h and then together and so I can more. Well look at this is this year necessary. Well now you say they they perform 12 double down through town. Are these public concert subscription concerts as a subscription concept and then TV in addition to this. Yes they have their
commitments for broadcast. Yes cause may be made on tape. Many things and have other concerts big studio life broadcast and so it's quite interesting we play very interesting things back to get aid. It's not soul often by sampling the Ninth Symphony Orchestra played at least one second. We play often not five not nine simply. Also family is good because we have to do it at the inquest think that mixed with the gate.
Well then in the concerts of the war let's for example just say the Berlin Philharmonic. The audiences attending those concerts expect to hear all nine of the Beethoven symphony at least every couple of seasons. Yes yes of course that I go to apply also to the art of the drums. But you know so in that sense the repertory is perhaps somewhat more limited in its scope. Yeah and that of your rock history. Yeah yeah yeah they have a bunch. After five years again the past the hour. You must be like you know we date of course but it must be. Because it's because you know some of the old musicians are not there they are young and you want and so
then you're constantly introducing new works into this 12 week. C And what what are some of the new works which you have done say or you plan to do this coming New Year. Yeah look we have quite a modern thing. They're more experimental modern music contemporary and the other group of concerts they are public to and have only so in yours things so. And oh is this your series that you guys know you know that's not anything that is. Do you conduct these. No no no it's and all of these blazes come intends to play are still
causing cameras so I don't know. But I have my ear for my taste and feeling believing in my limitations here. It's the end of the music for me. And now begins the noise and I'm not interested I find all this childish for me I got because of the violin on the beat. Wonderful instruments on the backside this is childish and it's not so and so I go I have my am I steps it can take me against many things. And it is true then they studied and played one week of this music. They can
play next Yeah finds them funny. So if you Nessa from music green music is gone then only the listening let's make things as soul defeat good and sort of express your own it is not possible and probably not necessary. And so it's very different good to play or even music. After this experiment I know I am never in my public concerts. Just like hand and bat would be showing that you know always Dobbins nationals even Penderecki ice man
who just loves salt. This can be accepted by the public and it's not so uncomfortable for the No. I take it as true that so far as you're concerned what is important is not the label that the man wears but what he has to say in his music. Because you are performing contemporaries and contemporaries who are regarded in this country as among the Ivan guard so. It isn't any kind of arbitrary line you draw and say well I won't play anything that was written after so-and-so. Oh you know what's in the music. Yeah yeah yeah. But you would see this and it's fun for me the most gifted gentleman composer who
he is. It's not a club that's on the decline of noise and then he makes his own music very cautious because he deserted the club just a few years although now you know that I'm starting to love is not for him is I My music is although I must write as I feel not as you tell me you think this is why he went to Italy. This is I think a lot of office that's where he was and his you know when I saw one of what was in the wrong room you know. No it's just clever. But when he comes he has one simple need six mistakes and the second. Yeah that's just now
some fellows perform and they beg young pianists or something. But if the content is very different God and I hope you're listening to a conversation with Hans Schmidt as her step but they're on Parsons I'm George Stone. We pons 10 seconds for a station identification. Now resuming the conversation with Hans Schmidt stat here is Aaron Parsons you know not only unfair to him Mr. Schmidt It's usenet but I imagine in your career and I'm thinking particularly in
Europe you can come into contact with many of the eminent composers and you have played their works have you some experiences for example have you talked with regard Strauss. Yeah I mean I had them opportunity to speak to him the last time before he died and was so happy for you. It's the Yemeni government. Yes I miss out on this most wonderful experience because we have been a small party and you could be quiet and he told his son. It's docked up on stalls. He named us now 60. We've raised it give me as it stands call and he gets going and he has a very
nice you know. This one facsimile scrawl. And then we went through the whole thing. And sometimes Joan only has one of her long hands taped on the place and we knew what he was I was on as well. So one of two let's people came and he said so seeing of his feeling about this and this in the end on why SS and so I was so he touched this great man was so devoted to him for him and perhaps protective even greater.
It was when he was I was kid. Tell me what do you think you see. Great just losing. Written in the last hundred years on he dog will be taught to go to a demo. Well then let me see. Yes but you have the big things I don't need a leg that wasn't covered. Yeah yeah and so he thought oh yes I would because it was my pleasure. I don't know it but I think the good will but I think it is a very interesting point of view. It would seem also to be in contradiction with the kind of impression that we have been given at times of Strauss.
The fact that the euro held and Laban Strauss himself that in the domestic symphony he was this was the shrouds family and certain writers have led us to believe that that he was quite an egocentric man and I think it's very interesting that he would make a comment of this kind. Granted Eminem was the greatest work. One might expect that he would have to wonder how Strauss works. But of course with this reverence for Wagner another element of his personality that is interesting I think is the marvelous sense of interpretation he brought to the Mozart of all if that's possible to add up part of his Mozart and Bach up of it don't do about it. I think both. Well of course this is again part of the picture that we we see as we talk with those of you who come from that
musical background. The Wagner literature had a profound influence on you in your youth your very early youth. Yeah but there is this this Catholicity that you have demonstrated in your performances through all the years you are equally happy with that. I'm assuming that you think all hell yeah the beautiful loving that I was Wagner Mozart Wow I'm so pale Yeah yeah and so did this school and this I guess is part of it. But I get the impression you don't play anything you don't like you don't believe in you know I don't even know that i am i haven't you know I don't even get me that sure. I don't fall much because
every assumption is some time I'm seeing a movement or some part of a movement. Well as I say not one bad instrument is not faults of craftsmanship. Yeah well this is so just me. Sometimes just mean value goes to and did really great. They had both even be two of them. His music was on you we had to find a new sort of instrumentation and we had this. Then he was deaf and he had no more control. What he had written how his was the instrumentation. It was a tragedy and I consider conflict of sorts. Yeah yeah yeah yeah. I thought
it was only at back with the immense off knows it might see just a sketch. Oh yeah I know. Thank you Senators. Nobody could could one who could hear him. And so this is an extra one. But other big. But instrumentation and fog were just monitoring. If you have it the time the heart is ill and they don't know who comes in and after this and you have a kid one after so you create a string and off that list and I do think why did I learn a thing in my eyes doesn't that isn't there
and for me I would as well. Then came about was this is you know there's this wonderful piece don't you wrote those 24 years. Twenty nine years younger than it is. He was 24 when he had this music. But he is going patient. The fact is on the haughty man Maestro us us think oh as if this is indeed interesting. It's like the genius who was born full blown and full grown. Yeah and do you think that in his later years he turned to a more economical means of expression because he did feel
that he had had said everything he had to say with the big forces. Yes. Yeah and it's funny. One of the plough on the shuttle. He loved this. And it is a very problematic think it's just too long it's crowded some wonderful modern things in it but so holds you soon mixed. There was a 30. It was not a cage I think was the point. Is there any precedent in Europe for performing the love music from front to shop as a concert piece. I say you know perhaps now I know in many sometimes especially just I was concert
then as it should be. That is it is a dream of see. But you know I was impressed. So I walk a piece faster and know this one of you know some Valley very nice things. Yes yes. Don't do it. So random it seems to be one of the composers who is somewhat neglected. Yeah. Is he so neglected in Germany. And did you know him it of course and I know him and it was a clever man and a great master of his art and he was in the 20s
young man than naughty boy of the music you know. Open house you know and so like the opossum given us in there then yeah. And. Again everything they wanted on the sly was very funny and the cow do yeah. One of these very good book of mine and not this my just yeah it's still given there but not in this country. I did it last summer in the middle of the bottom of the Humber and I was I'm a go go I came here and at that I saw I was in Montreal
Expos and then we went to the Metropolitan Opera for me has as much first class music. The end is one of them. This is a symphony of causes. I don't remember after the performance came down stand to me and was thrilled when this piece he told me he often did this symphony. Yes and some parts of the singing and ideas and scenes. But the whole Never. That's what I want. I think it is a good piece. It was very fortunate for him it that
he had to immigrate from Germany. And when he came back he wanted time went over him and he couldn't find a solution for his own book in the new time. Yes. And so some of his concerts violin consent. General Caldwell nice pieces for temperaments and other but the home life of him and his. Bucking even conducting was a little bit this last post was not the intimate and the development of his genius was a little bit disappointing. Oh how much of what he produced
during his period away from Germany became known in Germany all at the time. Yes. Yeah after all after 45 he was not allowed to be paraded posts for things to fall instead. Just this my dad my love. When me off though this was a robbery because he was looking to play the format. Yeah I thought this just was quite. Then he was then not at all an ex women are all good music of his time and I jotted it down in the very early part of the Nazi
regime. Yeah yeah you know that I really want to do you know how to perform and we had this call and all have been this was the symphony of the Op No no no opera the opera. After this you couldn't come back. It was he came back but he was of course and you know yeah yeah. About 11 years. Yeah. You might have been a wonderful teacher and you know it was you know it's got all of this country you know. Yeah yeah yeah. You know I am Mr. Smith. The other evening I've observed that the Strauss-Kahn you conducted with out of school you did of course he was in school or when you and Mr. Frankl people from go
for the bar talk and you had the score there although as nearly as I could tell you you simply flip the pages I don't think you ever looked at it when you did the Sibelius First. But I'd like to know what your attitude is on this business of conducting from memory either some works that you prefer to conduct without a score simply because the scores is a nuisance to you. Yes. Look I conduct like the give you simply value of i said. And so I had to do some things by a hot fall. And well I'm too easy on the white flesh I have to go I can't wait. But if not there's a sad to have this call then I can spam my moles.
It's not like I'm never around in my life but if I could contact that piece back then I did it but it didn't gel and now I don't want to know some of this and that's it I never did. Never with the intent of. Yeah it was just go on about your own listening habits. Now if I may mention something I have an impression of as we were at a dinner party. Some months ago and there was music being played and you asked that it be turned off. And my impression was that you feel if music is going to be played people should sit down and listen to what am I correct in this. Yes and I'm just not because the music is too holy to speak that. No
but I can't beat them I must stop at the moment. But it's something while I'm not speaking because my partner knows you're listening. Yeah let's just jump on all the music just one of them sht. No listen this is this isn't science is it. Most generally think from my use of them and I went out with a small coffee cup it very ugly. And the plate just new music. It's so disturbing for me that poor girl couldn't have a malt told me I must listen to that moment as the second planet is hauling.
It was just tomorrow. So you ignored the young lady. Yeah yeah. Oh no no no. Do you enjoy listening to other conductors performances of works that are prominent in your repertoire. But I have not enough time to it if I am not to conduct order to all the hoes. I love to be at home and I often make many many hours a day. So it is quite interesting. It is sometimes disappointing your own performances you mean when you're young you know even. But that too many technical things. The halls are too loud and you're bound to a lot of than eye contact. While my
plays and so let you know when you have to conduct and many calls and tapes immediately after conducting go you must listen. And so this is a modeless. The impossibility to control yourself. But you know this job is more failure but it's just not amusing to listen to and often of cause but sometimes much more. Critic You must be hated by your own lives. How have I done that.
A conversation with...
Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt, part two
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Episode Description
The second part of an interview with Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt, a German conductor and composer.
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This series provides listeners with an opportunity to hear musicians talk about their own music, as well as other related issues.
Schmidt-Isserstedt, Hans, 1900-1973
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Host: Parsons, Ehrend
Host: Stone, George
Interviewee: Schmidt-Isserstedt, Hans, 1900-1973
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Chicago: “A conversation with...; Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt, part two,” 1968-10-16, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed October 23, 2021,
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