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  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

THE BUSINESS OF MUSIC

Reflections of a Music Publisher

by ERNST ROTH

Popular music, indeed, has no other purpose. This has become one of a few types in which the individual work means as little or as much as the individual ant in an ant-hill. The directness, bordering on effrontery, with which it pursues its commercial purpose and demands money for its not inconsiderable services must fill every publisher of serious music with envy. Between the 'popular' publisher and his authors and there are many authors, sometimes half a dozen for a song of two and a half minutes' duration-there is an admirable agreement about their hopes and ambitions: they all want to make a lot of money and they want to make it quickly. Anyone who thinks otherwise is badly mistaken, and, whereas the mistakes of serious composers and publishers are occasionally overlooked, in the world of popular music they are unforgivable. But anyone who believes that he need only write a pop-song in order to make a fortune is also mistaken. Every profession requires its own standard of perfection, however high or low that standard may be. This requirement is even more ruthless than usual in popular music, because only the immediately successful song really registers. Being ephemeral, it is given no time to prove its worth as a work of serious art is. The life of a song-and only one of the best songs, at that-is the hectic, golden life of a day-fly. In a few weeks it must complete its life-cycle, from its launching to its arrival at the top of the charts and thence to ultimate oblivion-leaving a trail of money behind it.

Therefore the publisher must be extremely quick off the mark, and must not lose an instant. In a matter of days the work is 'produced', usually in the form of a conductor part which indicates no more than the intentions of the composer. These are then interpreted by the various band-leaders with complete disregard for the composer, who in turn is sincerely grateful for their indifference. Then the publisher's 'pluggers' go to work. They are the men who have all the contacts, who know the singers, the bandleaders, the programme producers on radio and television, the places of entertainment, night-clubs and restaurants with music or floor-shows. The plugger must first of all find a prominent singer, male or female, who likes the song. These singers are specialists-in sentimentality, in suggestive humour, in calculated indifference or in sensual rhythm-and the good plugger must know whom to approach. A good pop-singer is by no means a hack, incapable of singing in the conventional sense. A tormented, hoarse voice requires talent and much hard work, and there is more 'interpretation' in the rendering of a pop-song than in that of a symphony.

The singer is the most important contact. If he or she is sufficiently well known he or she has an exclusive contract with a record-manufacturer, and that manufacturer, too, is in a breathless hurry. Any serious music which may at the critical moment be ready for recording or pressing is ruthlessly shelved to make room for the popular arrival. In a few days the record is 'on the market' and the plugger begins the second phase of his task. The bands and the discjockeys are his next 'plugs'. Here, ethics and morality become somewhat loose. The habit of bribery has grown to such proportions that some European broadcasting organizations have had to introduce a system of control in order to limit the abuse of an abuse: the band-leader with an engagement on radio or television receives from the publisher a certain amount as a fee for the special arrangement of the music which suits his band best, and undertakes to perform the song a certain number of times. It is all well designed and calculated.

The discjockey, on the other hand, is an important link in the radio chain, riding his disc as a jockey rides to win the Derby. He must be very knowledgeable in the field of popular music, he must know the latest fashions and trends, the successful composers, lyricwriters and record issues anywhere in the world, and with the enormous stream of popular music being thrown 'on the market' it is no mean task to keep the recorded programmes up to date. And the fate of a new song largely depends on his benevolence.

When all this is done-the singer found, the record on sale, the band-leaders engaged and the discjockey won over-the engine starts running at full speed. If the song is a hit authors, publisher and record-manufacturer never have to wait long for their customers. The publisher, in particular, starts the foreign exploitation. He usually has permanent contacts in the most important countries, and within a few days of its birth the song appears abroad in the versions of the sub-publishers. Though music is international pop-songs are international only with considerable reservations. They cannot simply be translated. They have to conform to other tastes and temperaments, they must be adapted, a process which starts with the title. There is nothing sacred about the 'original', if indeed an original exists at all. The adaptation requires the same knowledge of the public in a foreign land as the original publisher possesses in his own country-and that, in nine cases out of ten, means the United States. Questions of an author's 'moral right' do not arise. Anything which helps to create success is welcome. There are quite a few cases where it is the adaptation and not the original which makes its mark-a cleverly chosen title, clever new lyrics, perhaps a lucky chance so many imponderables surround the success of a pop-song. And everywhere the same hurried procedure is followed that brought the precious original into being. The number of people involved grows to a sizeable crowd-authors and co-authors, adaptors, publishers and sub-publishers-and the material benefits spread far and wide. Within a few weeks the new hit is heard from the North Cape to the South Pole, from Oklahoma to Yokohama, and all the new means of communication around the globe are put to work. A few weeks later all is over, and the song is forgotten. Hardly one in a thousand survives to become an 'evergreen'. For the crowd at the gates is tremendous. The popular publisher has to produce several hundred songs a year if he is to have a reasonable chance of finding among the flock of wild geese the one that lays the golden egg. In I964 for instance British record-manufacturers issued about 4,ooo pop-songs, of which only 34 climbed to be number one in the hit parade. The great majority died in the cradle.

I do not understand this type of music and I do not know how well the experts understand it. Perhaps it is not so very different from serious music, where the bad can be recognized with a fair measure of certainty while the good is less easily detectable. Occasionally I watch a BBC programme called 'Juke Box Jury' where a panel of experts singers, discjockeys and experienced teenagers listen to the latest records and decide which will become hits and which misses. I find it most reassuring that they rarely agree among themselves.

How different it all is in the case of the serious music-publisher! There is no need for this headlong haste. Serious works are created sub specie aeternitatis. Untouchable as they are, they look much more delicate than their popular relations, but they are, in fact, much more robust. Serious composers share the general impatience of the time and cannot let their new works rest. To wait three years for the first performance of a new piano concerto, like Beethoven, or fifteen years for that of an opera, like Wagner, would seem impossible to them. In his most productive years Benjamin Britten fixed the first-performance dates of his operas before he had started composing them and said that this stimulated his inspiration. It is, in fact, seldom possible to delay a first performance until the work is really ready.

The public performance of a dramatic or symphonic work is the first step in its career. Performance on the radio does not really produce the same result. The Press usually takes little notice of broadcasts, and for the listener the performance remains too impersonal and anonymous to arouse his interest as it would if he met it face-to-face in the concert-hall. The records which so greatly smooth the path of popular songs do not come into the picture, for no power on earth could persuade a manufacturer to record an unknown and unperformed piece. Even a new work by Stravinsky has to earn its laurels in performance before it is considered worthy of recording. The risk is the publisher's alone.

It is not, however, as difficult to obtain a first performance as is generally believed. The idea that a new work of serious music is beset with difficulties from its birth is not quite correct. It is true that star performers, conductors and instrumentalists guard their own popularity jealously and usually care little for new works because they do not wish their names to be associated with possible failures. This was not always so; certainly not in the nineteenth century nor even between the wars when conductors such as Koussevitzky, Ansermet, Kleiber and Klemperer were little concerned about their reputations. Nowadays new works have to be satisfied with the patronage of lesser conductors, but these lesser conductors are more than keen on first performances and are not easily discouraged even by musical absurdities. A work which cannot find a first performance today must be bad or extravagant beyond all belief.

This is a considerable advantage. Forty years ago when the conspiracy against all tradition in music began and aroused widespread opposition, there were a few conductors who joined the new composers in storming the barricades. But this was of little avail. The great majority of conductors, concert promoters and critics and, of course, the public were quick to dismiss the unusual as bad and to have nothing to do with it. So an International Society for New Music was founded, which, with much enthusiasm and little money, arranged annual festivals so that the composers and their friends, at least, could hear the new works. These festivals were not very festive, lacking as they did the material opulence that festivals require, and the public, by avoiding them, fortified and confirmed the beliefs of the promoters. But as a narrow back door to musical life they were important, and many names which appeared there for the first time have become household words in contemporary music. The Society still exists and still arranges its festivals, and the public continues to show the same indifference. But the Society's services are really no longer required. The lesser conductors and opera-houses, with their better financial backing, are always on the look-out for first performances and are numerous enough, and even when a new work fails there are always a few words of faint praise for the man who first had the courage to present it in public and so entered it in the official register of musical births.

The first performance, then, presents no undue difficulty; but the second is a much rarer and much more decisive event. Now the work no longer has the distinction of being a discovery, which camouflages many a failure at the first performance; after the first performance of the work it has taken off its baptismal robe and is expected to make a good impression, so to speak, in its working-clothes. It will be more thoroughly and more severely examined and people will want to know what the experts and the public thought of it when they first heard it. For between the first and second performances stands the menacing figure of the critic. He has not been consulted before the first performance, but with the second he has had his say, and often enough his verdict has been the kiss of death.

The busy world of popular music hardly knows him. Popular songs are sometimes criticized in specialist papers, and in a jargon comprehensible only to the expert, but the public at large is not interested in the critic. It needs no recomrnendation or explanation, but reacts to a new song instantly, expertly and irrevocably. But with serious music the layman looks, for instruction and advice, to a man whose profession and task it is to listen to music day by day, to study and analyse it, and so to acquire if not a superior judgement at least an incomparable depth of experience.

The institution of regular music criticism is not very old, not much more than a hundred and twenty-five years. Music itself had to grow in importance and size in order to justify public verdicts. But the critic has been a man of prominence, inseparable from musical life, for more than a century. Composers, performers and publishers meet him in an atmosphere of love-hate and few of them remain unruffled by bad notices or unflattered by good ones. To the end of his life Wilhelm Furtwangler used to read, with pride or fury, every line written about him. Even such a warrior as Stravinsky, bearing the scars of innumerable critical attacks, allows himself now and then to be drawn into skirmishes with the Press, which, by virtue of its commanding position, always has the last word. Richard Strauss in his best years used to say that he always had a bad Press but wrote good music. But in the last years of his life he, too, could lose his temper.

There have been critics of various kinds: laymen such as Bernard Shaw, who were more securely guided by their instinct than many an expert; composers such as Robert Schumann, who said the nicest things about music generally but suffered from bias and prejudice; and learned music critics like Fetis or Hanslick, whose misjudgements could be quite monumental. It is the Hanslicks who eventually have held the field, while the laymen and the practising musicians have withdrawn.

What useful function does the critic perform and how important is it?

Those immediately concerned, composers and performers, are inclined to deny that the critic is either useful or important. They never forget any mistake a member of the profession may have made in the past if it will serve to prove their point. This has given rise to much inconclusive discussion. It is indeed not easy for the critic to be fair in his judgement, nor is it easy for the criticized to be fair to the critic. It is taken for granted that the critic is a fount of all available knowledge and experience, but complete objectivity is beyond human capacity. The critic is no computer throwing out an entirely impersonal answer to the question fed into it. There were, and perhaps still are, critics who guarded their independence carefully. Ernest Newman, one of the most prominent critics of his time, refused to make the personal acquaintance of any composer. But even that did not prevent him having his musical preferences and idiosyncrasies, like everyone else.

The critic is also an individual man or woman, not vox populi. He is not representative of the public, and often enough is in open conflict with it. The public, for example, liked Wagner's music from the outset, but Hanslick did not. On the other hand, when it came to Brahms the public and Hanslick were in complete agreement.

There is, however, an undeniable air of authority about the writings of a music critic (though the writer often remains anonymous) in the distinguished periodicals or daily papers, and it is this unfounded authority which concerns his heroes or victims. But the music-lover likes to compare his own impression with that of an expert. Although periodicals have only a limited circulation, and while only a fraction of the readers of daily papers may read the music column, music criticism constitutes part of the cultural duty of any reputable paper and no editor could afford to do without it.

As for the usefulness of music criticism, there is no question that it affects the careers of composers and performers; in the case of performers it may even have a decisive influence. As far as new works are concerned, however, that influence should not be over-rated. Certainly the critic who cannot make up his mind whether to call a work good or bad is failing in his critical function. But the best notice cannot make a work better than it really is, even if, for a limited time, it provides it with an undeserved aura of success. Conversely, a bad notice may delay a second performance but will not, in the end, prevent it. The assumption that the critic informs and guides the public is quite misleading. Whatever the critic may write, the public is the supreme judge and can be neither influenced nor confused by expert opinion. One need only recall what the critics, or the great majority of them, wrote about Stravinsky's Rite of Spring in 1913. But the work came to stay, and to be accepted as a masterpiece. There was a time, in the 1880s, when the critics thought that Joachim Raff's symphonies were as good as those of Brahms. And where is Raff now? All this has been proved over and over again. From experience, and with a touch of cynicism, I can say that a really destructive notice is as good for promotion as an enthusiastically good one. As a publisher I cannot do without the critic. He is more often a help, however involuntarily, than a hindrance.

But the profession of the music critic could well be improved, to the benefit of all concerned. He is very often in a much worse position than his colleagues in literature and art. A literary work can usually be understood at a first reading or hearing; a work of the visual arts can be studied as long as necessary and in every detail until the critic can form a considered opinion. The music critic, however, often meets a new work only at a fleeting first performance. Very seldom does he have an opportunity to study a score beforehand. Particularly with new music, an unprepared hearing conveys little information. One should not blame the publisher. In the general rush to give new works their first performance, he only rarely has time enough to print a score and distribute review copies. Many composers, among them Stravinsky, want to hear their works before they will allow them to be printed. Many months often elapse after the first performance before the critic can see a printed copy.

 

Moreover, the critic is subject to certain journalistic rules which, though they may be good for the local reporter who has to beon the heels of every robbery and every fire, are harmful to music criticism. The critic frequently has to rush from the concert-hall or opera-house to his office or to the nearest telephone-box so that people next morning may be certain of reading his assessment of a new work. Curious things sometimes happen. When Benjamin Britten's Rape of Lucretia was first performed in New York, the leading music critic of the time, Olin Downes, declared the following morning that Lucretia was a masterpiece and probably the best opera of the century. This pleased the composer, his friends and his publisher so much that the article was at once duplicated and distributed all over the world. But three days later, in the Sunday issue of the New York Times, Downes wrote another longer and more elaborate article recanting everything he had said. On examining the vocal score-which had been in his possession for some time, but which he had not had a chance to study-he found that, far from being a masterwork, Lucretia was a second-rate piece. How embarrassing!

Critics should have time to think. On the morning after the performance of a new work they should simply report on the facts, so discharging the journalistic part of their task. The criticism of the work itself would not come too late if it appeared a few days later, assuming that a good critic also has a good musical memory. But the facts are often neglected. The performers always receive the attention due to them but the public hardly ever does. This is regrettable from the point of view of both publisher and promoter. Anyone who has to decide whether or not a second performance should be given would certainly be interested in the opinion of an expert (while the quality of the performance is of little importance to him), but he would also want to know how the public reacted. This the critic seldom tells him, and perhaps that is the point at which he oversteps the mark and sets himself up as sole arbiter. At the end of a bad notice one sometimes reads that the public applauded the performers and not the work. How could the critic know this? If a work fails completely there are usually no ovations for the performers either. I feel that in such cases the critic should have the courage to admit that the public does not share his opinion.

Criticism is also found where it does not belong, in dictionaries and reference-books, which should confine themselves to data and lists of works, being bought and used merely for information, not for evaluation. It is amusing to find in Riemann's famous lexicon of 1919 the following sentence about Schoenberg's Treatise on Harmony: 'The author's naive admission that he has never read a history of music gives the clue to this unparalleled piece of dilettantism.' Richard Strauss fares no better, being called 'a colossus with feet of clay'. Stravinsky did not seem worth much ink and paper. After giving an incomplete list of his works performed up to that time the editor simply adds, 'Stravinsky lives at Morges, near Lausanne,' and so unwittingly did the right thing. This bad example, however, has not prevented later editors of encyclopaedias from making the same mistakes: in the second of the fifteen or sixteen volumes ofthe largest musical dictionary ever undertaken in Germany, one can read the utterly illconceived and, atbest, absurdly premature comment (the volume was published in 1952) that Benjamin Britten was 'the Saint-Saens of British composers'.

Despite all this it must be said that music criticism has lost much of its old vitality and courage. Past mistakes, and particularly the experience with twelve-note music after the Second World War, may have disheartened it. When it comes to modern avant-garde music one seldom finds a clear-cut pronouncement; the critic prefers to shelter behind theoretical discussions which avoid the decisive question of whether, above and beyond technicalities, a work is good or bad. This more than anything else again raises the problem of the usefulness and importance of music criticism in our time. Where does the critic stand? Is he the representative of the public, of the listener, or is he the advocate of the composer? Should he simply explain a composer's intentions or should he also praise or condemn them, as interpreter or judge? The distinction of critical achievement, a famous German critic once said, is measured by the distance in time by which the critic is ahead of public opinion. But only the most courageous have a chance.

 

 

Once the publisher has succeeded in obtaining a second or even a third successful performance a new work can make its way through the concert-halls and opera-houses. But only a few do. Again and again it happens that a work acclaimed by Press and public, on which high hopes have been set, disappears after a few performances, while another of which little was expected achieves a resounding success. Although the works of serious music are in general sturdier than the most enduring popular hits quite a few of them suffer from a fragility that is difficult to understand. While the public never seems to tire of listening to the same works of Mozart or Beethoven, Brahms or Elgar, it is one of the greatest problems of our musical life to keep even the most successful new works in the repertoire.

In the field of opera, organizational and administrative reasons often prevent the carrying-over of a new work from one season to the next. There is hardly an opera-house left anywhere which can keep together an ensemble of principal singers and conductors for more than one season, so that if a new opera is to be repeated in the following season it will require studying and rehearsing all over again. Such works thus compare unfavourably with those of the old standard repertoire which every singer, conductor and orchestral player knows virtually by heart and which can be staged with the minimum of rehearsals. And so it regularly happens that a new opera is played half a dozen times within a few weeks, only to disappear-at best for a number of years, occasionally for ever. What a waste of time, effort and public money when, after nine months of exhausting rehearsals, Schoenberg's Moses and Aaron is given three performances and then not performed again! There are undoubtedly many members of the public who may not want to listen to a new opera two or three times in quick succession but would like to hear it again a year later in order to check or correct their first impression. They hardly ever get that chance. How, then, can a contemporary repertoire be assembled, as it was in the nineteenth century ? Then there were many avenues by which a new and successful opera could become intimately known and popular: not only were vocal and piano scores in wide circulation but orchestras and bands in places of entertainment played selections, and singers included the favourite arias in their concerts. There was a general desire for close acquaintance which was not easily deterred by musical difficulties such as those presented by Richard Wagner and, at the end of the era, by Richard Strauss.

These avenues to popularity are now closed by the music itself. There are no selections or arias to be extracted from today's new operas. The symphonic repertoire has benefited in a few instances-Hindemith's Mathis der Maler symphony, Alban Berg's symphonic pieces from Wozzeck and Lulu, Britten's Interludes and Passacaglia from Peter Grimes. But these symphonic extracts tend to lead their own lives independent of the operas. New operas can be heard only in the opera-house, and there perennial casting difficulties prevent the frequent and regular revivals any work of new music, and new opera in particular, would require in order to become familiar to the opera-goer.

But does the opera-goer or the public in general want to become familiar with new works? There is some inexplicable hesitation on the part of the listeners to become closely involved in works unknown to our fathers. Even if an opera-director could and would keep a new opera in the regular repertoire he would find little support from the public. Benjamin Britten's Peter Grimes was one of the greatest operatic successes since Strauss's Rosenkavalier. After its sensational premiere in London in 1945 the opera was played from I946 to I948 in every remaining opera-house in the world, and was everywhere acclaimed with the same enthusiasm. If this had happened fifty years earlier I believe the work would have established itself as an indispensable item in the operatic repertoire. But it petered out. There were and still are isolated revivals, but the reception is much cooler than it was in the beginning and tickets are not easily sold.

This strange aloofness on the part of the public is no less apparent in the concert-hall, where no organizational problems stand in the way of regular repeat performances. Here too the most superficial acquaintance seems to satisfy the listener, and out of many excellent works written after the First World War only a comparative handful have found a permanent place in musical life. To quote only one or two outstanding examples: in the 1920s Ernest Bloch's 'Concerto Grosso' was one of the most outstanding successes but it has disappeared and attempts at reviving it have failed. Honegger's Roi David or Jeanne au bucher are practically forgotten. A long list of similar works could be compiled which were neither common-place nor unduly demanding, yet though they once appealed to large audiences they could not be kept alive.

Superficiality and oblivion are brother and sister. In most cases the composer has only to die for his works to be soon forgotten by public, conductors and concert-promoters alike. Exceptions such as Bartok rather confirm the rule.

And so it happens that even the thirtieth performance of a new work is no guarantee of lasting success.

Old friendships, on the other hand, are unshakable, both in the opera-house and in the concert-hall, although the dividing-line between real affection and comfortable habit is not clearly defined. It may be idle to speculate why new friendships are so rare and so difficult to achieve. But one of the basic reasons is, I believe, the disappearance of the amateur musician, of the man or woman who not only listens but makes music himself-and the same type of music which he hears from the professionals; that is, new music. But new music is not written for the amateur.

The prevalence of old and familiar music does more than the comparatively rare appearance of new music to bring the performer into the centre of musical life. When the same works are performed over and over again it is not so much a question of what is performed as of how.

I have mentioned the ancillary rights of performers, and said that they provide a profound insight into present-day musical life. Indeed, the most contradictory attitudes exist here side by side. Historians and purists today insist that there should be no 'interpretation' in the true sense, that the original and unadulterated texts sufficiently express the composer's intentions and that the performer, far from being an interpreter, has to do nothing but follow the composer's instructions. Performers themselves tend to agree with this new but nevertheless sacred principle. But as soon as they do so they waive any claim to a creative contribution and therefore to any right of their own, however 'ancillary' it may be.

As so often in life, facts are stronger than theories. The idea that there should be no interpretation in music does not apply in the popular variety, where interpretation is not only permissible but essential. This is not the limited improvisation of the taille in old scores or of the basso continuo, which could vary from simple chords to an independent interpolation according to the capability of the player. In popular music the composer gives the interpreter no more than a cue, and he is welcome to any interpretation he likes, so long as it is effective. The composer, therefore, is almost insignificant. The millions who buy pop records buy them because of Bing Crosby or Duke Ellington or Sammy Davis, Jr. Popular songs are identified with their interpreters and not their composers, and fidelity to the text becomes absurd. In such cases the neighbouring or ancillary rights are well justified and closely connected with the primary authors' rights. The performer of a pop song does make a creative contribution of his own which demands and deserves recognition and remuneration.

The composer of serious music, however, found no support for his claims to an exclusive right. It is strange that a legal detour had to be made to establish that even the most carefully written musical text requires some mysterious ingredient to bring it to life, even if every detail of the performance corresponds to the indications of the score and no wilful addition or omission can be discovered. Stravinsky insists that there should be no 'interpretation' of his music. In recent years he has suppressed all tempo indications in his scores, replacing them with metronome markings to avoid any misleading 'expression' and to emphasize that performance is a mere technical process, independent of any mood, understanding or personal involvement on the part of the performer.

At this point the tyranny of performer and composer change places. Where once the performer could successfully pretend that he knew better than the composer, he is now reduced to doing as he is told. Fortunately or unfortunately, the human mind is not a mechanical device like the metronome, and accuracy in musical matters is unattainable. The simplest things are indeterminable. How loud is forte, how soft piano? And is it the same wherever it occurs? Is Schumann's 'as fast as possible' at the beginning of the G-minor Sonata followed by 'faster still' in the coda, really nonsensical, or Beethoven's 'con una certa espressione parlante' in Opus 33, No. 6, an unmistakable, certain indication of speed and expression? Whatever composers or theorists rnay say, in the International Convention on the ancillary, or interpreter's, rights it is laid down in black and white that every performer must necessarily make a creative and personal contribution which is worthy of legal protection. Ernest Ansermet, himself one of the outstanding interpreters of serious music in our time, defends what the lawyers have formulated: that the mystery of musical creation extends to the re-creator.

If the law has reasserted the importance of the performer it has not given him back the panache of his more romantic-and, perhaps, less efficient-predecessors. Paganini's 'devil' and Liszt's bravura are no more, nor are singers what they used to be, famous for their voices and the scandals around them, like Pasta and Malibran, Nourrit or Lablache. There were still some survivors of those halcyon days a few years after the First World War: Eugen d'Albert, Moriz Rosenthal, Bronislav Huberman, Tetrazzini and Toti dal Monte, Caruso and Chaliapin, Arimondi and Baklanov. But what once seemed almost black magic has turned into mere technical excellence. Perhaps it was the professional superiority of Artur Schnabel or the perfect naturalness of Adolf Busch which introduced the new type of soloist, who is no longer called virtuoso and despises magic, leaving all the responsibility, as it were, to the composer. It is not easy to say whether today's violinists, pianists, cellists and singers are better than or as good as their famous predecessors. The virtuoso of former days with his long hair and fluttering tie was anxious to show how difficult the piece he was playing was and how he mastered it. The modern soloist seems not to notice the diffculties and avoids a whole musical literature written for virtuoso display; Paganini's 'Streghe', Liszt's 'St Paul marchant sur les flots', Sarasate's 'Gipsy Tunes'. Such music has fallen into disrepute, and solo recitals, particularly by instrumentalists, are rare. They all prefer to play concertos with an orchestra, even two in one evening. It has all become rather dignified and rather dull.

The orchestras, however, are undoubtedly better than they were before. Human beings are now more efficient: the runners, the high- and longjumpers, the tennis-players, the acrobats in their dinnerjackets-and the orchestral musicians. There are always some old people who like to dwell on bygone glories such as the world will never see again. But I well remember the days of wobbling horns in the minuet of Beethoven's Eighth or scratching violins in the prelude to Traviafa. This hardly ever happens today, and if it does happen the public takes great exception. The instruments may be better, but the musicians are certainly much better educated both musically and generally than they were at a time when it was the general view that music could prosper with no more than elementary schooling. And when one thinks of the versatile gentlemen in dance-bands, each of them playing three or four different instruments, and remembers the miserable men in old dance orchestras fiddling away at their waltzes and polkas, one can only stand and admire: it is an astonishing change, both musically and socially.

Like the famous dance-bands the great orchestras have only recently acquired a virtuoso reputation. Before, and for a long time after, the renowned Mannheim Court Orchestra amazed listeners with its precision and discipline, its measured crescendi and ritardandi and its surprising sforzandi, history ignored the orchestras and also the conductors who had to indicate the tempo from the cembalo or mark it with a foot- or stick-beat on the floor, a service that earned them no public recognition. Nobody has troubled to tell us whether Mozart and Haydn were good conductors. Music had to become more personal and individual to provide the conductor and the orchestra with an individual task. People noted that Carl Maria von Weber or Mendelssohn were better conductors than others; Spontini's ivory baton became famous; Berlioz and Liszt demonstrated that conducting was a creative or at least re-creative occupation demanding exceptional qualifications. With Bulow, Richter and Hermann Levi there arrived the conductor-virtuoso, and with him the virtuoso orchestra. Toscanini, Furtwangler and, more recently, Karajan; the Boston Symphony and the New York, Vienna and Berlin Philharmonic orchestras-these are as famous today as the great singers and instrumentalists were in former times. They dominate the musical scene and rule our musical life.

The excellence of the modern performer has quickly become a matter of course, and the public at large is often unaware of it. Particularly where the mass media of communication, broadcasting and gramophone records, take possession of music, performances of the highest standard now reach every village and hamlet where professional performances of similar quality were previously unknown. Once upon a time simple folk could enjoy their own simple music-making. But the new professionalism discourages them; even to them amateurism has become intolerable.

There will be quite a few who welcome this change as advancing the level of musical culture. But it leaves no choice; it means perfection or nothing. And the art of music, which has become so common, becomes also more remote.

All this is the music-publisher's joy and sorrow. As printer and promoter, patron and exploiter, he has to meet all the problems, deal with them and find encouragement and at times consolation in the thought that it is the art itself which creates and solves them.

 

return to part 1 of this chapter 

 

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