Sunday, May 09, 2010

Things That Make You Go "Buh?"*

Xiyun Yang at the NYT says:
Mao’s infamous wife, Jiang Qing...insisted that Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony be swapped out for the Sixth. Eugene Ormandy, the orchestra’s conductor at the time, detested the piece and refused to play it.

Seriously? Ormandy "detested" the Pastoral Symph, with its cute li'l centaurs and fauns and whatnot? I can't even imagine what story that's a garbled version of.

* Thanks to Lisa Hirsch for the sound effects.


At 5/09/2010 6:34 PM, Blogger Lisa Hirsch said...

Haha, thanks for the shout-out, but Drew McManus is truly responsible for that particular sound effect.

At 5/10/2010 10:42 PM, Blogger Michael said...

For questions about the history of classical music in China, I first go to Rhapsody in Red by Sheila Melvin and Jindong Cai. From page 270:

"The third Beijing concert suddenly became complicated when Jiang Qing unexpectedly announced that she would attend, together with other high level radicals such as Yao Wenyuan and Wu De. When Ormandy heard the news, he changed the program to include the Yellow River Piano Concerto, the score for which he had obtained several months earlier through the US State Department and tried out at New York's Saratoga Music Festival. Originally, the orchestra had also planned to play Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, but through her interlocuters Jiang Qing asked that this be changed to Beethoven's Sixth. This caused some consternation on the American side, since there had been no previous mention of Beethoven's Sixth in any discussion of the programs to be performed and they had not brought the parts. Not knowing of Yu Huiyong's proclamations regarding Beethoven's symphonies, they were understandably confused as to why the composer's Sixth Symphony was suddenly so much preferable to his Fifth. However, Ormandy obliged and the orchestra borrowed the parts from the Central Philharmonic."

At 5/12/2010 10:37 AM, Blogger Alex Ross said...

Josh, there is some version of this story -- retailed by one of the diplomats, as I recall — in which Ormandy expresses dislike of the Pastorale. But that's absurd, of course. Ormandy gave a long interview to Stereo Review in 1974 in which he goes into the whole episode in rich, amusing detail. In the course of it he says how much he likes the Pastorale — the problem, of course, was finding the parts.


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