111. Residence in Vienna, 1968–1969

During the Spring of 1967–1968 when I was attending all the rehearsals of the Philadelphia Orchestra, Lorin Maazel came as a guest conductor for six weeks. He was an established conductor in Europe but not yet so famous as he would later become and so it was easy for me to have conversations with him, which resulted in much valuable and useful advice for my possible career in orchestral conducting.

I was in Ormandy’s outer office on a Friday morning, before his first rehearsal on the following Monday, when Maazel arrived and the secretary welcomed him and asked if he had his music! Can you imagine, as Maazel did not, that if you were engaged to guest conduct the Philadelphia Orchestra you must bring your own set of parts? Poor Maazel had to spend the day calling lending libraries to have music shipped for Monday’s rehearsal. Ormandy had a library of thirty years of scores and parts but they all had his personal pencil editing and he would not allow anyone else to use these materials for fear they would erase and change his markings. There was one exception later in the Spring when a Spanish guest conductor was doing such a poor job that by Thursday there was some question whether the performance on Friday afternoon would be possible. So, without telling the guest conductor, after the Thursday morning rehearsal the librarians replaced the Spaniard’s parts with Ormandy’s so the orchestra could ignore the conductor and play the version they knew.

It was interesting that on his first concert Maazel did the Stravinsky The Rite of Spring, which at that time was still rarely performed. Ormandy, for example, had never done it. The Rite of Spring is not that difficult, but because of its 35 minutes of constant meter changes it is the one piece in the repertoire in which the conductor cannot afford to make a single mistake. One measure conducted with the wrong meter pattern can cause a train wreck from which recovery is impossible. Having said that, there are only three sections which are really difficult for the conductor. So at the beginning of the first rehearsal Maazel first read through those three places, establishing that he knew the music, and then went back to the beginning and the orchestra was comfortable. Maazel did everything without scores but it was no easier for him than it is for any of the rest of us and by the fifth week he had dark circles under his eyes from studying more than sleeping.

Maazel’s advice to me was particularly important relative to my future. He felt the best route was in having engagements with the European radio orchestras, because the directors of radio programs were constantly in need of material to fill their schedules. The problem was that if you had a successful engagement the next one might be four years away because their schedules were filled that far in advance. He had gone this route himself and he told me that for this reason it took ten years before his engagements multiplied enough to earn a living. This turned out to be true for me. I got engagements followed by future offers, including one in Berlin, but the difference was I felt I was already too old to begin this cycle. I was married and in ten years I would be 40, a bit too late to start a family. Nevertheless, that was clearly the only route forward.

My plan was to move to Vienna where I could enroll in what had become the most famous conducting school in the world, the Akademie of Music, which had very recently produced Mehta and Abbado. With these plans in mind, during the Spring I wrote letters to all the music directors of leading radio stations introducing myself together with some materials on repertoire and expressing my desire to come and visit them. At the same time I wrote letters to all the American companies which had branches in Vienna, seeking a position for Giselle to provide income. This was productive and she was offered a clerical position with a Vienna branch of the United Nations.

For the trip to Europe we enjoyed the luxury of the fast disappearing tradition of ocean liners. Ten days at sea with the greatest food available any time of day, and nothing else to do but pleasure read. Each morning there was a brief announcement by the captain whereby he reported the latest world news (television had not yet arrived). About three days before our landing he announced the invasion of Czechoslovakia by five Russian dominated countries. This was the August 1968 event commemorated in Karel Husa’s Music for Prague, 1968. Of course, I immediately decided to get to Prague as soon as we found a place to live, for I could assume the authorities in Prague would cancel all engagements of Russian and East German conductors. I arrived in Prague while there were still Russian tanks in the streets and it was delightful to notice the clever actions taken by the public to confuse the Russians. First, they had taken down all the street signs in Prague, making maps useless, which resulted not only in a problem for the Russians but also made it very difficult for me to find the radio station! Then this was the era of those first transistor radios, little square black handheld radios. The Russians had put out an announcement that no civilians were allowed to have these radios, so everyone was walking around driving the Russians nuts by holding pieces of black coal to their ears. By the way, reflecting the fact that these old countries had existed through a thousand years of political turmoil, I found the radio station employees rather unconcerned. When I asked about this I was told, “Oh it just means the Russians will be running the street cars and delivering the mail!”

We were able to find an efficiency apartment in the heart of Vienna, a block and a half from the great Stefansdom Cathedral and for Giselle a short walk through the old emperor’s Hofburg grounds to her work site. There are two very memorable stories about our residence in this apartment, apart from the joy of being in the very heart of the city. First, the fuse box was in a sculpturer’s studio across the hall and one Friday night in sweeping the floor I managed somehow to blow out the electricity. After a phone call during which the sculpturer refused to come back downtown to open her studio so I could change the fuse, we were left for a week-end of total darkness. So we decided in desperation to go to the cathedral and buy some candles and make lanterns. On a Friday evening none of the cathedrals in Europe have anyone on duty and in this case all the votive candles, which one lights in memory of someone, had been put away for the night. What should we do? The only candles in sight were on the great altar and so we stole two large candles. In compensation for this crime we named our first child Stefan, after the cathedral, and for decades afterward my later students visiting Vienna made sure to light a votive candle and pray for my forgiveness!

The second story is beyond understanding. From the very first time I set foot in this apartment I strongly felt the presence of Mozart. I thought, oh it is just because I am in Vienna for the first time and throughout the city were signs reading, “Mozart slept here,” “Beethoven ate here,” etc. But for an entire year the feeling never left. Twenty years later the great authority on the Classic Period, H. C. Robbins Landon, published a small book called “The Last Year of Mozart’s Life.” In this book was a reproduction of a map of central Vienna in 1791 and here I discovered for the first time that my apartment was in the same building block and on the same floor as the apartment in which Mozart died!

I became a full-time student at the Akademie of Music and a part-time student of the University of Vienna (to further study German). The Akademie of Music, being a government entity in a socialized country required one to pay one’s tuition at the post office! The famous Swarowski conducting class turned out to be a big disappointment, consisting of about fifty young students from all over the world, total beginners all. There was no real technical training in baton technique and the main instruction offered seemed to be that one was expected to observe Swarowski conducting a retired person orchestra. I recall one memorable occasion when he announced on a Friday that the following class would be devoted to conducting Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro. We all ran out to buy scores of this opera so we could study all weekend trying to absorb as much as possible in case we were asked questions. On Monday, Swarowski comes to class with a piano-vocal score of the opera, sits down at the piano and for three hours non-stop plays the opera. When he finished, he stood and proclaimed, “Das ist Figaro!” and left the room!

On the other hand, there were of course great musical experiences to be absorbed in Vienna. The Vienna Philharmonic spent the entire month of September recording the Strauss Rosenkavalier, with Solti conducting and I was allowed to observe these sessions. It was at this time that the announcement was made that Solti would be going to Chicago as the new Chief Conductor and this brought great joy to me for I could see that Solti, as yet little known in the US was a perfect choice for this Germanic Chicago Symphony. I was able to meet and talk briefly with Solti and also with Bernstein who came to town to do a fantastic Beethoven Missa Solemnis. Both offered their best wishes for my pursuit of a conducting career.

And then there were the regular concerts in the golden Musikverein, one of the great concert halls of the world. One week a poster announced that the Prague Philharmonic, whom many people at that time considered to be the best orchestra in Europe, would be coming to town to do the Mahler Third Symphony, a work I had not yet heard. At this concert hall they always left the lights on during evening concerts because so many listeners brought scores, so I rushed off to Doblinger’s Music Store to purchase a full score. At the concert I was sitting on the little balcony that runs down both sides of the hall above the level of the main floor. During the performance while looking at my score I was somewhat distracted by a large woman sitting beside me who was conducting in large gestures during the performance. In Vienna at this time you could identify a woman’s profession by her dress and I would have placed her on the level of an employee in a bakery. During the intermission when I went out in the lobby to stretch my legs, she accosted me saying, “I see you have a score.” “Yes Ma’am, I am a student conductor and I did not know this symphony.” With her face registering a look of great surprise and with raised voice she said, “What, you are a conductor and you don’t know Mahler’s Third Symphony?!!” And that is Vienna!

I had two professional conducting engagements during the Spring, both in the Eastern Zone in Czechoslovakia and the first in Bratislava. l was invited to come to Bratislava for a meeting to discuss the details of the engagement and it turned out to be not only quaint but more personal than a typical American business meeting with lawyers, etc. Seated around a round table were the director of the radio station, the music director of the radio station, a representative of the orchestra members, a representative of the Communist Party and myself. On the table were little sandwiches and glasses of wine to accompany first a period of just social talk. The formal discussion began when the music director of the station commented that they had never heard any of the music of Charles Ives and they were wondering if by any chance his Third Symphony was in my repertoire? I immediately responded, “Of Course!” This was the answer Maazel advised me always to utter no matter if I knew the music or not, and in this case I had never heard it, as I could always learn the piece before the recording session. So they then explained that the time allowed, a certain number of minutes per each minute of music, and that this designated period of time, over two days, must include rehearsal and the recording time and could not be extended for any reason due to the schedule for the other requirements of the station’s schedule. Since it was obvious that there would be minutes lost to the recording engineer wanting to repeat things, or accidents in performance, etc., it gave me a very clear picture of what had to be accomplished in the remaining time available.

I returned to Vienna, contacted sources in New York to arrange to supply the music and when the time arrived we made a beautiful recording of which the station was proud and shared with other radio stations in Europe. This engagement, by the way, paid me a great deal of money in the Czech currency. But the currencies of these Eastern Block countries was worth very little in the West, and so as I walked down the street back to the train station I gave it all away to people along the street, for whom the money no doubt had a real life value.

The second engagement was with members of the State Philharmonic at Bruno. They wanted me to bring the music and record the Suite, Op. 4 for large wind ensemble by Strauss. I found the players in both cities to be not only very accomplished but very eager to make music, which I think represented the fact that playing their instrument was their own personal moment of freedom of expression in a culture in which personal expression was not encouraged. They gave a beautiful performance resulting in a great recording and again I was well paid and took none of the money back home to Vienna.

Another offer for which I was offered paid employment came from Universal Edition, the famous publisher based in Vienna. They wanted to produce a new Urtext edition of the Mozart piano sonatas and they wanted me to produce the Urtext manuscript scores for the first seven sonatas for the engravers to work from. For this purpose they furnished me with the Mozart autograph scores, where available, and the original galley sheets, for Mozart was known to have studied these first printings of his works before they were offered to the public. Indeed, for one of these sonatas I found that Mozart had recomposed some melodies in the margin on the galley sheet. Thus, curiously, the authentic version was the galley print and not the autograph score.

For my information they also furnished me with several early nineteenth century editions edited by various early famous piano teachers and these were interesting to look at with respect to early performance practice but also for the teacher’s additions even of chords Mozart never wrote. In making my copies I soon found that human nature made the creation of a true Urtext version almost impossible. I recall a case, for example, when I presented my copy to the project editor, he took up a pencil and drew a slur over several measure of my manuscript. “But Sir,” I cried, “this is supposed to be an Urtext edition, just what Mozart actually wrote!” “Yes,” he replied, “but everyone knows this passage should be slurred!”

Another disagreement I had with the editor became quite interesting for me. During my research for my dissertation on the early symphonies of Mozart I had the opportunity to study not only a number of actual Mozart autograph scores but also, even more important, about 120 autograph scores which he did not like for some reason and abandoned (his father was always gathering these off the floor for he anticipated their later value). From a study of the uncompleted scores several conclusions about how Mozart thought were evident. First, for example, the unfinished works always ended with a number of measures of melody trailing ahead of the otherwise empty measures. It was clear that Mozart first thought of melody. Next you could see he wrote the bass line underneath the melodic line, documenting its importance for chord formation. But then one could just as easily see that Mozart quickly lost interest in going back and filling in the inner voices. Here is where you find stems going the wrong direction due to haste, and the very rare wrong notes, though immediately corrected, in transposed parts.

In one of the sonatas I was working on for Universal Edition I came to a passage where there were about twenty eighth-notes in the melody, descending diatonically, and where Mozart over the top of the first couple of eighth-notes carefully made a round dot over each succeeding note, but as they continued he seemed to have become more hurried, or bored, and the dots became each one more distended, reflecting perhaps he was moving faster and concluding with the final several looking more like strokes, as if marcato. From my experience it seemed clear to me that Mozart was just in a hurry to make all these dots and as he went faster they lost their shape. But there was nothing in the music itself to indicate any change in the actual style or character of the music within this passage. The editor, however, retained for the final Urtext edition the final ones with the implication that they were for some reason more accented. I contested this strongly, based on my above history with Mozart’s autograph scores. After we debated this for a short time he suggested he would make an appointment for me to see Mrs. Robbins Landon, the divorced wife of the famous Haydn scholar and who was rapidly becoming known as the authority on the music of Schubert, to discuss this question as he considered her to be a real authority on early notation.

When I arrived at the door of Mrs. Robbins Landon’s apartment she flung the door open, holding a small dog which was screaming and howling in pain while she was very upset and crying! As any person with experience with dogs would, I immediately took the animal and looked at its paws where I found a large thorn. I removed the thorn, the animal was instantly calmed and Mrs Robbins Landon expressed herself indebted to me for life for saving her dog!

A very interesting discussion followed during which I heard for the first time that the dot over a single note in Mozart did not mean staccato, but rather represented the smallest kind of accent he knew how to make. She also astonished me by showing me the autograph scores for 18 Waltzes for wind octet by Schubert which were unknown to me and which she was preparing for publication. She lived in a beautiful apartment in the center of Vienna, filled with valuable eighteenth century furniture. I was looking forward to future associations with this remarkable lady, but soon after my visit she was lost in the crash of two 747s running into each other on the ground in the Canary Islands, killing more than 500 people.

Another very significant accomplishment of this year in Vienna followed a letter from an old friend, Dan Leeson, reminding me that there is a letter by Mozart to this father complaining that he was working on making a wind reduction of his opera, the Die Entführung aus dem Serail for wind instruments and finding it very difficult. Dan asked me to check the National Library to see if they had this manuscript. The National Library had a separate card catalog for early music manuscripts and a separate card catalog for early printed music. In looking in the appropriate drawer I did not find this manuscript, but did find about a dozen manuscript arrangements of operas for wind octet. I had some of these brought out for me to examine and found when I pulled on the ribbon which encompassed the bundle of manuscripts it instantly dissolved into dust, documenting the fact that this package had not been opened in over 150 years. These turned out to be not “pot-pourri” statements of melodies, but complete reductions of an overture and 8 or 9 complete arias scored for winds, with no voices. Why would a Duke want his staff arranger to create these versions of the operatic music? In my view these were surrogate “record players.” If the Duke went to an opera performance and enjoyed the music, he could have his staff musicians play this music for him to hear again at home, and not even the wealthiest duke had a palace room large enough for the entire opera cast to come and gives him a private performance.

Of course I was stunned to find these manuscripts and I proceeded in my remaining months in Vienna to exhaust the National Library’s card catalog and also a similar card catalog of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde. I found that in the next generation, that of the music of Rossini, these wind versions became longer with as many as 25 arias each. I had discovered an entire library of wind music for wind ensemble, known today as Harmoniemusik, apparently completely unknown for more than a century. My work in 1969 resulted in a series of articles published in The Instrumentalist magazine, giving the call-numbers for these manuscripts. This was the very first world announcement of the discovery of this body of forgotten music and it instantly resulted in wide excitement among wind players and resulted in many future engagements for me in Europe and at home to discuss these works. Other scholars began looking in other libraries in Europe and by the time I published the eighth volume of my history of the wind band and ensemble I was able to cite libraries and call numbers for some 2,000 sets of these manuscripts!

In the early manuscripts the oboe tended to be the principal melody instrument and after 1805 the clarinet takes over this role. Once the emperor in Vienna had established an eight-member ensemble to perform these works the other princes in Vienna quickly followed suit and established their own Harmoniemusik ensembles. As difficult as it is to imagine, with this popularity being present there exists manuscript Harmoniemusik versions of the complete Haydn Creation and The Seasons oratorios for this wind ensemble, with no chorus or solo singers, in the manuscript of Haydn’s personal copyist. And there is a surviving copy of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony scored for Harmoniemusik, published by Beethoven’s publisher in Vienna with the note that the work was overseen by the composer himself!

During the Spring of 1969 I received an extraordinary invitation, a stroke of fate that would have guaranteed my career as a conductor in Europe. The famous institution of the Vienna Opera had been for some time worrying about the fact there appeared to be a shortage of opera conductors among the younger generations and they decided to form a group of five young conductors whom they would put on their payroll and train as opera conductors. I was very surprised to have been asked if I wanted to be included. I turned it down.

I was forced to turn down this opportunity of a lifetime for two reasons. First, successful European conductors of opera have tended to be persons who have for years been devoted to this huge repertoire, many being Italian conductors who grew up with this music. I recall reading that Mahler when he was the director of opera in Vienna would in a typical month conduct the opera on 20 nights, rotating as many as five operas.

My failure in having this kind of background in this vast repertoire was fundamental to my greatest problem, the unspoken but obvious reality that much of the five years would be occupied in the position of a repetiteur, the rehearsal pianist who spends hours every day in small practice rooms playing while a singer learns and memorizes his or her part. It is the worst job in the field of Music. During the nineteenth century opera houses made this a requirement for would be conductors, as the only way they could get people to perform this job. Even von Karajan had to do this for a couple of years in Aachen before he was allowed to conduct an opera.

The bottom line was the fact that I did not have the piano skills to accept this rare and wonderful opportunity. I cannot remember why, at the age of nine in Kansas, I quit my piano lessons after I had actually performed as a soloist in public. What could have been competing for my interest?

By the Summer of 1969 I had come to the conclusion that I could not ask Giselle to continue to support me for years while waiting for radio orchestra engagements to accumulate and, unlike Maazel, I did not have wealthy parents who could support my luxury of living and enjoying life in Europe. It seemed to me, all things considered, that a return to the university field of activity was the only way to be able to perform at the level I would want to make music at. Therefore when the United Nations offered Giselle and her colleagues a very low cost group flight from Vienna to New York we elected to take advantage of it. We set foot again on American soil in August on the very day man first set foot on the moon! I cannot recall which step occupied my mind more at that moment.