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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000918.txt from 2001/02

From: "Lacy, Edwin" <>
Subj: RE: [kl] You never know who'll you meet...
Date: Fri, 23 Feb 2001 16:09:25 -0500

This story was told to me about 35 years ago by one of my musicology
professors at Indiana University, Walter Kaufmann. Walter Kaufmann himself
was an enormously interesting and able man - stories about him could fill a
book. He had the most prodigious musical memory I have ever encountered.

But, back to the story. Being a native of Austria, when he was a youngster,
he and his family were on vacation in a resort town in the region of the
Bavarian Alps. This would have been early in the 20th century. In the town
where they were vacationing, there was a little community symphony
orchestra. Kaufmann and his father were walking around the town, and heard
the orchestra rehearsing one of the tone poems of Strauss, and royally
butchering it. They wandered into the concert hall to listen to the
rehearsal, and heard the local conductor explaining how he was going to
conduct a certain passage. The right hand was going to beat in four beats
per measure, which was for the woodwinds and brass. At the same time, the
left hand would be beating in three beats per measure for the strings. The
percussion would just have to fend for themselves. As you can imagine, the
result was as near chaos as an orchestra can get.

Then, they noticed a dour-appearing distinguished gentleman who was also
observing the rehearsal, as he walked up on the stage, held his hand out to
the conductor as though requesting the baton. He said, "May I try it?" The
conductor was so shocked at this effrontery that he handed over the baton
and nearly fell off the podium. The uninvited guest conductor proceded to
start the orchestra in the same place, beating one large, slow beat per
measure, and the passage worked perfectly.

The unknown guest conductor turned out to be Richard Strauss himself!

Ed Lacy

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