July 5, 1919
Page 5

Conductor Informs the Violinist that Inability to Get Along With the “Powers That Be” Alone Prevents His Resuming His Career in America—Asserts He Did Not Decline Boston Symphony Leadership—Effects of War Upon Italy’s Musical Life as Spalding Has Observed Them—The Former Lieutenant Home Again to Return to His Violin So Long Neglected in Favor of His Military Duties

“TOSCANINI told me that he longed to return to America. He said he loved the country and felt homesick for it. He felt certain, moreover, that the Americans had a warm spot in their hearts for him. As long as the war was iN progress he would not have left Italy, the more as his son was serving in the Italian army. He would gladly come back to us now, but he could not, so he declared, get along with ‘the powers that be.’”
Albert Spalding communicated this information last week, a few days after disembarking from the Dante Alighieri and doffing the emblems of his two years’ soldiering. A meeting with Toscanini had been one of the few incidents of a musical connotation that lent relief to the arduousness of aviation. The great Arturo was apparently more than usually confiding. And his sentiments as just quoted confirm decidedly what has long been a strong surmise if not an open secret. Only those same “powers that be” (let the reader exert himself to fix their identity) stand between Toscanini’s persistent absence and our enjoyment of his Olympian art. So report has given us to understand and now ipse dixit.
“Boston had gotten in touch with Toscanini as to the conductorship of its orchestra. He did not reject the proposal. Instead, he cabled back, making certain inquiries. His cable, he told me, was never answered. So he continued his operatic and symphonic direction in different centers of Italy. His success was vast. None the less he was exasperated when his purpose of conducting Wagner numbers was frustrated by the public attitude. He showed some surprise that his feat of conducting a band during the progress of a difficult offensive should have won him so much admiration. He assured me he had found nothing so enormously exciting in it. But when accounts of the incident were read to him he somewhat changed his mind and concluded that ‘it must have been quite exciting after all.’”
Little Leisure for Violin
Mr. Spalding paid little attention to his violin during his regular military life. After the armistice he played formally, but otherwise, a part from a little momentary musical indulgence in such off minutes as a soldier’s crowded day allows, he let the instrument lie unused. He did not set out, like many of his fellow musicians, to win the war by an intensive exercise of his peace-time profession. The other seemed to him incomparably the weightier obligation, one to be fulfilled at the denial, if there were need, of all things else. And in those fugitive moments of musical distraction there was no thought of practice. Only when the war ended did he revert to his violin with a pre-war enthusiasm. And then he played publicly. He was perhaps the brightest star of Molinari’s famous “All-American” concert at the Augusteo in Rome, when he performed the Mendelssohn Concerto at the tail end of the program.
But if he had small leisure to play Mr. Spalding did manage to observe. And his observations on the effects of the war, musically, are sufficiently engrossing. The cataclysm has not yet put forth its musical fruits. It will not for some time to come, in his opinion.
“We are yet too near the holocaust. There has been so far no opportunity for the inner impressions and reactions to crystallize. And these things must be if we are to have an artistic expression of a tremendous time. Until there has been a greater advance in material reconstruction, until the considerations immediately affecting life are disposed of, one cannot look for any considerable flowering forth of the spirit. But influences are not the less at work and they are shaping themselves to definite artistic ends, small though the issues still appear. I remarked a decided tendency in Italy to break away from the preponderating exclusiveness of opera. The Italian has for years been bound down by the dominance of Verdi. I am not saying this in disparagement of his genius. But Italians have kept their gaze on none but the operatic goal.
“To-day there is a decided increase in the production of absolute music. More, in absolute music expressed through the simplest instrumental medium. Great aggregations of orchestral forces are not obtainable as they were before the war. And the limitation of orchestral means has resulted in a utilization of the familiar instruments for a much greater variety of purposes than used to be. Composers no longer make the lavish demands they did five years ago. Their music would not be heard if they did. They are writing much chamber music, for one thing. And compositions that may grow into elaborate orchestral proportions are first being designed for piano. At some future time their expansion may come. But fragments are the order of the hour. Mental and physical leisure is lacking for their further efflorescence. Still these fragments point to a new condition, to a new life. At some future time I believe the big man will come and give great expression to what has been more or less successfully formulating itself in them.
“The works by these younger men have a decidedly Italian tinge. They are not academic and imitative, as the symphonic music of Italians has so frequently been. Montemezzi has been writing for orchestra. So have a number of others. I was much struck ·by the popularity lately achieved by the choral works of Perosi. I admired them greatly myself—indeed, I consider Perosi the most gifted church writer living. And the Italians, on their part, are today receiving his work with the greatest display of interest and enthusiasm.” H. F. P.


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