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Musical Mirth
by Lindsay Perigo

Two dear friends have sent me some seasonal cheer of a liquid red variety - already consumed, alas - & a little volume called Quotations from the World of Music. It contains such gems as:

"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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