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Thursday, 24 October 2013

Orchestral experience

Tuesday, October 24th., Fulham Park Gardens.

Richter concert. I sat in the orchestra, between the kettle-drums and the side-drum. You can't be too close to an orchestra. The sound is quite different, more voluptuous, more significant, when you are in the middle of it. Everything takes on a new aspect. the orchestra becomes a set of individuals delicately inter-related, instead of one huge machine.

Richter has all the air of a great man. He seems to exist in an inner world of his own, from which, however, he can recall himself instantly at will. He shows perfect confidence in his orchestra, and guides them by little intimate signs, hints, suggestions. When pleased he shows it in a gay half-childlike manner; smiling, nodding and a curious short wave of the fore-arm from the elbow. Having started his men, he allowed them to go through the second movement of Tchaikowsky's "Pathetique" symphony without conducting at all (I understand this is his custom with this movement). They played it superbly. At the end he clapped delightedly, and then turned to the audience with a large gesture of the arms to indicate that really he had nothing to do with the affair. 

Hans Richter (1843 Р1916) was an Austrian-Hungarian orchestral and operatic conductor. He studied at the Vienna Conservatory and developed his conducting career at several different opera houses in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He became associated with Richard Wagner in the 1860s, and in 1876 he was chosen to conduct the first complete performance of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus. In 1877 he assisted the ailing composer as conductor of a major series of Wagner concerts in London, and from then onwards he became a familiar feature of English musical life. In later years, Richter became a whole-hearted admirer of Sir Edward Elgar, and he also came to accept Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. On one occasion, he laid down his baton and allowed a London orchestra to play the whole second movement of Tchaikovsky's Path̩tique Symphony itself. Richter's approach to conducting was monumental rather than mercurial or dynamic, emphasising the overall structure of major works in preference to bringing out individual moments of beauty or passion. Some observers regarded him as little more than a time-beater; but others, notably Eugene Goossens, pointed to the remarkable rhythmic vitality of his work, a quality which hardly squares with the image of Richter as a rather stolid and static personality.


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