Sunday, April 28, 2013

An urban legend is born

In his hatchet job at the Huffington Post, David Asia says that, during rehearsals for the first performance of the Concerto for Orchestra, Elliott Carter did not notice that a clarinetist played the wrong transposition for uch of the piece, and that Bernstein, the conductor, was unimpressed with him (Carter). Asia thinks it’s a big deal, because Carter, as we know, was all about intervals. One of my correspondents, something of a Carter expert, emailed me yesterday, in part:

I wonder where he heard the Bernstein story from since he (Asia) would not have been at the rehearsal.

He cc'd another of my correspondents (also a Carter aficion), who replied thus:

I wondered about that too. I'm beginning to think that “can't hear the wrong clarinet transposition” story is an urban legend. I heard Richard Wilson tell it about Schoenberg yesterday on a panel. (Another good one is the "learn the piece on the train and play it for the first time at the concert" story, which I've now heard about three different pianists.)

In my initial post, I had planned to say that I saw no gross misrepresentations in Asia's essay, but I am revising that estimate.


Dave MacD said...

You should ask him about this. Despite his ridiculous opinions and polemical style, I've found him to be pretty responsive.

bgn said...

That urban legend about the wrong clarinet transposition dates back at least to B.H. Haggin, who claims to have gotten it from Hugo Burghauser (?) re: the Schoenberg Kammersymphonie op. 9 (!!!); Ernest Newman also claimed something similar about the chorus in the London premiere of Stravinsky's "Les noces" (!!!!)

Anonymous said...

be any of that as it may -- it has NOTHING to do with the music as it now exists. the text is there and however it got to be there hardly matters