Symphony Hall Boston,1960, a story, a legend

During those times I was studying with Rosario Mazzeo, truly a wonderful Bass Clarinetist, who had first played Eb in the Boston Symphony. There is a recording of him playing “El Salon Mexico” by Aaron Copland,(still availoable) the Eb clarinet solo, with its glissando was his original interpretation. While all Eb players use the gliss now, none ever did it with the absolutely abandon used by Rosie. At that time, he was the personnel manager of the Boston Orchestra. It was he who originated playing behind a screen for auditions, still a sham in my opinion. Everyone knows who is playing, screen or no screen.
In those times, I used to go over to his office to see him for whatever reasons. First I had to call from the street level office. Peggy , his secretary would answer and allow me to come up. On that particular day, I heard the orchestra while I was walking, and slipped into the hall to listen for a while. They were recording, were completely spread out in the entire hall, grouped by instruments, with many microphones, completely the opposite of the usual seating. I forget what they were playng, perhaps it was Ravel, and I stood there, enthralled.

The door opened abruptly and a hand came in and literally grabbed me by the neck, pulling me out into the hallway.
It was Peggy. She told me that if anyone had seen me listening, the entire orchestra would have had to have been paid. This was a rule instigated by the union and Mazzeo. Koussevitsky, the conductor had been so insulting during rehearsals to the members of the orchestra that the rule had been made that rehearsals were to be completely private ,so as to avoid the inevitable embarrassment caused by the conductor.
It is quite amusing to remember bceause she was ordinarily such a gentle soul. grabbing some kid around he neck and pulling him out of the hall is not something one would normally associate with such a gentle person.
Well, the orchetra didn’t spot me and was not p[aid for my error, however it is not something I will ever forget.

The famous story associated with rehearsals with Koussevitsky is one many have heard, but actually occured. They were recording Til Eulenspiegel (Richard Strauss) on 78 rpm. With that speed, recording had to be made for at least ten minutes, with no edits, and either redone or continued until the end of the recording. The famous first horn of th BSO,Willem Adriaan Valkenier cracked one of the notes of the famous horn solo .At the conclusion of the particular segment of recording, he went to Koussevitsky and begged him to re-record that first side of te recording. Koussevitsky refused.
On the way out of the session, Valkenier passed “Koussys” office, the door of which was open. He said, You son of a bitch! Koussevitsky replied nonchalantly, “It’s never too late to apologize”

True story, told to me a Tom Kenny, former Principal horn of Cleveland, Detroit orchestras under Szell,and Paray, and a student of Valkniers.

Stay well, and keep on practicing.



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