Critics, scholars, and performers have long noted that Arturo Toscanini’s reputation for absolute fidelity to the printed score was little more than a public relations myth.
Now that the legendary conductor’s annotated scores are available for study, three types of alterations can be observed: (1) modifications of dynamics, articulation, bowing, phrasing, and tempo; (2) orchestrational adjustments; and (3) the introduction of new material.
The combination of Toscanini’s Italian musical heritage and Wagnerian aesthetic convinced him that the highest service that a conductor could render was to impose certain types of musical changes whenever he sensed that a composer’s artistic conception was threatened. In his mind, there was neither egotism nor hypocrisy in this approach.
This according to “Toscanini and the myth of textual fidelity” by Linda B. Fairtile (Journal of the Conductors Guild XXVI/1–2  49–60).
Today is Toscanini’s 150th birthday! Below, his recording of the first movement of Beethoven’s ninth symphony, one of the works discussed in the article.
Valuable conclusions can be reached on the aesthetic and moral perceptions of Dimitri Mitropoulos from the study of his commercial and private recordings and his concert programs.
Mitropoulos was a unique interpreter who combined respect for significant works of historical Western music with the fight to project characteristic examples of the musical language of the 20th century. Far from the dictates of popular and easy recognitions, he gave us his own, often idiosyncratic, point of view of a morally honest and aesthetically valuable interpretation.
This according to “Ο Δ. Μητρόπουλος και το ήθος της ερμηνείας” [Dimitri Mitropoulos and the ethos of performance] by Stathīs A. Arfanīs and Giōrgos Maniatīs, an essay included in Δημήτρης Μητρόπουλος (1896-1960): πενήντα χρόνια μετά [Dimitris Mitropoulos (1896–1960): Fifty years later] (Athīna: Orpheus Edition, 2012).
Today is Mitropoulos’s 120th birthday! Below, rehearsing and performing with the New York Philharmonic.
A piano prodigy at an early age, Seiji Ozawa’s virtuoso career was cut short in his teens when he broke two fingers playing rugby. He switched to composition and conducting, and after graduating with honors he left Japan for Europe.
His rise was swift, and in 1973, at the age of 38, he became Music Director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Sporting a Beatles haircut and Nehru jackets, he took Boston’s hyper-traditional classical music scene by storm; overnight, America’s most staid orchestra gained a hip new image.
This according to “Wild card” by Andrew Moravcsik (Opera news LXXIII/6 [December 2008] pp. 32–33).
Today is Ozawa’s 80th birthday! Below, a recording from 1974.
Serge Koussevitsky was a tireless champion of contemporary American composers during his tenure at the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Once he had decided on the value of a new work he was determined to program it, regardless of whether it was long, abstruse, dissonant, difficult to perform, or difficult to comprehend. Often he arranged for the major portion of the week’s rehearsal time to be devoted to perfecting the orchestra’s interpretation of the new work.
This according to “Serge Koussevitzky and the American composer” by Aaron Copland (The musical quarterly XXX/3 [July 1944] pp. 255–269); an appendix lists 123 American works that he programmed during his first 20 years in Boston.
Today is Koussevitsky’s 140th birthday! Below, his recording of Copland’s Appalachian spring.
The Leonard Bernstein Collection is a free online resource comprising selections from The Library of Congress’s holdings related to the composer and conductor.
The collection’s more than 400,000 items—including music and literary manuscripts, correspondence, photographs, audio and video recordings, fan mail, and other types of materials—extensively document Bernstein’s extraordinary life and career, making available 85 photographs, 177 scripts from the Young People’s Concerts, 74 scripts from the Thursday Evening Previews, and over 1,100 pieces of correspondence, all browseable or accessible through the collection’s Finding Aid.
Above, Bernstein at the piano at a party at Tanglewood in August 1946 (photographer unknown); below, the opening of the first televised Young People’s Concert.
Margaret Rosezarian Harris (1943–2000) was the first black woman to conduct the orchestras of Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, and 12 other U.S. cities.
Harris played solo piano recitals in the U.S. and abroad, and served as musical director for the Broadway production of Hair. She was a composer of ballets, concertos, and an opera, and served as an American cultural specialist for a production of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess in Uzbekistan in 1995.
This according to “Margaret Rosezarian Harris, musician and educator, 56” by Anthony Tommasini, an obituary published by the New York times on 22 March 2000. The full text is here.
Today is Harris’s 70th birthday! Below, her second piano concerto.
In December 2011 the Laboratory of Greek Music at the Ionian University, Kerkyra (Corfu), launched the book series Ellinīkī Mousikologikī Vivliothīkī (Ελληνική Μουσικολογική Βιβλιοθήκη/Library of Greek Musicology) with a volume curated by Charīs Xanthoudakīs and Arīs Garoufalīs on the relationship between the great Greek conductor and composer Dīmītrīs Mītropoulos and the Athens conservatory Odeio Athinōn.
Mītropoulos studied at the Odeio Athinōn from 1910 to 1919. Returning from a period of study in Berlin in 1925, he served as conductor first of the orchestra of the other Athens conservatory, Ellīniko Odeio, then from 1927 to 1937 for his alma mater, where he also taught composition. He also created a combined orchestra from the two schools in a Syllogo Synafliōn (Club Concert) that achieved considerable glory in its brief existence, featuring guest appearances by Richard Strauss and Alfred Cortot and a 1933 performance of the “constructivist” Zavod (Iron Foundry) by Aleksandr Mosolov.
The book, O Dīmītrīs Mītropoulos kai to Odeio Athinōn: To chroniko kai ta tekmīria (Dīmītrīs Mītropoulos and the Odeio Athinōn: Chronicle and archival materials, ISBN 978-960-86801-8-0), consists of two parts: a biography of Mītropoulos, and a collection of 85 reproduced documents from the Odeio’s archives illustrating the narrative of the first part, including meeting minutes, personal correspondence, and texts of speeches, together with excerpts from the most recent scholarly studies of Mītropoulos’s life and works before his emigration to the United States and international fame.
Below, Mītropoulos rehearses and performs Liszt’s Faust symphony with the New York Philharmonic.
Related article: Dimitri Mitropoulos (1896–1960)
After a surprise 80th birthday party hosted by Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales, Georg Solti thanked the multinational ensemble that had just performed and wondered aloud why musicians from many different countries can play together in harmony, while international diplomats cannot even agree on the crucial issue of world peace.
Inspired by this notion, his wife, Valerie Solti, hatched a plan with Leia Maria Boutros-Ghali, the wife of the then United Nations Secretary-General, to amass an orchestra comprising players from all over the world, and to have this orchestra perform for the U.N.’s 50th anniversary in 1995.
Dubbed the World Orchestra for Peace, the ensemble—79 musicians from 24 countries—debuted in Geneva in July of that year, with Solti at the podium, to great critical acclaim. The maestro did not live to preside over another of their performances, but the orchestra lives on, materializing whenever conditions permit.
This according to “The conductor with an ear for peace” by Harvey Sachs (The New York times 14 October 2012, p. AR11).
Today is Solti’s 100th birthday! Below, he conducts the World Orchestra for Peace in Rossini’s overture to Guillaume Tell.