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"A friend said to Chopin
It would be topin
If only yude
Write an etude."
That's anonymous. Then:
"It is sobering to consider that when Mozart was my age he had been dead a
year." - Tom Lehrer.
"Clarinet, n. An instrument of torture operated by a person with cotton in
his ears. There are two instruments worse than a clarinet - two clarinets."
- Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary, 1906.
"The Detroit Quartet played Brahms last night. Brahms lost." – Anonymous critic.
"Please write music like Wagner, only louder." - Samuel Goldwyn instructing a movie composer.
"I occasionally play works by contemporary composers, & for two reasons. First, to discourage the composer from writing any more, & second, to remind myself how much I appreciate Beethoven." - Jascha Heifetz.
"There's only two ways to sum up music: either it's good or it's bad. If it's good you don't mess about with it, you just enjoy it." – Louis Armstrong.
"God tells me how he wants this music played - & you get in the way." - Toscanini at rehearsal.
"Brass bands are all very well in their place - outdoors & several miles away." - Sir Thomas Beecham.
Some of Sir Thomas' best bons mots are not included here, such as, when asked his opinion of Stockhausen: "I think I trod in some the other day."
Of a famous violinist Sir Thomas once said, "As a violinist he has a certain defect." What is that? he was asked. "He can't play the violin."
To a wayward player during rehearsal: "We do not expect you to follow us all the time, but if you would have the goodness to keep up with us occasionally ..."
To a Wagnerian tenor in rehearsal: "Have you ever made love?" "Yes, Sir Thomas." "Do you consider yours a suitable way of making love to Eva?" "Well, there are different ways of making love." "Observing your grave, deliberate motions, I was reminded of that estimable quadruped, the hedgehog."
To a trombonist in rehearsal: "Are you producing as much sound as possible from that quaint & antique drainage system you are applying to your face?"
And, my favourite: "The English people are not educated enough to appreciate opera. They are the most commonplace, uncultured race in Europe."
To which I would add this final note - to encourage the English to sing opera would be an act of unconscionable carelessness. The English specialise in what I call "nanny-goat tenors," who lend credence to Caruso's description of tenor-singing as "defecating upwards."
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