Thu Jan 29, 2004 2:11 pm - Virgil Thomson
|Interview With Virgil Thomson
M.P.- Virgil, you've divided composers into bachelors and family men: Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Satie and yourself are on one side: and Bach, Mozart, Schumann and Schoenberg are on the other. Do you think the same kind of energy goes into composing and family life?
V.T.- I haven't the vaguest idea of what goes on in family life- except for my own memories of youth and childhood which were very pleasant. Mozart had a disastrous family life; in eleven years of marriage his wife was pregnant ten times. I think she had five miscarriages and five real births and there was no money to speak of around the house. Mozart had to chase commissions all day long.
M.P. - Everything costs money, even creating people.
V.T.- That's why the institution of marriage is failing; it gave up the dowry. Money made the Musicians Union in San Francisco complain when Bridges's National Maritime Union had Bunk Jonson playing in a big jazz hall: there were dances there every Sunday. The Musicians Union was bitterly opposed; they didn't want jazz to get a hold there because then they would have to import musicians. It would have put their people out of business in the nightspots.
M.P. - You talk about American rhythm and the limitations of Schoenberg's rhythm-
V.T.- Well, American rhythm has a nature of its own. A four-four measure does not consist of four beats of variable accents@ it's eight beats of equal accents. (Bangs on the table eight times precisely.) They do it like that, all the American musicians.
They even do it with their foot. The steadiness of American rhythm, upon which European rhythm can be encrusted, is very different from the European concepts, which came in Romantic times. There's no such thing there as equalized beat unless you have marching armies; then you can do it. Everything is as irregular as you can make it. In modern times the American and Russian model have created particularly in France a highly sophisticated view of rhythm. But rhythm in the time of Beethoven, Haydn or Mozart was different from the Romantic affair. When Beethoven wanted an accent he always wrote it in even when it came on the downbeat. After that the rubato element came in with the gypsies moving up the Danube. (laughs) The 19th-century decay of German music is largely a rhythmic decay. By the 20th century when music got renewed through the American and Russian facilities and concepts Germany didn't like that. The harmony, the counterpoint and the intervalic conceptions of Schoenberg are extremely sophisticated; the rhythm is a little old fashioned.
M.P.-But compared to the Webernesque anatomized rhythms don't the old Schoenberg rhythms at least thrust you through the piece?
V.T. - Not necessarily; I never felt much thrusting through a piece in Schoenberg, I assure you. (laughs) Stravinsky will thrust you through a piece! And Debussy can keep you completely immobile. That's one of the great French tricks.
M.P.- You seem in your criticism to have disliked Sibelius. How do you feel about him now?
V.T. - I don't like the word dislike. It seemed to me he was a third-rate composer and he still seems so. What difference does it make now? His music is rarely played.
M.P.- How do you feel about Stokowski now?
V.T. - In his middle life he became one of the great classical conductors; in his early life he had been expert, but not
terribly well educated musically, so that his interpretations, so
to speak, were frequently exaggerated in one sense or another, often in the direction of personal display, but he was always a musician of first-class ear and abilities. Later, when he became educated through conducting everything and the egomanias of youth fell away from him nobody could conduct Beethoven symphonies more straightforwardly than he, avoiding all the booby-traps-and Heaven knows the Beethoven symphonies are sewn through and through with booby traps. He was so skillful he'd play as if he gave no concession to them, moving forward like a great classical reading. Then of course he made things sound good. He was brought up as an organist, came to America as an organist, and played that at St. Bartholomew's Church in New York; his concept of orchestral balances is very largely the concept of an organist in the same way that Toscanini's was that of a string player. That shows through in composers like Cesar Franck and Bruckner, both of them organists. He was thoroughly honorable in his relation to composers, that is, he played them. I think it's thoroughly dishonorable not to play them. When he was over 90 he was still learning new pieces and playing them. He learned a new piece of mine when he was something like 88. He was a pleasure to work with because he was straightforward, understood everything, and talked very little. Once when he was playing a work of mine he telephoned me from Los Angeles. He telephoned me to learn what I meant by the word bell in a score. Did I mean a little
mallet-sounding bell or a deep chime? I told him, and that's all he wanted to know; everything else was perfectly clear.
M.P.- You said there weren't five American art song composers comparable to Irving Berlin.
V.T.- Well, we've never had anybody comparable here to the great German lieder composers-Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Hugo Wolf and Mahler, five of them- or the great French ones, Faure, Ravel, Debussy, Poulenc. Nobody here is as good as any of those; they don't get inside the poem and they're not as free musically. It's not the fault of the English language; German was a much tougher nut to crack than English. And if you think the French language is easy to sing, you're crazy.
M.P.- I think French lends itself more to appoggiatura than other languages.
V.T.- Well, I guess it does; that's all right. The real
difficulty in the French language is the nasal vowels. They tend to make the higher voices like the sopranos and tenors sound a little squealy. On the other hand they're marvelous for the bass and baritone voices because they lighten them. And that's why the French basses and baritones tend to be awfully good and awfully satisfactory. French vocal technique is not identical with the Italian. French vocal teachers endeavor as far as possible to use Italian vowels but you can't do that with the nasals.
M.P.- Did anybody come along in American music to outdo Irving Berlin?
V.T.- There are five or ten American songwriters like him, Cole Porter and George Gershwin lead the world in that practice. There are no classical American songwriters who lead the world!
M.P.- How do you feel about music that seems to come from no country, that could have been written anywhere from Africa to the South Pole?
V.T.- It doesn't. Even twelve-tone music has in its waltz
rhythms, a kind of Old Vienna that composers take everywhere with them.
M.P.- Apropos of local traditions, if all string players scooped in Brahms' time, as CasaIs says, shouldn't everybody scoop when playing Brahms? You praised Luigi Silva for playing Brahms without scooping.
V.T.- There are certain legitimate occasions in string playing when the slide in moving from one position to another is either necessary or indicated. In general one attempts as far as
possible to make the listener not aware of the sliding; of course within any given position of the hand the fingers can operate accurately, but when you go from one position to another you may slide a little bit. I'm not giving anybody string lessons but if you want to hear that kind of classical perfection at its best just listen to the recordings of old CasaIs himself. He didn't slide around. And he perfected what he calls the thumb positions of the cello-which is what happens when you get far down on the fingerboard, you put your thumb on top of the fingerboard and start measuring like an inchworm from the thumb. And that enables you to play the notes in the higher positions far more accurately than having to jerk the whole hand. I once had a few cello lessons. I'm no expert in cello playing but I knew Luigi Silva extremely well and he told me what could and could not be played. He showed me ways of making things easier, or in some cases harder.
M.P.- Do you mind people making their personal sense out of your pieces?
V.T.- Oh, I never mind, because these things are never permanent. One person plays it one way, another person plays it another, and the more people play it in more ways, the longer the life of the piece. So that's just fine.
M.P.- You knock Horowitz for doing things like that to others.
V.T. - Horowitz was remarkable for the hard things he could do; I never thought he was remarkable in easy pieces.
M.P. - Do you think Barber fulfilled his gifts?
V.T. - He wasn't a modernist; he wasn't even a neo-romantic. He was a retarded romantic, a survival-romantic, but that doesn't mean it's the romantic survival of Sibelius or Rachmaninoff. On the surface it seems romantic and even a bit Victorian; it's wonderful music. Barber's aesthetic approach to music was fixed by the time he was eighteen; he later made more elaborate pieces but they are essentially the same boy looking at life in the same way.
M.P.- You were one of the first Mahlerites back in the 1940s; do you think he's become an overpraised cult figure?
V.T. - Oh, nobody's overpraised, and if they are, you let them alone. If something is over advertised it becomes repulsive and you have to compensate in your own life for that prejudice which we get from advertising. I praised the lieder: I was never any great advocate of the symphonies, and I can just bear Das Lied yon der Erde. The orchestration is always good. The Songs of a Wayfarer which he wrote when he was very young are beautifully orchestrated.
M.P.- How do you feel about Roy Harris?
V.T.- Oh, there's a kind of genius there, you know. When it comes off it's very beautiful and touching. Several winters ago 1 heard a late cello piece played by Terry King and Roy's wife Johanna, who's a terribly fine pianist; it was a wonderful piece. There are four or five early chamber works which are remarkable: a violin sonata, a quintet, a sextet, I've forgotten what all there is, but the orchestral works have never been quite
M.P.- What is attractive about France to Americans that make people like Roy Harris study there?
V.T.- Americans take to France like ducks to water; the French intellectuals took to ragtime and jazz before we did. Americans like to live there; Americans like to work there. We like the food, the wines@ women like the clothes. France, of course is not easy going; it's not dolce fa niente, you know. France is full of rigorous education and even more rigorous Catholic and Protestant religion. There's plenty of big business around and on top of all that they manage to preserve a kind of spontaneity. The codification and amalgamation of the French language took place earlier than any other language on the continent of Europe; they have access to more of their own past. Moliere writes in today's language. I could speak a bit of French before I went; I had a French tutor in college who used to take me out for a walk and converse. So when I got there I could get on, and after a while I was better.
M.P.- We must love Europe; we hire them to conduct our
V.T.- Well the standard repertory is mostly foreign, and the foreigners know how it goes. Back in the 19th century they knew better how Beethoven went than our boys did.
M.P.- Why do you think Marc Blitzstein stopped writing music?
V.T. - I don't know. One's gift doesn't fall away; sometimes one's inspiration weakens. It looks now as if Marc Blitzstein's first opera, The Cradle Will Rock will last; it's still alive and gets productions.
M.P.- How do you compare yourself with a composer whose music seems to be more divorced from history and timeless, like Roger Sessions's?
V.T.- I don't want to be in a position of direct personal
rivalry with Roger Sessions. I've known Roger since we were very young; we're about the same age. But my close chums in the composition business were Aaron Copland and Roy Harris.
M.P.- After 1946 do you think the German influence on the music scene has gone down?
V.T.- No, it's gone up. Oh yes, the German and some of the English publishers now dominate the continent of Europe. The quality of their composers is neither abundant nor extremely varied.
M.P.- Are programs different now than they were decades ago?
V.T.- Yes; there's not so much Sibelius around. (laughs) And the twelve-tone composers have never really made it in the big time.
M.P.- Had you heard Glen Gould before he left the halls along with Sibelius?
V.T.- I never heard him play; I heard a recording once of his playing Beethoven's Fifth Symphony-and I thought the first movement of that was colossal. It's almost better as a piano piece than as an orchestral piece, but the slow movement doesn't really work because the piano can't sustain the line.
M.P. - What do you think of Harry Partch's music?
V.T. - It's entertaining; I don't wish to diminish it by saying that. It's made with great calculation, reflection and
considerable inspiration. It's charming. I hesitate whether to say anything goes deep or doesn't but 1 do question that with Partch.
M.P. - How about Stefan Wolpe?
V.T.- Oh, he was a boy who went deep or nowhere. A German
Israeli, very accomplished and an excellent composer, but course he's very German; full of depth and breastbeating.
M.P. - Do you like any of the new synthesizer music?
V.T.- Well, I've noticed that most of the composers who have been dealing sophisticatedly with it have combined live music with their tapes-that takes the curse off the canned sound.
M.P. - How do you like Phil Glass?
V.T.- Well, he has enormous financial backing; I think he has the Rockefeller Foundation behind him. I heard a little bit of Einstein On the Beach; it seemed absolutely legitimate to me but I didn't find it addictive. Alan Hovhanness also writes
anti-climactic music that runs on like wallpaper, which I gather is what Glass does. It's not original with him; Terry Riley plays a C Major chord in different orchestrations for half an hour and people practically have orgasms.
M.P.- How does one get a piece on after one has composed it?
V.T. - Well, people do it in different ways. Some of them go and show themselves at conductors' green rooms. People have often asked me for pieces, and sometimes they don't; when they don't I just wait until somebody does. I don't find it very easy and congenial to be both a composer and a salesman. I don't mind being a copyist or conducting, but salesmanship is something for which I have very little training. Lots of people commission pieces, and when you get into a position of note you can write anything you like and find a commission for it after you get started.
M.P.- How do you compare organ sound, since you're an organist, with other instrumental sounds?
V.T.- The sound is mechanically produced so there's no accent or natural phraseology due to bowing or other circumstances. You have to have considerable ingenuity to imitate those accidents in order to put life into organ music; it can be ghastly dull.
M.P.- When you compose, you like sometimes to do portraits musically with a sitter. Was it different with a few sitters when you did A Family Portrait?
V.T.- No, I did it in my usual way. There were four members of the same family; I added another portrait I had around, as though the family had a visitor that day. 1 then scored them for brass quintet for no other reason than that I had a commission to write for the American Brass Quintet- but I thought they would sound good that way. The family seemed to think things were all right. The family came to hear the work and liked it.
M.P.- You come from Missouri; what is it about this place that makes it a fecund corner for individualists?
V.T.- Well the whole state produces them. Mark Twain is from the Mississippi River side and Scott Joplin is from Sedalia, a farm town where I had relatives and ancestors. Missouri was a slave state with a free state, Kansas, next door to it, and a great deal of tension went on between the Southerners and the
Northerners. We called them Yankees if they came over from Kansas. My people owned slaves; we were Southerners. It's hard to put your finger on the why of anything. It is true that Missouri produces people with a special kind of distinction. I was in high school with Gladys Swarthhout, an actor named William Powell, and a fellow who turned out to be a well-known writer of detective stories, Richard Lockridge. The latest Missourian to come to musical distinction is Sarah Caldwell. You see, we do what we want to out there! Compare Harry Truman who was a typical
Missourian with Eisenhower who was a Kansas boy: the Kansas people can be brilliant and bright and effective, but Missourians are more individual.
Kansas City had West Bottom factories as a small part of the city, about one-twentieth of it; the residential section was larger, and was where the church world lived, and the
administrators and rich people who ran the factories and ran the churches too. We had no more Christian Science there than anybody else but we had a very prosperous religious group which was a sort of Christian Science without Mrs. Eddy. We were a big Catholic, Baptist and Methodist center; my people were Southern Baptists but Tom Prendergast's machine was Catholic, like in Boston. It's always seemed normal to me that a city should contain everything, and that's why I was so devoted to Paris-it was just like Kansas City. It was filled with religious people, wicked people, government people, organization people, rich and poor, and there was always quite good food. Kansas City today has excellent restaurants and you get wonderful food in the houses. Kansas City contains Yankees as well as Southerners. The James boys were Southerners. The Southern side of everything was kind of sympathetic toward them. They were disapproving, as you have to be, of criminals. But the Jameses were romantic characters; you see, the impoverishment of the Southern farming and plantation families, to have nothing to do. They owned land but had no work force; they were on the town and there was no town. So some of them went into mining, some of them went into drinking, and the James boys rather romantically went into crime. Of course in Kansas City we all knew the James family. Their nephews were around, and very prominent in the Baptist Church and in the mercantile community. I loved the James boys. (pause) Any child loves a holdup man. (laughs)
M.P.- Were there individualistic family people who influenced you early?
V.T.- I don't think families or associates supply you with instincts; I think you have those from some other source,
certainly from some unknown source whether it's hereditary or not. My family was tolerant of my being a little bit feisty. They tried to teach me manners but they didn't discourage me from practicing the piano. Southern Baptists have a high tolerance for music. I learnt much later from historians that it was Baptists who circulated the historic hymn literature in America; it was not the Methodists or the Presbyterians or the Episcopalians.
M.P.- You're very well organized. Your home is organized, your music is beautifully laid out on the page. Did you get this quality from your Family?
V.T. - Well, musicians tend to be organized. Aaron Copland's just as organized as I am. It's painters that are messy. They like disorder. It's more interesting to look at. Musicians like order because it's more efficient to work in. Music takes an awful lot of time, you know. You're always having rehearsals, running in and out, giving lessons, taking lessons, going places, eating with your profession. If you're not organized about it you'II get nowhere. Just imagine the kind of temperament it takes for a man to choose an instrument like the cello which he's going to have to carry onto every subway in town.
M.P.- He should be organized enough to stay out of the rush hour. (V.T. laughs.) Who were the modern composers you played in Kansas City?
V.T. - Well, the best-known composer then was Edward MacDowell, and we all played Edward MacDowell. There are four big sonatas and three or four sets of shorter pieces, the Woodland Sketches and the Sea Pieces. It's quite a sizeable repertory and it's all thoroughly playable. I used to play the Sea Pieces in public. That was one of my good numbers- I never really learned the sonatas. I spent my time as a young person learning Beethoven and Mozart sonatas. The Beethoven I played the best and most in public was the "Appassionata." There was a Mozart in D Major that I used to play quite nicely and a quite long one in F Major. Everybody played ragtime if he could play at all. At the age of nine or ten I could play quite a mean Maple Leaf Rag but I don't think anybody would have taken it for Scott Joplin himself. But you learn the rhythm and you learn the notes, and then you play it. You see, when you're a child you improvise, and then as soon as you start having lessons, the teachers try to make you stop improvising as they try to make you stop playing by ear, because they make you want to play by note. It's a way of observing the contract.
M.P. - Do you compose the Portraits at the piano?
V.T.- Oh no, they're written without any instruments at all; I simply sit in front of the sitter and start writing and they come out quite differently. A number of them are tightly organized fugal structures. Nothing improvisatory about that.
M.P.- You started going to the theatre in Kansas City at a very early age, didn't you? Did you see William Gillette and Henry Irving?
V.T.- I think you've got my age a little wrong. (laughs) I was born in 1896, and I started going to the theatre in 1902,
but by the time I was in high school, which was downtown, I could save nickels off my lunch allowance and buy a 25-cent gallery ticket for Wednesday matinees. So I went to quote a lot of things. I did see Sarah Bernhardt and Blanch Bates and 0lga Nethersole and Maude Adams and Mary Garden and all the rest. The Chicago Opera Company came regularly to Kansas City; the
Metropolitan would come there occasionally. The New Orleans Opera Company used to come there; that's where I first heard Les Huguenots. It takes a pretty good cast= it's a six star deal-but the New Orleans people had good French singers from Paris.
M.P. - You heard De Pachmann?
V.T.- I adored him. I loved the way he played the piano. He made little jokes; he talked to the audience a bit but he was a wonderful pianist. He could play loud and fast, and soft and slow. And he made a beautiful sound. Everybody's rubato is his own rubato. The least rubato was Busoni's. He seemed to be playing Chopin quite freely but if you measured the time on the recorded rolls it came out almost exact. Paderewski, for
instance, was wildly irregular.
M.P. - Could you tell us something about Mary Garden?
V.T.- Why, sure I can tell you something about Mary Garden. She was frequently derided by the Italian and German voice lovers; actually she had a small but extremely well-placed voice which she handled with great skill. What they really had against her was that she sang almost entirely French repertory. If you want to get the Music World down on you, just perform French music! The Germans will gang up on you, the Italians will too. Germany after 1860 was the chief source of music teachers. The Germans are frightfully jealous of the French; they defame them. The Germans, after they had been blessed with a series of
incomparable masters like Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert thought they had made it. And so they organized publishing companies, music schools, and began exporting editions of all this masterful music, and music teachers to teach it. This was very useful for the world. They did not like to face that the next generation of German composers, at least of concert music. We'll leave out the theatre, where Wagner and Strauss made big killings (of an artistic nature)@were all second-rate, even Brahms, compared to the previous masters. So the Germans were selling the old ones and making the reputation of the new ones, and all this embodied in a solid publishing and educational industry. The Germans still have a good deal to sell, musically speaking. Tristan and Isolde was the delight of rich and cultivated intellectuals; it never shocked anybody. It was all about a love affair in which Mama is entitled to have exactly the same kind of pleasure and just as much of it as Papa@ it was an absolutely new idea in literature. For Heaven's sake, who do you suppose the best music teachers were after 1850? Three-fourths of them were women, and one of the greatest piano teachers of all time, Rosina Lhevinne, died several years ago at the age of 100. I had an extremely good woman teacher as a pianist and later I had one of the best teachers of harmony, counterpoint and composition in the world, Nadia Boulanger. There's nothing wrong with women. The Chamber of Commerces would pay for the symphony orchestras but their wives would do the going and the extra money-raising. And what do you suppose happens anywhere in a big war? It happened in the
Napoleonic wars; it happened in our Civil War; it happened in World War I and II. The men are all away! Who do you think has to run culture?
M.P.- I always thought some think culture is suspect, and only women are virtuous enough to be trusted to run it.
V.T.- Oh, it depends on where you came from and what the culture was. Culture with religious overtones was highly reputable, licentious novels and theatre with sexy overtones has always been frowned upon by the community, here and in Europe, too.
M.P. - When you got back to Kansas City, is there anything about it that reminds you of what it had been?
V.T. - Oh yes. (laughs) The good's still good. And it's quite pretty to look at. They mostly, I'm afraid, have cleaned out the slums, so the downtown districts look rather empty. It's Urban Renewal. Kansas City is pretty thoroughly cleaned up.
M.P.- Then where do you go when you're there?
V.T. - Well, I have a lot of high-school friends and cousins and connections like that. Of course, I like driving around and looking at the old neighborhoods; they're so intensely associated with my childhood and youth it becomes a wallowing in memory.
M.P.- You've got a strong feeling for childhood; you set all those Lear poems like "The Owl and the Pussycat." But isn't it harder to set a poem that's nonsense?
V.T.- All poems are nonsense. That doesn't mean there's anything wrong about it, because there's nothing wrong with nonsense. All religion's nonsense. The Bible is nonsense. Shakespeare is nonsense. Nothing in the world will support an intense analysis by the logical mind. Consequently it's nonsense. But we live in nonsense, so why not? Except to the extent we're dependent on subways, trains and airplanes. And a lot of nonsense takes place in the running of such things. But we try to avoid awareness of it when we use them. (laughs)
M.P.- There's no nonsense like political nonsense, because they make it while they're running things. You watched La Guardia run things, didn't you?
V.T. - I had to; he told me he didn't even have an hour for his wife. I was composing his portrait while he sat in his office ordering new airports. It was quite fun listening to him. His portrait turned out to be a Waltz and was played by the New York Philharmonic at one of the Stadium concerts. Jerome Kern did something about the Mississippi and Aaron Copland did A Lincoln Portrait. Only Aaron's piece among those commissioned portraits went anywhere. La Guardia told me, I want New York City to be in my time advanced in politics and sociology, and conservative in Art. Well, I guess we can't be advanced all over the place, and God preserve us from people who are conservative all over the place! So we might just as well divide it up.
M.P.- I'd like to be the other way around-
V.T.- You'd like to be conservative in politics and advanced in Art? Well, that's what Ezra Pound was. And T.S. Eliot.
Gertrude Stein herself was a staunch Republican.
M.P.- I guess I better quit both Art and Politics. You liked La Guardia.
V.T.- He used to sit in front of me at the Metropolitan Opera every Saturday. Public broadcasting was La Guardia's baby, and everybody liked La Guardia. The Musicians Union allowed the city radio station to broadcast their members playing without fees. He'd read comics to the children on his station when the
newspapers were on strike. He was a very sympathetic character, and he wasn't any week-kneed sister either; he was, I guess, a pretty tough politician, but as those people go, he seemed to me to be remarkably honest and to have the confidence of the people because he ran an honest town.
M.P.- Classical music broadcasting has trouble competing against rock stations.
V.T. - They've been threatened with extinction. There must be an audience; it does not have to be a massive one, but as long as it's a legitimate and fairly numerous minority it has every right to exist and be furnished with music. The administrators have to be feisty. If I were running a station I would always try to get away with putting on as much as possible the music I particularly liked.
M.P. - Virgil, everybody knows Four Saints In Three Acts so I'd like to concentrate on The Mother Of Us All, which is becoming part of the repertory, and Lord Byron, which you've said you like the most, but is the least known. Let's take them in reverse; how did you get the idea for Lord Byron?
V.T.- Actually 1 think the idea came up in conversation with Gore Vidal; he told me that he had an idea for a play about Lord Byron. He thought that he might never write it but he had such a good second act curtain line about Byron's having had a child by his sister. I said it would make a better libretto for an opera than a play, because Byron's a mythological character as opera people are and play characters not so much. Why don't you write me a libretto, says I? He said, "I'll think about it, but I don't know whether I can." I don't know how much he thought, but he never did. I asked several famous poets of my acquaintance and they all said yes. I asked Robert Lowell and Robert Penn Warren they're all named Robert- but then they never did it. Then I saw a play by another poet I knew who had been an actor: Jack Larson. When I suggested it to him he got to work on it. So we labored together a bit on the libretto for a year or so. Jack Larson started his career in films; his fame came from being Jimmy Olsen, Superman's best friend, but after you've been in that many sections of a serial it's hard for them to cast you in anything else. The public knows you as that character; they don't think you're an actor. You can't keep it up forever because you do get a little older too and the character's not supposed to get any older. So five years is about the limit for an actor in a serial. He quarreled with the company; he figured they were cheating him out of his subsidiary rights, but the companies all try to do that.
M.P.- Do you feel a personal identification with Byron? I can see a lot of parallels.
V.T. - (laughs) Well, no more than we are both of Scottish ancestry. And we're both artists. He was a poet and I'm not; I'm a musician and he was not. I don't think Byron particularly cared for music. I read a three-volume biography of him and very little music appears in his life. But that's all right. It's very good to have things opposite by absence, than too close. Gertrude Stein, with whom I wrote two operas, had very little interest in music except in so far as it would regard her poetry.
M.P.- But Byron, like you, introduced an informality into art.
V.T.- He was a virtuoso of comic rhyme, which is an old tradition in English poetry. The Elizabethans and the 17th century poets played with it. This libretto turns out to contain, in the form of quotations, many lines out of Byron's own poetry, so I had the pleasure of setting them to music, as well as all the others.
M.P.- How does your setting of stanzas from Don Juan relate to the opera?
V.T.- The stanzas from Don Juan for voice and orchestra were written long after the opera; it was a commission from the New York Philharmonic. I had become very attached to the poem, which was Byron's last and most brilliant work; it's probably his masterpiece. It's got fine romantic, tragic and comic writing-and there's a rather wonderful love scene on a beach. And I thought that might be nice to put to music. And so I made a piece in two parts. There's the storm by which the ship is wrecked. Don Juan is cast up on the beach, takes a nap and is awakened by a very beautiful young girl. The love scene between them is the second part of the work. It all has to do with my acquaintance with Don Juan and my desire to write an orchestral and vocal piece. So I wrote a storm piece; everybody likes to try his hand at a storm.
M.P.- I notice you wrote Lord Byron in heavily flatted keys.
V.T.- Oh, I think you'll find that D Flat and G Flat and
sometimes A Flat too, are more characteristic in this opera of Lord Byron and his sister, his opposite number in the love duets, than of the other characters. I don't think Lady Byron, his wife, is particularly written in flats, nor are the other men, all those basses. The low bass tends to be in E Major.
M.P. - That's a remote key from the other music.
V.T. - Well, in a long opera you get to all sorts of remote places.
M.P. - The opera begins with stacked augmented chords and ends in a clear C Major-
V.T.- Well, the opera begins with the London populace lamenting Byron's death in Greece. So it's a sort of choral funeral chant. I don't tend to make out tonal schemes in advance. I concentrate on what the music is about and then use whatever tonalities seem to be appropriate.
M.P. - I notice the orchestral music seems more complicated and contrapuntal than the vocal lines but the voices are clear.
V.T. - Oh certainly; I don't aspire to outdo Richard Wagner, or Alban Berg, in the practice of almost endangering the vocal line through elaborate orchestral accompaniment. My model, in the back of my mind, is not Wagner anyway; it's Mozart. He handles
extremely dramatic and varied situations in a style which is orchestrally transparent without being inexpressive and one which enables the soloists to characterize their own selves by means of words and music, not just yelping above a busy orchestra.
M.P.- It sure looks good on the page; your music looks
beautifully made. It's like reading Mozart.
V.T.- Oh, I don't feel about those things, at least not any more. This opera had its premiere in the year of my 75th birthday; by that time you know what you can and what you can't do and I was a relatively skillful composer in both counterpoint and harmonic layouts, and writing transparently so as to let the voices through.
M.P.- Lord Byron seems to use 19th-century forms like the opening chorus.
V.T.- Nothing 19th-century about an opening chorus! The
18th-century had plenty of them. Dido and Aeneas, from the 17th-century, has an opening chorus. In the case of all my operas I am attached to and am possibly, if you like, the victim of my libretto. The librettos by Gertrude Stein have an enormous freedom of literary form as well as of English syntax and of meaning. This work is perfectly straightforward; it has a story line and there is clear dramatic sequence. Well, when you have dramatic sequence, you have to begin with something. And it so happens that I began as well as ended with a choral piece.
M.P. - Are there echoes of the choral writing in the Requiem'?
V.T.- Not to my knowledge. Of course, everything you do echoes everything else you do.
M.P.- Why did you shorten the opera in the printed score?
V.T.- Well, after the first performances by the Julliard School and in view of the publication of the score I thought it might be advantageous to tighten the musical line as well as I could, and in so doing also tighten the poetry line. So I made a few
cuts-not too many-but cuts based on eliminating all repetitions in the text. I didn't want the text to go on repeating itself as a poetic text does when it's without music.
M.P.- The second act combines Byron's and Jack Larson's lines; did that seem hard to set?
V.T. - I thought it was very skillfully done. You can hardly tell where Byron leaves off and Larson begins unless you happen to know the quotation.
M.P. - How did you like the production?
V.T. - The musical production I liked very much. The visual production had in the first and third act a perfectly beautiful reproduction of Westminster Abbey. The flashback scenes of Byron's life did not seem to me as beautiful as they might have been. I don't know; you either like a production or you don't. And a musical production is what counts in opera.
M.P.- I wonder why anybody like Byron would like to be buried in Westminster Abbey in the .first place?
V.T.- Well, it was not his idea to be buried in Westminster Abbey, it was the idea of his friends and widow. Because
Westminster Abbey is a place where the poets of England have been buried since Spenser's day.
M.P. - They didn't have to be Episcopalians?
V.T. - No, all they have to be is English poets.
M.P. - John Milton hated them and he's buried there.
V.T.- Certainly. Westminster Abbey is a national monument rather than a sectarian one. They bury Americans there. Or they put up plaques to them.
M.P. - Maybe they don't accept the American Revolution.
V.T.- Eliot's got a plaque: Auden, who was an American citizen, has a plaque. Actually, Byron now has a plaque. But burial was denied him at the time of his death. He was a scoffer at
religion. But of course what they really had against him-they still don't say it very loudly in England-is that he had a child by his sister.
M.P. - Lord Byron is punctuated with waltzes.
V.T. - Well, I think all composers like to write dance music. The 18th-century composers of symphonies and chamber music
practically always put in a minuet: the social dance form that was universal at the time. But now we're in 1815, the French Revolution has taken place, and the whole movement of the
popularization of social habits and the lowering of formalities, if you like; the popular dance of that time was of course the waltz. It remains so throughout the 19th-century. It's always seemed to me that all the dance meters still living, that is to say, in use, are the waltz and the tango. They're in people's minds for dancing the way minuets aren't any more. And so I've often used both waltzes and tangos when I've needed something with a lilt. I learned social dancing from my sister and her friends who were older than I, when I was eight or ten years old. The waltz, the two step, the schottische were the common dance forms. Later, when I was in high school, shall we say from 191O, In 1912, the tango began to appear. And we all learned that. This again was interrupted by the turkey trot, the one-step and the fox trot, (chuckles) which so simplified social dancing that World War I, running from 1914 to 1918, became a dancing war. That's what World War II never was at all.
M.P. - A dancing war?
V.T. - Everybody danced with everybody else! The fashionable ladies would go dancing with the soldiers and the gobs. The mixture of classes was facilitated by this easy dancing.
M.P. - Maybe Karl Marx should have been a dance teacher.
V.T.- You have to break down the social barriers (laughs) first, and nothing is more convenient for that than what you might call intersexual dancing in close position!
M.P.-The characters in your opera lived the classical lives of nobles.
V.T.- Oh, very fashionable lives they led! Byron was a
millionaire, a lord, a genius, and a beauty.
M.P. - Wasn't he brought up as a Calvinist at the same time?
V.T. - Well, you can get over things! And his sister, although terribly devoted to him, both amorously and sentimentally, was after all a woman of the world, married to a rich man who paid very little attention to her. He was mostly at the races. He gave her a baby from time to time. But he wasn't around the house very much. She was a lady-in-waiting to the queen.
M.P. - In the midst of all this epicureanism, what is all this moralism about?
V.T. - Byron's motive in marrying Anne Isabella Milbanke is not a simple matter. He's represented in this opera as partially motivated by the advice of Lady Melbourne, who was a former mistress of his although twenty years older, and the aunt of the girl he was going to marry; it was on her advice and at her insistence! He thinks seriously about getting married, and he is previously attached to Miss Milbanke because she was kind to him when the girls were teasing him about his club foot.
M.P. - What about these cynical epistles between Byron and Lady Melbourne?
V.T. - Cynical is not quite the right word. She was a woman of the world, and she was very devoted to him. She knew very well that he was a naughty boy. But with all that going for
him-genius, beauty and money-he had to do something every day to cut himself down to size. You can't live with yourself in that kind of celebrity and get any work done. And he got quite a lot of work done. He was vain, of course, and also self-indulgent. He would eat and drink like mad, and then go on a diet of boiled potatoes and soda water.
M.P.- Virgil, I'd just like to say it's a terrific opera; I hope somebody records it. It's crazy not to have it out there. By the way I like the paintings you've got on your wail-
V.T.- Well, all my life I've lived among painters. And naturally paintings and pictures collect around me. I never liked empty walls very much anyway. The more pictures the better. I don't have pictures that belong in museums; I only have pictures by painters that I know or have known. Some of these painters are, of course, represented in museums. Since I know or have known them, they're a part of my life, and have every right to sort of hang around the house. Pictures by people I don't know, if they seem to settle here, I always give away, either to museums or to friends. I don't sell pictures; I think that's a dirty racket.
M.P.- You and Gertrude Stein are both collectors.
V.T.- Well, Gertrude Stein was a different case; she was one of three and they all bought pictures. They also bought furniture and art objects. They were well-to-do people at the turn of the century who quite naturally, living in Europe, spent part of their available money buying objects of art and furniture and pictures. They were collectors by instinct in the true sense of the term; I've practically never bought a picture. I did it a few times in my life and that was usually to give a painter friend some money without just handing it to him. Most of the pictures that I have were given me.
M.P.- You're known as a gourmet; do you have the specialized tools of the art back in your kitchen?
V.T.- I resent the term gourmet. And I don't like the use of gourmet in grocery stores and delicatessens; it just means they charge you a little more for the same stuff. I think you do good cooking or bad cooking, and you buy good groceries or bad
groceries, but gourmet has overtones of the person who is a little pretentious about it and likes trick recipes. You'll never find in a gourmet cookbook a real way of cooking simple foods well. You'll find that in the standard cookbooks like The Joy Of Cooking, or The Ladies Home Journal; they'll tell you how long to bake a turkey and whether to butter it inside or out. Do I have any tools of the trade? Well, I have a very small kitchen so I avoid acquiring special tools, devices because I have no room for instruments that do only one thing. If I had a little more room I would acquire a cuisine d'art; that does lots of things.
M.P.- You've lived here in the Chelsea a long time.
V.T.- I've been here since 1940. I don't know too many people here now; you bow in the elevator but I don't always know who they are. You're not likely, you see, to get too close with people that you live in the same house with.
M.P.- Your library is filled with Mysteries; which do you prefer, the puzzle tales or the tough guy stories?
V.T. - Well, if that's the alternative I'd say I prefer the tough guy; actually my favorite detective stories over the past twenty years have been by Georges Simenon who does not have a tough guy; he's a fat detective, a middle-aged man. And the stories about Nero Wolfe who is not particularly a tough guy. He's also a fat man who stays home eating and reading and occasionally thinking about his cases, but of course he has a legman, Archie, who does everything that has to be done outside. I'm not wild for tough guys; they all seem phony to me. It all depends on how well things are written. I liked Dashiell Hammett's stories, in spite of the fact that he had a tough guy to write about. I never was a great lover of Raymond Chandler's books. They're all right, but the toughness is sort of made up, I think. I like a bright detective; I like it when they have brains. And I like writers who give you the picture. I think over the last twenty to thirty years the description is better in the detective stories than in the literary novels. And certainly the dialogue is better; people talk much more as they talk in Nero Wolfe stories than they do in Saul Bellow or Philip Roth. And certainly France looks more like Simenon than it does like Andre Gide, and England looks more like Agatha Christie than it does like Virginia WooIf.
M.P.- You seem to like amoral ones like Simenon and Hammett more than the others.
V.T.- Oh, I couldn't care less whether they have morals in them. Stories of crime and detection have to work on some kind of principle. If that principle happens to be Christian morals and they don't mention the word Christian, that's sort of all right by me. As a matter of fact, there's a series of Jewish detective stories I'm rather fond of about a rabbi. I have no taste at all for ghosts, eerie landscapes, extrasensory communication and all that kind of thing; I like precise decor, clear motivations, crime and detection.
M.P.- How do you feel about the virtuoso puzzle stories of Ellery Queen?
V.T.- Oh, I've never liked puzzles too much, and that's why I've never read Agatha Christie devotedly. I think the puzzle story is rather outmoded; it was at its best forty or fifty years ago in England, or even a hundred years ago in France (laughs) or for that matter even with Edgar Poe here who invented the format. The English have continued to produce puzzle mysteries, and they do them skillfully; they're all based on a curious fact of English life: English speech is of such a nature in England that people can lie with a straight face and you can't tell whether they're lying. Of course, that doesn't work in America or France, and they are the only three countries where detective stories are written. This is an English convention. The modern French and American stories deal far more with atmosphere and locale. It's where you are and how you behave. This new man Richard Parker has modern, not Victorian Boston, down pat, but except for Rex Stout, I don't think New York turned out a very good result as a locale. You don't get very much of New York out of Ellery Queen, whereas you get a lot of California out of Hammett and Ross MacDonald. It's landscape and psychology that are interesting in detective stories; not just the puzzle. We have crossword puzzles for that kind of mentality.
V.T.- You can get through one on an airplane trip if you have to. He's two fellows, you know: Carter Dickson too. He's an American working in English conventions as Raymond Chandler was an Englishman working in America.
M.P. - Virgil, let's get to The Mother Of Us All. How does the recording of the Santa Fe production compare with the original production in New York?
V.T.- Musically the Sante Fe orchestra is better. The original production however had some remarkable singers in the cast, singers who later became famous like Theresa Stitch Randall and Dorothy Dow. The minor roles were not all first class in that production, although the fellow who sang Joe the Loiterer was awfully good; he was a tenor from the City Center Opera. The Santa Fe production contains one Metropolitan Opera star; the rest of them are standard singers from the Santa Fe company...
M.P.- I know John Crosby in Santa Fe specializes in modern music; half their productions are contemporary works. Did he approach you for this production?
V.T.- He hadn't approached me previously. He's known about me for twenty years but he's never done anything. When he got around to it, then he approached me. (laughs)
M.P. - The last scene of The Mother Of Us All suggests the first scene of lord Byron, with the statue and the reality behind it. Did you and Jack Larson have that scene in mind when you went to work on Lord Byron?
V.T.- The statue scene in Lord Byron was Jack Larson's invention; the statue scene in The Mother of Us All was Gertrude Stein's invention. It's not my tendency to put statues on stages. It's all right, but I never think of it.
M.P.- In The Mother Of Us All the characters talk at, not to each other; how do you set such a text to make it dramatically satisfying?
V.T.- Well, Gertrude Stein had a theory of conversation and dialogue. She said, people don't answer one another anyway; people talking together in a room don't really speak sequentially. Each one of them says what he's thinking about. (laughs) So the people in Gertrude Stein's plays tend to make a statement about themselves or of their feelings and thoughts, but there's very little interplay between the persons. When that does come up it's quite thrilling.
M.P.- I've heard you say privately people don't understand each other very well.
V.T.- Well, I don't think anybody understands anybody else. (laughs ruminatively) How well do you understand the people that you know the best in this world? Can you tell what's going on in their minds?
M.P.- I can't, but I try to make up things that are interesting.
V.T.- With that tendency you'll always get along with people. And that's what makes human life possible. (laughs meditatively)
M.P.- How much did Gertrude Stein identify with the feminist element in Susan B. Anthony?
V.T.- Gertrude was a woman writer, independent, strong minded like this 19th-century woman she did Four Saints with, Saint Theresa of Avila, another strong minded woman.
M.P.- Did she see Susan B. Anthony as a tragic figure?
V.T.- Everybody's a tragic figure. If you lead a long life, after a while you end up dead.
M.P. - You don't seem like a tragic figure you've seemed to enjoy life all along.
V.T. - I'm not dead yet.
M.P. - So she is a tragic figure-
V.T. - Tragic? Tragic... no, she was a heroic figure. Heroes can die and Susan B. Anthony died in her eighties; nothing tragic about it. Everything was heroic and she was successful in her aims in life, that is to say, the things that she wanted, the vote for women for instance, that was voted into the Constitution about fifteen years after her death. I don't see anything
psychologically complex about her. I see her as a mature woman, intelligent and kind. What's complicated about that: She knew her own mind. She speaks of how men are not sensitive to women, though she didn't exactly say that in so many words. She makes fun of the way men are, because the way men are is different from the way women are. She makes an extended speech about men, because having dealt with men for so many years in the political way she had discovered how really tricky they are, and how they think differently from women. They are generalizations which you can accept or not. They don't lead to an indictment of the male sex; they're a description of them by a woman.
M.P. - Why do men always seem pathetic in women's novels? Maybe they're telling the truth-
V.T.- I don't know; maybe they like men to be pathetic so they can mother them a little. I don't know about that; I avoid detective stories by women and generally novels by women, though I don't read anybody's novels very much: I've passed beyond that age.
M.P.- Why did Gertrude Stein give you the pity the poor
V.T. - I don't know. (laughs)
M.P.- Did you and Gertrude Stein work together at all on the libretto?
V.T.- We discussed the theme and subject, but choosing and inventing characters to illustrate that, naturally, is literary business, and putting it to music is a musician's business. So I would let her alone when she was doing her business, and she would let me alone when I was doing mine. We would have animated discussions whenever there was anything regarding both of us, such as, can I cut out one scene, says I; you have two political meetings and I can't handle two political meetings.
M.P.- How does Susan B. Anthony compare to the radical feminists of our time.
V.T. Well, Susan B. Anthony was not our modern type of
feminist. She was out for what women did not have at that
time, which was the vote. She was also a great battler for Negro fights. They didn't have any fights when she went out for them, and though they got them legally in 1865 they didn't get them in fact quite so quickly as they did on paper. But modern feminists don't have to worry about the vote they have that. They don't have to worry about the right to run for President of the United States or to have a bank account in their own name. All that they take for natural. What they're worried about now is mostly sexual matters, which Miss Anthony never mentioned. She was a maiden lady who lived into her eighties-86 I think she died at-but we never heard of her having a lover or being worried by the absence of one. And certainly she never married.
M.P.- Did you and Gertrude Stein have other ideas for plots besides this one?
V.T.- Oh no, we didn't bargain about things like that. If I had a good idea she took it up immediately; if she had a good idea I took it up. Mostly she did not have very good ideas about themes for opera. But I was full of them, and she liked that; that could start her off.
M.P. - These operas and her work are the beginning of the Sound poetry movement in the 50s and 60s; how much did she want her work to be approached for its meaning?
V.T. - Gertrude Stein didn't care how you took her work as long as you took it. She believed that the reception of music, art and poetry is a mysterious and spontaneous thing like its creation. And just as you don't ask an artist why he did something a certain way, you have no right to ask a patron of the theatre or music why they liked it. Who cares why they liked it? Let them figure that out and then they can write articles in the magazines about it! And that sells more tickets. But in the long run what you really want is a great number of people loving your work for a great number of reasons.
M.P. - Did you and she have a tilt as to which in opera was more important, music or words?
V.T.- We never discussed anything of that kind. And everybody knows that the opera is a musical formula fifty-one per-
cent of which is music. But that doesn't mean that you have any right to hang curtains over the poetry. As a matter of fact, poetry is what you start from. The poetry must generate music. I always enjoyed setting Gertrude's texts to music because the texts, particularly the more obscure ones, didn't get in your way. Since you didn't know what they meant, there was no
temptation to illustrate in music birdie babbling by brook. Or heavy, heavy, hangs my heart. You could concentrate on the sound of the words and the progress of the sentences.
M.P. - How did you like the version of the opera they made for television?
V.T.- I can understand why the videotape they made of it would not be widely picked up. The production of it which had been excellent and charming on the stage was not quite professionally sophisticated enough to be crystallized on a tape. And the same way with the musical production.
M.P.- How do you like the movies that've been made of operas?
V.T.- There's a remarkable movie made about 1948 of the Salzberg troupe doing Don Giovanni with Furtwangler conducting; in Italy they have an enormous number of such movies; they have a special studio for it in Milan, they use La Scala artists, but they don't do it at La Scala. That would be too much trouble. They later set up a studio in the suburbs, but they're exactly as they're done under the best of conditions at La Scala. Now the documentary reporting- so to speak- of opera is a good system because what people in Tokyo and Idaho want to hear is opera as it is done in a good house: there's no point in translating this into movie terms. You want a very literal stage production; opera production is not done anywhere else on the level of accuracy and high sophistication as it's done in Milan. The Dutch have touched it a little bit; the French don't do it, the English don't do it, and we don't do it. You see, opera is a national ceremony in Italy, and though less than fifty percent of Italians have seen an opera, the entire population has heard about opera, and firmly believes that the definitive form of opera is the Italian style as given at La Scala. We put on perfectly good professional baseball games. If you want to see the Dodgers or the Giants you come here.
M.P. - We don't hiss and boo so readily as the Italians.
V.T.- I think your American opera audience and those for other musical occasions is educated far better musically and more sophisticated in general entertainment than the Italian audience is likely to be. On the other hand I do like spontaneity,
enthusiasm and self-confidence in an audience and it gives me pleasure to know not only what an audience likes but what an audience doesn't like and won't take. The trouble with the more ignorant element in the Italian audience even in such a rich and educated city as Milan is-well, as Stravinsky said,-these people are charming and love music, but they've never been anywhere and they've never heard anything. He meant they hadn't heard his music properly; they weren't prepared for it. There's a good deal of music that Italian audiences have not heard. Italy is not a great center for international distribution; New York, London and Paris are. In every city there is a limited opera season and a good deal of chamber music but Italy has never been devoted to symphony orchestras or the symphonic repertory.
M.P.- People in France have complained to me that outside Paris there's not much music in France.
V.T.- Well, the people who've complained to you are talking through their hats. Paris has five symphony orchestras, which is more than New York or London has. It has two absolutely
first-class opera establishments. Paris has ballet; Paris has everything. The provinces since the last war have seen an
enormous growth of opera, symphonic and chamber music,
particularly in Toulouse, Bordeaux, Rouen, Avignon; the older established provincial cities like Marseilles or Strasbourg haven't gone modern or experimental in the way the others have. Oh no, the French provinces are perfectly occupied, and if you want to look around at the American provinces and see what original and vigorous goes on there compared to New York you won't find so much.
There are festivals in England where a good deal of work is produced. Benjamin Britten had a private festival of his own (laughs) that is to say, it was more or less privately owned and run by him, but it still goes on since his death in Alderborough, in the South of England. Britain has long had the Edinborough Festival which is comparable to Salzburg or any of the big European musical spas. There's a small charming festival at Bath that's been run by Yehudi Menuhin for a number of years; up in the North, as in York, the festivals are liable to be choral: enormous oratorio meetings. England is a big choral country and the two most enthusiastic and efficient choral regions are Wales and the North, 'round Leeds and Liverpool.
M.P. - Isn't it easier to set English than French or Italian?
V.T.- The language that gives you the most trouble about feminine endings is Italian; practically nine-tenths of the words end on a weak syllable. The final e in so many French words which is represented in musical notation by the scholastic convention of a grace note is hardly pronounced and is a great deal less trouble than the Italian. It's less monotonous. French is a perfectly good musical language, the trouble, as I said, is with the nasal vowels, not with the absence of tonic stress or the nature of the syllables; the tonic stress is completely displaceable; you can put it anywhere you like.
M.P. - How do you deal with the problem of nasal vowels?
V.T.- It's no problem for the composer; it's a problem for the singer. The nasal vowels tend to be becoming to the lower voices= that's why France has so many good baritones and basses; the nasal content lightens them, takes the heaviness out. In sopranos it sometimes makes a harsh sound.
M.P. - You set something called Commentary on St. Jerome by the Marquis de Sade. Could you tell us how that came about?
V.T. - Well, there was a bunch of French kids putting out a literary or poetry magazine under the assumed posthumous
benediction of the Marquis de Sade. They called it Les Cahiers Sade. You know, they did it as a gauge of independence and pleasant smart-aleckness; it was just like any other literary group that devotes itself to something that has not been recently devoted to. They wrote to me; I didn't really know them. They asked me whether I would write a piece of music for them= I said sure. I took a sassy text of the Marquis de Sade, set it to music and sent it to them, but by the time it got there they had run out of money and weren't in publication any more. And so 1 still have it in my possession. I don't think it's been published; it might be sometime.
M.P. - You've set several pieces for voice and percussion-
V.T.- I'm not certain that percussion instruments are that valuable in dealing with the male voice; with the female voice, which blends very well with cymbals, woodblocks, small bells and the precision playing of the percussion man, it gives a certain rhythm and clarity.
M.P. - Did you experiment with these effects when you ran the Harvard Glee Club?
V.T.- No. (chuckles)
M.P. - Why haven't you made a suite from the Four Saints
and Lord Byron music as you have from The Mother Of Us All?
V.T. - Well, the suite for The Mother Of Us All consists of an overture. two intermezzos and an orchestration of the vocal solo finale. But there was only one intermezzo in Four Saints, not enough to make a suite out of, and it never seemed to me
appropriate to do anything instrumental with that work.
M.P.- But there's quite a bit of brilliant instrumental music in Lord Byron.
V.T.- Well, I haven't done anything about that- now.
M.P.- Okay, let's close with this-Virgil; how do you compare rich patrons in America and France?
V.T.- Well, you must realize that in Paris nobody rich ever goes to any musical event except on free tickets. Also you
must realize that the French tax laws do not allow people to have private foundations and take tax exemptions for giving away money. So the rich in France give very little money to music; the government gives a great deal. In New York there's more rich than in Santa Fe so they give more money here. The Santa Fe Opera is supported by a very large number in that region, and, I think one generous family, which comes from New York. The thing comparable to the Santa Fe Opera in New York is the New York City Opera Company; the Met has a different public. The Met caters to the voice-lovers among th
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