A conversation with; #2 (Reel 1)
Conversation with an airline. 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 WEF am in Chicago. Mr. Parsons and Mr. Stone have as their guest on today's program the music director and conductor of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Mr. 610 Erlang. He was formerly music director of the Royal Opera Stockholm and in recent years has made many guest appearances with American orchestras including the Los Angeles Philharmonic the Minneapolis Chicago and Philadelphia orchestras. Now here is George Stone. Maestro early Let's begin our conversation by discussing your
youth. You were born in Milan or was it. That's right. Third city of Sweden. Is this near Stockholm. No. It's about 400 miles south. It's very close to Copenhagen isn't it wiser just across that little water. So for us when I lived there Copenhagen was the place to go. And I grew up in the city and spent my life until I was 18 years old. Did you begin your musical studies there. Yes I did. Of course I started pretty early piano playing it for four years of age and I remember I had a very very severe teacher a ruthless man. I can't recall it now but my parents told me that I used to cry every time. But now I'm very grateful because your parents insist that you take lessons. Well as a matter of fact I can hardly remember myself but I think what happened was that
I showed interest in playing we had a little organ you know those little things at home. And I used to stop playing by myself you know. By the year and so they put me in school and gave me this teacher and I have a faint memory of course of a vague but I remember it made me work very very hard. Were any members of your family musical. Well my father was going to become a musician. My grandfather was originally conductor in Sweden but then it went to a matter of fact he went to New York. He spent his last years in New York and it as a piano tuner and apparently had a great team in New York City as a piano teacher. Was his name illing. Yes yes no yes my father was going to be a while this but I had an accident had one finger cut off. So I took care of it and that's where I inherited
whatever I had musical talent. What was your first formal musical training. Well the first formal musical training of course was piano music is going to work and that went on and I think I was a pretty good pianist at that age when I was I mean the school nine 10 11 I used to play a lot of things. Also performing with orchestras and great concertos I think I did that those years some 25 difficult shit with orchestra. This is a normal Yes in the early years and then after graduating from school I went to Stockholm and I started studying all sorts of musical subjects at the Royal Academy of Music which it was at the time the only major school for music in Sweden and. I stayed there for four years studying organ playing so just studying all sort of things fairly compliant. Yes violin and
cello and and so on but mainly the piano playing. One of the dictionary lets you haven't studied composition along with piano and I was wondering how extensive Have you gone into composition. Very little really I can say nothing because I discovered that my talent was if I have any more for it for performing them for creating music I mean composing. So then I gave up I did some occasional music for a movie some pictures at the time I do remember that. But then I decided that was enough for bad music without me adding to it. At the time you were in Stockholm studying you were also making professional appearances as a pianist. Yes. How long did you continue to concertizing. As a pianist. Well those years I did a lot of piano playing
at the same time as I began conducting studies which was about 29 30 years ago and after I finished my examinations and degrees and all that in the Music Academy I went to the opera house. And became a cueball and I put it to a coach. And pretty soon after that I began conducting the Opera House and this took more and more of my time. And this business is I became a regular conductor of the of this place. I found less and less time to keep my piano playing. So therefore the number of performances I did this a pianist of course look less and less. And now I like to give it up. Hundred percent. I have to basically play piano even though this country says I came here. This particular works like the end of its four temperaments and things which I
conduct from his piano. I definitely don't with it but there are some major orchestras in this country too. But I wouldn't like to say that I am a pianist anymore. Well you started with Carl being is that before you went to the opera in Stockholm. Well it was about the same time what happened was that unfortunately this world war broke out and just before that happened I already had gotten a very fine scholarship and a close friend of mine who was a very famous tenor. I don't place recall a name tossed around. Yes yes. He said he was the big star at the dressed now opera in Germany and we had already made plans for me to go there and I didn't like to give it up so I went along at the beginning 1940 which was a very difficult time and it got to very interesting time also. And
I at the time thought that Justin probably was the finest opera house in the world for a student. Somebody wants to work. So I went there and that was when there was music director and I didn't really study with him I rather worked under him as a coach. But that's the best way of study. I can think of and I worked really hard and stayed there for about four five months. But then things became so difficult because of the war and all that. I just had to leave. And as a matter of fact I remember I went back the day before that war broke out between Russia and Germany I left with the last boat back to Sweden. I was very very happy when I woke up and saw that I had just been seen as I imagine it was and yes it sounds really dramatic. So was this before or after your study without any warning. Well again I
never really started with false. I worked with these people. I said they would have the worst that was used to come to us conducting Stockholm in those years it was about. No that was after. That was later 40 to 43. He used to be a guest conductor and come for a six weeks period at a time and used to to do a production of a different office like billion stimulus songs that remember very much this one I memorized the whole thing and it worked very much with him daily. And also later we met and so on. That's the way I started. Yes well of course as you have pointed out you know this is a formal study or not it is a very real sense study. Yes yes it is. What other conductors would you say had a definite influence on your career. I spent a year in London in 1946.
I live there and that was also on a scholarship basis and I spent 24 hours a day with music and music and decisions and met a lot of interesting people conductors and soloists. Some of them are names you know very well i'm sure do you remember about cults. Indeed yes of course he's dead now. I lived for a while with him. I was very much with. Also with me who was very helpful to me. We went through all the friendship a trip back and he gave me a lot of interesting information about changes in the Debussy Arbet scores made by the composers after what was printed and I have a lot of valuable information on that subject. While some I also met a lot that year gave me the origin of the changes and the hottest months they were cut off by Staples score to half of his golfing out.
Yes which he had directed from Of Mice and things like that. That's just the way I started. Really these are the sort of things that don't appear in the scores and which seem to require this personal connection to pass them on. Do you know if there's a possibility that for example the scores might be published with these changes which is you can hear us in some cases I think they already are printed. I just recently recorded in Frankfurt to. La Mer and it turned out that we had two different scores both printed by the same publisher. Very different very different and if you listen to it two recordings in that piece you will be amazed to hear the differences in the protections. Some scholars have to have a course in the horse and trumpets some scores but of course leave them out and different numbers of Parsons on
that was a very interesting and especially with our summary I went through a lot of these things and it is definite that these changes go well were made in the U.S. law mirror for example that these changes were made by the U.S. himself. Yes definitely definitely. And I can easily understand this is happening to the forces all the time. Also today you have your write a composition and you hear it for the first time and you realize this is not exactly what you had in mind. So you make the changes afterwards. This happens all the time. Of course some of the very famous school problems of course exist within the music of Bruckner where he was not always the one who who introduced the changes and this leads to just unbelievable. Yeah it's great that you it look at that the sole excuse for us God knows how many it is there are like this work force I suppose the same thing can be said of most composers work certainly it
happened to mine or I was going to mention you know on this track every conductor has his own version. We're coming back to London the year that you spent there in the 1846 among other people used to do the album called Are You worked with album holds no milk and I was very much of with Agent Bald so it ram my cousin also isn't very good in my friend it was very helpful. He was at the time the boss of the BBC Symphony Chorus and I think I did not miss me a hearse go next year. Whoever was conducting of course most of the time certain age ended. Please I wish I was more like a son of his for some time. What were your own opportunities to conduct at that time. Well at that time I was still mainly this it with
operatic conducting. My first symphony concert. Was I think in January forty two. I began conducting Swedish orchestras but I mean very limited scale course. But the guard two to the lack of time when you're going to not browse they just swallow you completely there's nothing left a hundred 150 performances a year. It takes care of most of the time and besides I was not. I didn't feel like I knew enough about symphonic literature to even dare to. Show up in public. But of course Little by little I met all the famous conductors. This year's coming to Stockholm because of the war that was very little chance of travelling we were confined to our country and. That's where I tried to go to. Get to know the whole literature. And when I finally started to to conduct it more extensively
I became particularly interested in in contemporary music because I thought it was a challenge and that many people were interested in performing that. So I developed a. Very large repertory of this kind. Would you give us some examples. But of course the first the first thing that made way for me was to form a sort of like a spring which was in 1949 I think which I. It worked in a whole year memorized of course and this was a session at Stockholm time which orchestra it was the Stockholm Philharmonic which wasn't called or they had another name at the time. Now they call themselves stuck on thinking money because it's a national business. This was not the first time that it was played in Stockholm. Unfortunately it's had been played once in different early thirties spy also me actually but it was just like a new piece and it created a lot of discussion and some people couldn't stand it. And of course see what happens now
is it's a standard. When I incidentally talk about Rite of Spring when I came to Detroit. And Detroit this spring in 1962 which is only five years away that's also caused a lot of controversial comment. Some people just couldn't take it. I think among new works that you introduced into Sweden was the bear got sick. Yes. For an opera I know that's correct. Now I want to say one thing about that opera house that is one of the few places where I really 100 percent enjoy working because there is no time limit. As for preparations for the premiere I was very lucky to get to work in this place and this is a little opera. And yes this was this was and still is a typical ensemble opera with very few or no guest appearances whatsoever. It's completely
opposite to close to the star opera houses where you have guests coming in and out all the time. I think the other way we worked was more fruitful because we had the same people all the time and we couldn't make opera not just singing and playing it but theatre really. It was marvelous because France is what sick for you know husks with orchestra. Which is unheard of in most places. We spent two months on the preparation for the stage along of course and then we had to as I said 40 complete with us for the orchestra and singers and everything and three dress rehearsals. So the premiere was actually the fourth performance and this is a marvelous way working if you can afford it because everybody is confident and you know you can go or you can leave it alone for two years and everybody still remembers it which we did the same with some old mean Rosenkavalier
we did a lot of the record like that and you do the same you know give the same kind of treatment to a completely new work like the opera of Lundahl that you did. Yes. Certainly when we did the same with everything. Of course if you if we would start a new production of love with him we wouldn't need that much time. But and I mean I know you're not my that you know his first opera. We spent a long long time on that and later took it on tour played it in in Edinburgh at the festival played common garden and we had the whole company coming over of course and this was a very very fruitful experience for me. What kind of performance schedule did you maintain and stuck on. How many performances in week seven at least. This is a tremendous output. I just met the present director who was at the time the stage director we did all this together for many years now he is now the head of the opera I was Mr. Gensler
and he told me that last season they played three hundred eighty six performances which is more than one a day go repertory during a season would be is stark and will be 50 different operas and some 25 different palace I think when you were with the Royal Opera there in Stockholm where you also conduct in the orchestra. They simply yes. Oh yes I did. Then why I got to know their repertory the more I wanted to conduct symphony. And at the time there was a switch in the cinematic they did not have a regular conductor and I could not myself be would be a good conductors because I couldn't have two jobs like that so I was never a moment conductor that orchestra but remember one guest conductor more than the permit conductor did so I was free and active and
but then of course Little by little I began to to move a little farther I went to to the Scandinavian countries to begin with. I remember when one concert I conducted was the CINC in 1940. Each post before you know. Where the source was one of the members of this orchestra I don't know Francis and because he he was a soloist at the time and we did contemporary work together. And when I came back when I came to Chicago four years ago I met him again. It was quite a surprise to me. He's been here some time. Yes as conductor of the well he was a senior st he was a serious cost less than its weight in a box truck. Yes. Well now at the time you began to be known in this country I think it was all around 1953 that your integral set of the Sibelius symphonies was released and at that time will be
recording company made the announcement the choice of 16 Aer Lingus the interpreter for these recordings of the Sibelius symphonies was dictated not only by the fact that he is Sweden's most brilliant young conductor of the post-World War Two era but also by the fact that he is thoroughly schooled by circumstance of environment and by intense study in the most authentic and vital traditions with respect to the proper performance and interpretation of the Sibelius symphonies and certainly that was a very successful issue. This as I say was as I recall in about 1953. I'd be interested to know just how that that recording group came about. Yes I know it's a long time now since this happened but I don't record the whole thing started by. Myself conducting a Sibylla's festival that was a second of its kind in first and yes I first of all my teacher first teacher of conducting at the Academy of Music
was it was what they used to call it. See the specialist instigators a very close friend of Sibelius and had to sit in the many times and so I worked with her but this teacher of mine. What was his name. Norm I'm going to be a noun and so I got this invitation to conduct the second greatest festival and like most guests from abroad I was invited to and. Oh no I'm sorry I had already acquired a couple of those symphonies before. That's right I'm going backwards now. The recording company in Sweden that was more a popular pop recording business. But. Do they have an abundance of money and I wouldn't be prepared to state that this was it had anything to do with taxes so I think some people decided to do something for serious music and there was one of the people of this corporation came up with the idea to have a complete to build a
series and I did start by conducting as I think it must have been Number 7 at some public concerts so I decided to record it that was the beginning and then we decided to go to continue this way. But this was better out of or for two or three years at least because it was very expensive and so I did another one and I came to tour and have seen and met the Beatles and he was very very flattering and told me to call it I had made of the fourth and seventh I think and in your thinking I conducted his first symphony. And he was extremely flattering and encouraging and you must continue this and don't forget my music please. It went on like that previously. No that was the first and as a matter of fact I want to time it.
I spent three hours at his home. Of course an interesting experience. And so we went along and we completed the serious must I mean in 1953 54 and then we also did it let me Canaan. Yes all four of you. Yes and oh yes the computer piece and the Violin Concerto with Camilla wakes that you're going to get by Misty. Who played beautiful performances. Later I recorded the surveillance again with the Oistrakh. And but there this was the story and well that's the whole story about it. Now these recordings were with the the Radio Symphony as I recall and at that time there was no Radio Symphony. This star called fellow manic at the time was acting as the radius of the stock on the Radio Symphony as a full symphony orchestra has developed in the last six or seven years.
Only today or maybe the last two years have they had it complete Symphony Orchestra which is good. It was entirely independent from the various you know money. Which means that as a matter of fact in Stockholm there are today three. Hundred piece orchestra which is quite unusual for one city. The Philharmonic the Radio Symphony and the opera and the apple they also do some limited concert performances the opera orchestra does you mean. Yes a very very limited of course because of the amount of opera I conduct there myself two three years ago we did get the videos they like to do works which which are fitted to the ear. There are sources for this they have their own chorus soloist singers so they do works like that or a Graham Mahler Second Symphony and things like that. How do you account for the fact that the Scandinavian composers seem to have as a group been more interested in
writing incidental music for a theatrical productions Is it because there is a greater opportunity for performance of this kind of work in Scandinavia. Yes well I wouldn't say that this is a present condition but if we go back it some 15 or 20 years I can see many reasons for that. First of all a serious composer would sit down and spend spend nine months or a year on a symphony which would be played once or twice that was it. Now the composers have to live also. And the incidental music business of course would bring much more money. This is the frank truth about him and I know that some movie composers would say you know what. Why do you say spend so much time in a symphony you write a score for a movie. You finish this in 24 hours you get two years pay compared to the symphony
and this is a dangerous temptation of course. But you know it's different you know they they are much better at taking care of you know listening to a conversation with 610 or like music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra there and parsons and George St.. We pause 10 seconds for a station identification. Now resuming the conversation with 16 Erlang here is George St.. Now there are some young Swedish composers who haven't yet become known in this country whose work you think is really significant. I'm trying to think I haven't been in touch. If you really need it last year yes I have been out of touch with the Goddess sweetest music for the last years I know there's a bunch of young composers and I'm
not prepared to judge the music the last is a young Swedish because I have formed extensively was born Nielson I don't know if that name is attached to anything. We have him on some phonograph recordings but otherwise he's not been programmed you in Chicago which is considered period last chorus and then you have the more well-known ones which I guess are known here and like lead on like a bulldog and the father of modern Swedish musical awesome and of course these people probably are known in this country. What about men like dogs and he is not a I would not call him a modern composer he is a contemporary composer yet another modern composer he is of a very moderate. And in a way he and a couple of other composers are in a difficult situation because they are just in between the romantic and this music of today.
They are neither. They have a very difficult position so has from him he was another one. He complained to me is I'm sitting between two sheriffs and I'm trying to find my face but I'm getting confused. And also last week Lawson who wrote some very nice music has tried on the Twelves told us music and so on but I feel that he is not. He shouldn't do that. Well did did he ever have any success with that. When we think of of Larson we think of such works as the past recently right. Well I still feel that this is his kind of music that's just music that's his face. But he did try to to to to write a 12 tone music and I performed a couple works of his not too long ago but they are not convincing because they are it gives the impression that this man is not honest. This is not his his set heart.
- A conversation with
- Episode Number
- #2 (Reel 1)
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- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Identifier: 69-12-2 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
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- Chicago: “A conversation with; #2 (Reel 1),” 1968-12-23, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 29, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-pr7mtq8t.
- MLA: “A conversation with; #2 (Reel 1).” 1968-12-23. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 29, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-pr7mtq8t>.
- APA: A conversation with; #2 (Reel 1). Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-pr7mtq8t