Sunday, September 11, 2011




German Review Criticizes New Philharmonic Conductor


Berlin, June 3 (by telegraph to Clifden, Ireland; thence by wireless)—The financial backers of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra will be interested to learn that the German artistic world is filled with astonishment over the engagement of Josef Stransky of Berlin as the successor of the late Gustav Mahler.

The New York Times correspondent has been aware of this situation ever since he made the announcement of Stransky’s appointment several weeks ago, but he refrained from cabling subsequent developments until they had become public.

This has now happened. The current number of Pan, a leading German artistic review, prints a bitterly satirical article which makes piquant hints of the means by which Stransky’s appointment is said to have been brought about. The correspondent is also informed that letters have passed between Dr. Richard Strauss and Oscar H. Fried, the eminent German conductor, with a view to some form of protest against the idea that Stransky is representative of the best school of German conductorship.

Pan’s article, which is entitled “Mahler’s Diadicht”, says:

“The newspapers which have made the simple announcement of Stransky’s engagement do not know how it came about. That shall now be told here. Nobody denies Stransky’s rich resources—at least his cash resources.

“He ranks as a distinguished dilettante. His endeavors have been supported by the Bluthner Orchestra (an organization which Stransky has conducted in Berlin for the past two years), but the Bluthner Orchestra has been still more strongly supported by him.

“He was, perhaps, a good conductor. He was certainly a conductor who, in the Venetian sense, is ‘good’ for so and so. And so much sacrifice, not only of his person but of his money, has created comprehensibly lenient feelings for him—a man who was so valuable for the founders of the orchestra that he was immune from even the most honorable criticism.

“In consequence of this mistake, the controlling and paying ladies of the New York Philharmonic Society cast their eyes upon the conductor, who is understood to have been recommended by a German-American, August Spanuth, a former New York critic, now resident in Berlin.

“Richard Strauss recommended Kapellmeister Brecher of Hamburg; Mahler had recommended Oscar Fried of Berlin; a third candidate was Bruno Walther, a Viennese.

“These men are all distinguished conductors and genuine musicians, but Stransky got the job.

“Two members of the orchestra crossed the ocean with a power of attorney from the millionaire ladies and, having paid Mahler $30,000 for ninety concerts in six months, they secured the promise of the ‘Diadicht’ to give ninety concerts for $10,000.

“Economy is welcome even in New York, so Europe can continue to call Brecher, Fried and Walther its own.”

Published June 3, 1911
The New York Times


Exactly one hundred years after it first appeared, this 1911 news story could be rerun in the same newspaper—and it would still be newsworthy. With alterations of a few names and some adjustments for inflation, the story would be as accurate today as it was when originally published in 1911.

(Bruno Walter, a Berliner, was of course not Viennese—but he had worked in Vienna the previous ten years and had taken Austrian citizenship the same year this article was published, which presumably accounts for the error.)

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