Q: What do you remember about
your first experiences seeing the Philadelphia Orchestra perform?
A: My first experience with the Philadelphia Orchestra
was in Ann Arbor during the spring Festival, which Ormandy conducted
every year. We lived in Ann Arbor for four years, and so we became
"aficionados" of the Orchestra. When we moved to Philadelphia,
we were right at home with "our" Orchestra.
Q: Do you have a favorite performer, instrument,
composer and/or piece of music?
A: One of my great memories, probably from the
late 60s, was a Beethoven concerto that Alicia de Larrocha played
with the Orchestra. She was so pleased with the performance that
she jumped up from the piano, ran to Ormandy, and threw her arms
around him. This appreciation was very typical of all soloists who
played with Ormandy. Over all, my favorite composer is Antonin Dvorák,
with Tchaikovsky and Richard Strauss as close seconds. I have several
favorite compositions from a variety of composers. Since the violin
is my favorite instrument, I love most violin concertos and violin
Q: Concerning the "Philadelphia Sound,"
you write in your Preface: "The seeds were sown by Stokowski,
flowered with Ormandy, were strictly cultivated by Muti, and flowered
again, but with more definition, under Sawallisch." What do
you think accounts for the different styles of each conductor?
A: I think the differences come from both the intent
and the personality of the conductor. Ormandy concentrated on beautiful
sound above all else; Muti wanted precision and balance and a different
style for each composer; Sawallisch, in a certain way, combined
Q: Do you have a favorite conductor?
A: I do, but I took great pains to be nonpartisan
in my writing. It pleased me when three musicians read the first
draft and each chose a different conductor as my favorite. Readers
can make their own decisions about my preference.
Q: Is there a particular composer or piece
of music you associate with each of the conductors, and can you
recall seeing a particularly inspired performance by each conductor?
A: I associate Rachminoff's music with Ormandy.
They were good friends and often worked together. With Muti I associate
the concert operas that he conducted with the Orchestra. With Sawallisch
it is the music of Strauss and Brahms, plus the German repertoire
in general. There are so many inspired performances that it would
be difficult to list them.
Q: The relationship of the Orchestra members
and the Orchestra's board with each conductor is very important
and Philadelphia Maestros addresses both of these concerns
in its pages. How do you feel that these relationships have shifted
A: Rather than "shifted" I would say
that the relationship between Music Director and the board has an
alternating pattern. Stokowski's relationship was turbulent, and
he proffered his resignation several times. Ormandy and the Orchestra
Board had good relations as evidenced by his 44 years as Music Director.
Muti announced soon into his directorship that "the board worked
for the Orchestra, not the other way around." Relations between
Sawallisch and the board were again calm.
Q: You were able to interview Lang Lang, Sarah
Chang, and Gary Graffman about their relationship with the conductors.
Why did you choose these three performers, and did anything they
say surprise you?
A: I chose these three because of their links to
the Philadelphia scene. Gary Graffman began studying at Curtis when
he was 7, and was the soloist many times with Ormandy. Lang Lang
came to Curtis at age 14, studied under Mr. Graffman, and made his
debut with the Orchestra under Sawallisch. Sarah Chang was born
in Philadelphia and made her debut with the Orchestra under Muti.
I was surprised at the warmth and admiration that each expressed
for the conductors.
Q: The book has some beautiful photos of a
young Ormandy at the violin, Muti passionately conducting, and Swallisch
at rehearsal. What can you say about the photos used in the book?
A: The University of Pennsylvania Rare Book and
Manuscript Library has an extensive collection of Ormandy's photos.
I am told that the one of Ormandy and Stokowski is very rare—it's
the only photo of both conductors posed together. Since the Archives
of the Orchestra have been closed, it was possible to obtain only
one of Muti from this rich source. Fortunately The Philadelphia
Inquirer made possible those of Sawallisch, all from his later
Q: What kind of research did you do to write
this book? And what made you focus on just these three conductors?
A: I have always been fascinated by the role of
the conductor—particularly the three in my book—because
I have watched them consistently over the years. I began by reading
every thing I could find about each conductor. Then I went to the
Archives of the Orchestra (then open), and those of the Music Division
of the Free Library. The University of Pennsylvania Libraries has
voluminous material on Ormandy. From there, I began my interviews
with members of the Orchestra.
Q: Why did you decide to write this particular
book—a homage to the three conductors and the Orchestra—instead
of continuing your previous scholarly work?
A: Throughout my professional career I wrote two
books and many articles and essays in the field of Spanish and Latin
American literature. After I retired from Temple University, I had
the desire to write something different, and so I turned to my other
great love—classical music. It was a joy to write this book,
especially because the many musicians that I interviewed were so
enthusiastic and so generous with their time. This opened up different
perspectives and a new focus to my writing.
Q: Do you play a musical instrument? Did you
ever dream of being a member of the Philadelphia Orchestra?
A: I played the piano until my daughter was in
3rd grade—by then she could play my entire repertoire much
better than I. Vicariously I have shared her musical education at
Juilliard and her subsequent career as a pianist. I did minor in
music as an undergraduate, but I never imagined myself anywhere
but in the audience listening to the Orchestra.