Publisher  Hans  Heinsheimer
A Conversation with Bruce Duffie


To make a sports analogy, the Conductor is like the Head Coach or the Field Manager.  He trains the orchestra and the soloists at rehearsal like the coaches do at practice.  Today's star conductors are in great demand all over the globe, though the coaching staff remains with their own teamunless the players keep losing games.  But going up to the "front office," the General Managers are not usually as visible nor flamboyant, and the top people in the League Office are usually kept in the background as long as things run smoothly.

Hans Heinsheimer was part of that group of largely unknown and unheralded professionals without whom the whole system would simply fall apart.  In the publishing field, it was the knack for finding the right works that kept Heinsheimer at the very top.  His keen sense of what would and would not work helped push the repertoire forward during the middle portion of the Twentieth Century.  The works he chose were significant, and many are still performed in this new millennium. 

Even though he had been out of the publishing business for a few years, it was important to be able to make contact with Heinsheimer, and in April of 1986 a phone conversation was arranged.  I was able to draw on his memory and insights into the world of Classical Music over a lifetime of work and observation. 

Since he is not so very well-known especially to readers today, details of his life and work are contained in his obituary...

Hans W. Heinsheimer Dies at 93; Top Publisher of Classical Music

Published in The New York Times, October 14, 1993

Hans W. Heinsheimer, one of the most influential classical-music publishers of the 20th century, died on Tuesday at his home in Manhattan. He was 93.

Although Mr. Heinsheimer's name lacked the recognition factor of his famous clients, he instigated, participated in or at least was present at many significant events in contemporary music. In his work as publisher and promoter, he served as midwife and artistic broker for such composers as Bartok, Stravinsky, Barber, Copland, Kodaly, Antheil, Bernstein, Berg, Janacek and Krenek.

As a young associate at Universal Edition in Vienna in 1928, Mr. Heinsheimer took part in the success of an unheralded piece called "The Threepenny Opera," written by an obscure member of the Universal stable named Kurt Weill. Its popular appeal poured riches into a previously austere classical-music publishing world. Four years later in Vienna, Mr. Heinsheimer helped produce Weill's "Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny," which had a stony reception by followers of the rising Nazi movement.

Mr. Heinsheimer also took part in the 1925 premiere of Alban Berg's "Wozzeck" in Berlin, and it was he who introduced Berg to the American violinist Louis Krasner, a meeting that resulted in the commissioning of the Violin Concerto. And as head of Universal's opera department, Mr. Heinsheimer was at the center of two of its greatest successes, "Schwanda the Bagpiper," by Jaromir Weinberger, and the so-called jazz opera "Jonny Spielt Auf," by Ernst Krenek. Now rarely heard, the two works were hugely popular in the late 1920's.

Hans Walter Heinsheimer was born in Karlsruhe, Germany, in 1900. He came from a family of doctors and lawyers, and studied law himself in Heidelberg, Munich and Freiburg. After graduation in 1923, he abandoned the legal world for employment at Universal under its imaginative and aggressive director, Emil Hertzka.

Mr. Heinsheimer arrived in New York in 1938. He became the head of the music publisher Boosey & Hawkes's American operation, and one of his early efforts was to promote the performance of "El Salon Mexico" by an underemployed American composer named Aaron Copland. At Boosey & Hawkes, Mr. Heinsheimer worked intimately with Copland, Bartok and Stravinsky, and promoted the music of Benjamin Britten in America.

When Bartok found himself ill and destitute in New York during World War II, Mr. Heinsheimer was the agent for a benign and now famous conspiracy to channel funds, disguised as record royalties, to a proud and scrupulous composer who would otherwise not have accepted them.

A dry memoirist, Mr. Heinsheimer wrote the first of his three books in 1947. Indeed, "Menagerie in F Sharp" led to his dismissal by Ralph Hawkes, the head of the firm, who said that he wanted a worker, not a writer. Mr. Heinsheimer was immediately hired by G. Schirmer in New York. At Schirmer, Mr. Heinsheimer's concerns were composers like Leonard Bernstein, Gian Carlo Menotti and Samuel Barber. He also brought to fruition Albert Schweitzer's long planned and often frustrated edition of Bach's organ works.

Mr. Heinsheimer was the author of two other books, "Fanfare for Two Pigeons" and -- the best known of his writings -- "Best Regards to Aida." Until well into his 80's he wrote music criticism and commentary for the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeiner and for several German radio stations, moving regularly from his East Side apartment to events in New York and around the United States.

In addition to his wife, Elsbeth, he is survived by a son, Thomas, of Los Angeles, a daughter, Frances Wainright of Toronto, and four grandchildren.

Always one to accept only the best, after we had been talking for awhile he asked me if I was satisfied with his answers!  I assured him that I certainly was, and that it was most enlightening to speak with someone with his particular viewpoint, since it was composers and performers that made up the usual list of interview guests.  I also told him that I looked forward to sharing his insights with the public on the radio and in print, and he seemed quite pleased. 

Bruce Duffie:  I'd like to talk with you about the publishing business, about music, about writing, about quite a number of things...

Hans Heinsheimer:  Well, you ask and I try to answer it.

BD:  Okay, very good.  For a number of years, you were the decision maker in the opera department at Universal Edition, correct?

HH:  Yes.  I was the head of the opera department there, and I had under my guidance all the important operas at that time.  There were quite a few... there was Wozzeck by Alban Berg, Švanda dudák, the "Dudelsackpfeifer" by Jaromír Weinberger
which was a big successJonny spielt auf by Krenek, and works by Kurt Weill, The Threepenny Opera and Mahagonny!  And there were others, too.  [See my Interview with Ernst Krenek.]

BD:  Well, my question is this
how did you decide which operas you would accept for publication and which ones you would not?

heinsheimerHH:  You have to have a fifth or sixth sense of that; your nose guides you.  There's no practical way of deciding.  You hear it, perhaps, when the composer plays it for you.  For instance, Kurt Weill was already a very famous man when he came to Vienna and played one of his new operas for us.  I decided right there that it was no good!

BD:  Really???

HH:  I told him that.  I was very brutal.  I've always been very outspoken.  At first he was upset, of course, but then he took our advice and he has never published that opera!  It's unknown.  On the other hand, let's talk of Schwanda by Weinberger.  I was called by Max Brod, the translator from Prague, that I should come and hear it.  I heard it, and right away I said "This is going to be a hit!"  I knew it, and it was the biggest hit of those years!  This is a gift you have.  You cannot learn it; you cannot pass it on to others.  Either you have it or you don't.

BD:  Does it ever surprise you that a work is successful or not successful, contrary to your judgement?

HH:  Oh, yes!  We had some setbacks.  I remember one opera we accepted with great expectations by an unknown composer by the name of Lilien.  It was a flop!  You have to be prepared for that.  [Note: the opera was probably Beatrijs by Ignace Lilien (1897-1964).]

BD:  Was it the public that made it a flop by staying away?

HH:  No.  I don't pay much attention to the public.  The theater directors didn't accept it, and it just didn't go off.

BD:  So the directors didn't give it a chance.

HH:  That's right.  They just realized this was not a beautiful work, and we realized it ourselves afterwards.

BD:  Are the theater directors correct in their assessments, and are they, then, establishing public opinion?

HH:  [Pauses for a moment, then begins to answer ambivalently]  Well, the producers have to like or not like it.  If they feel it goes, they take it; if not they don't take it.  I cannot say they establish public opinion; they usually are people with great experience, and they must do the right thing, I guess.

BD:  Operas seem to go in and out of fashion; they come into the public taste and then go out of the public taste.  Is the public right?

HH:  The public is always right.  It's always right, because you cannot fool the public.  Some things are a great success for a few years and then, as you say, they go right out of fashion and disappear.  But after ten or 20 years, once in a while one comes back.  There was a composer by the name of Alexander Zemlinsky.  In his own time he was not successful, but he always believed that one day it's going to happen!  He died in '42, and now his works are being performed!

BD:  But it seems like almost all young composers are saying, "If I'm not successful now, I'll be successful after I'm dead."

HH:  Most of them should give up any hopes for that.  [Both chuckle]  That's an easy way out for people who have no talent and shouldn't expect anything.

BD:  What advice do you have, then, for a young composer?

heinsheimerHH:  He should compose!  He should compose and he should try to get his works performed.  He should know conductors, he should know producers, he should know publishers, and after a little while it either goes or it doesn't go.  Most people with talent succeed!  To a certain extent, it doesn't have to be a big success right away, but today there are more possibilities than ever.  There's radio, there's television; in America alone, 60 or 80 opera companies look at new material.  The New York Philharmonic is now preparing a concert series called "Horizons."  There are five concerts with only contemporary music, new music!  People have a chance!

BD:  Is this a good thing to have a concert only of contemporary music?

HH:  It is a very good thing because the audience has experience, particularly in New York.  Most of contemporary music is not appreciated by the general public, but there is a large audience of people who don't go to the classical concerts.  They don't wanna hear Beethoven's 5th for the fiftieth time.  They are interested in new music!  The Philharmonic gives these concerts which are already in their third year, with very great success.  Of course they have to have a subsidy; some sponsors help out.  We have just had a visit of Mr. Pierre Boulez from Paris here.

BD:  I had a wonderful chat with him while he was here in Chicago.  [See my Interviews with Pierre Boulez.]

HH:  Well he is a man who is not for the general public, but he has a great following.  There were some events in New York which were very successful!

BD:  How were the Horizon concerts different from his Rug Concerts?

HH:  They were quite different!  There he didn't perform only new music.  They were just programs where people sat on rugs.  There were no chairs in the audience, and in a very leisurely, very lovely way, he presented all kind of things
old music and new music.  It's a different concept.

BD:  A moment ago we were speaking of concerts of all contemporary music.  Are those better than concerts which have standard works and new works together?

HH:  I don't say they are better; I say that once in a while it is necessary to do this because the subscribers of regular concerts do not want to go to them.  When Boulez was here, I was at his concert when he performed his Improvisations on Mallarmé.  There were three of them, and after each one another section of the public walked out.  You cannot control that; that's the way it is!

BD:  Is there any way of getting the public to enjoy, or at least be more receptive to contemporary music?

HH:  Yes!!  There is!  Certainly you have to play these things frequently.  When he was director here, Bernstein gave a little speech to explain it, to tell the audience right away they shouldn't expect sweet, beautiful music.  That was back in 1970.  Music expresses different things now, and you have to watch and listen to it several times before you get something out of it.  You can educate the public to a certain extent, but there's a large segment of subscribers in the audience who just don't want to hear it!  It is the same with opera.  In Chicago you had the experience, for instance, with Paradise Lost by Penderecki in 1978.  The public doesn't come!  [See my Interview with Krzystof Penderecki.]

BD:  Right.  I thought it was a wonderful piece; I went three times.

HH:  Yeah, of course; I was there!

BD:  Is it wrong for the public to expect each new work to be a masterpiece?

HH:  Absolutely.  If they do, this is the greatest nonsense in the world!  Even in the old days, there were Mozart symphonies, Beethoven symphonies, and at the same time dozens and dozens and hundreds of pieces that were junk
or at least unimportant works by other composers!  Masterpieces are very, very, very few, and they come once in a while.  Concerto for Orchestra by Bartók, which I'm sure you heard many times in Chicago, is one I would call a masterpiece. 

BD:  Of course.

HH:  Reiner did it, everybody did it, but how many such masterpieces are there?  You can count them by the dozens, not by more.

BD:  Then how much should the public be tolerant of non-masterpieces?

HH:  The public should listen to it and say, "This is not a very great work," but listen to it anyway.  A masterpiece, or an important piece, will finally come into its own, no matter what the public does.   The Bartók Concerto for Orchestra today is a classical piece accepted by everybody, as is the Classical Symphony by Prokofiev, or Richard Strauss works.  These are masterpieces, and others are not masterpieces.  The public shouldn't look for masterpieces all the time; the public cannot determine whether it's a masterpiece or not.

BD:  Are there masterpieces being written now?

HH:  [Thinks for a moment]  Andrew Porter, for example, the famous critic of the New Yorker just talked about Répons by Boulez and called it a masterpiece.  Now that's his opinion.  [See my Interview with Andrew Porter.]  I don't know myself.  I haven't heard the piece but most people don't think so!  Only time can finally show whether something is a masterpiece and stays in the repertoire.  This is the most important thing, because a piece that is performed once or twice, this is nothing.  It has to stay in the repertoire and will eventually develop
or not!

*     *     *     *     *

BD:  Do you feel that music in general and opera specifically is art or entertainment?

heinsheimerHH:  I should say it is both!  Why should art not be entertaining?  The Marriage of Figaro is a very funny libretto, and it's one of the great pieces of music ever written!  And Die Meistersinger by Wagner is entertainment; it's not a tragedy, and it's a great work!  I don't think there is any difference between entertainment and art!  Good art is entertaining in my opinion.  Of course, a very good musical is also art and entertainment!  I don't think that there should be any such questions, whether it's art or entertainment.  It should be both!

BD:  Then where is the balance?

HH:  Some entertaining pieces are perhaps not really art, but that's a more difficult thing to decide, very difficult.

BD:  Sure.  I assume that you have watched a number of the current trends in operatic production.  Are you pleased with the way producers have gotten the upper hand in opera today?

HH:  I think it is important if we take, for instance, this famous Chéreau Ring in Bayreuth, which everybody was upset about.  I think it was a marvelous performance, though I saw it on television only; I wasn't there.  He's trying to give new meaning, new life, to these works, which slowly become boring!  If you hear the fifth or sixth or eighth performance of the Ring and nothing happens to it, it is not important!  But of course I know what you mean; in many cases they overdo it and it becomes ridiculous.  But some of the producers
like Chéreau, like Ponnelle and Götz Friedrich in Berlin who is a wonderful producerthey do very interesting things to these works!

BD:  Some of them overdo it?

HH:  Some of them go too far.

BD:  Then how far is too far; where is the line?

HH:  That's a question of taste.  You have to decide whether you go with it or not.  Some of them are not very brilliant people, and they clown around and try to do something without really having the understanding and the taste to do that.  Ponnelle also made some boo-boos, but some of them are very good!

BD:  Some producers seem to be working against the score, and yet others seem to be working with the score.

HH:  That's right.  You're absolutely right, and those that are working against the score usually end up with bad productions.  The opera is the music above all. 

BD:  You were talking about watching the Ring on television.  Do you think that opera in general works well on TV?

HH:  I don't think it works very well, but it's a very, very good way of getting opera around.  Now since the Metropolitan has these Live from the Met broadcasts, millions of people all over the world watch these operas!  Without them, there are 4,000 people in the house.  So it's not the ideal thing, but it has developed very well.  They get beautiful producers and technicians, and the thing is they really know how to do it!  It's also something you cannot talk about; it's here!  It's a fact and it will never to go away!  So quite to the contrary, more and more of this will happen!

BD:  So then you're pleased about it from the idea of dissemination.

HH:  Oh yes!  It's very important!

BD:  From a different standpoint, does opera work in translation?

HH:  It depends.  Now we have something new, these subtitles or supratitles.  So you don't need a translation anymore because it's right there!  I think this is sensational development  [Note: Remember, this interview took place in 1986, when this theatrical technique was just beginning.]  Do you have them yet in Chicago?

BD:  Yes, they're experimenting with them; we had one last year, and I think we're going to have two or three of them this year.  [Though my Interview with Lotfi Mansouri took place in 1982, just before his introduction of the technique of using supertitles in the theater, we did discuss his views on opera-in-translation.]

HH:  In Houston, for example, they do every opera with these titles; the City Opera in New York is even doing an opera in English with supertitles because you don't understand the words.  It's the new opera by Argento
Casanova's Homecomingand it was very successful.  I wrote about it for my German paper.  Translations work to a certain extent.  In Europe when I grew up there, everything was performed in German translations, never in the original language.  We just accepted it.  So if they do something in Englishthey did Figaro in English at the City Opera — it was a very good performance, but you don't understand it even in English.  So the subtitles, I think, are a marvelous solution of this problem.

BD:  Will it mean the death of opera in English?

HH:  I wouldn't say it means the death, but very close to it.  It doesn't really matter.  As I said in an article I wrote about it, this is only bad for translators and for nobody else.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:  What is the role of the critic?

HH:  A good critic
and we have many of them noware all very well prepared.  The association of music critics has several hundred members, and they're all qualified.  Good critics will help the public to understand, and it will probably follow, to a certain extent, what the critics do and think.  If the critic is responsibleas most of them are and know what they're talking about — it is the best for everybody.  A critic has a very important function between the artist and the performers and the public.  Here in New York, people read the The New York Times, and if it's a very bad review they don't go!  And mostly the critic is right!

BD:  But should the critic wield that kind of influence?

heinsheimerHH:  Well, maybe he shouldn't, but he does!  I cannot answer that question of whether he should; the fact is that when an important influential newspaper gives a certain statement, the public usually is guided by that.  And I think there is nothing wrong with it because the critic knows, or should know more than the average public.

BD:  I trust you know Slonimsky's book The Lexicon of Musical Invective?  [See my Interview with Nicolas Slonimsky.]

HH:  Of course I know it.

BD:  I assume that kind of thing goes on today, that the critics are lambasting works which eventually become masterpieces.

HH:  Once in a while, perhaps.  It was a very easy book to do.  Slonimsky's an intimate friend of mine, and he doesn't take it too seriously.  It was very easy to research Beethoven and find some fool that says something negative about the Fifth Symphony.  That's nothing, really, absolutely nothing.

BD:  But I'm sure there are critics that turn out not to be fools, who have said bad things about good works.

HH:  Maybe, but basically I trust, to a certain extent, a man like Paul Hume in Washington, or Mr. Henahan here, or many others I know.  They are very careful, very, very careful.  They don't say they can't be wrong, and maybe history proves them right.

BD:  Is musical composition something that can be taught or learned at a university, or is it something that must come from within a composer?

HH:  No, no, it has to be learned.  There has to be talent, of course, but basically the tools to compose must be learned.  C
ounterpoint, harmony, and all the essentials of musical composition certainly can be learned, and must be learned.  You cannot say, "I'm a composer"; that's ridiculous.  It's the same as the little boy who can play "Mary Had a Little Lamb" on the piano and the father says he's a genius.  [Both chuckle]  That's nothing.  He has to go and study at a conservatory or the university, or with private teachers.  There's not a single composer, when you look them up the dictionary, who has not studied with somebody.  Everybody!  Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, everybody, and today is the same thing!

BD:  I'm looking to find out where is the balance between technique and inspiration.

HH:  If you learn the technique, then inspiration is guided and controlled by that technique.  But just to have inspiration without a certain minimum of technique is no good at all.  You take any composers today
even Elliott Carterthey always studied with a master!  [See my Interview with Elliott Carter.]  Look in the Baker's Dictionary; take any composer and he always had an important teacher!

BD:  It seems that we are now in the process, especially on recordings, of digging up unknown composers and performing them.  Is this a good thing?

HH:  Yeah!  It is a very good thing because people get lost in the shuffle.  Times go on.  Bach was only re-discovered because Mendelssohn performed his St. Matthew's Passion.  It is a very good thing; some of these things are not worthwhile picking out, but some of them definitely are, and it's interesting.  We have here in New York in two weeks a most interesting performance of an opera called Una Cosa Rara.  This work is mentioned in Don Giovanni.  Nobody knows this opera.  It's only known because of this quote in Don Giovanni.  Now we will hear it.  All performances are already sold out because everybody wants to hear it!  Whether it's any good I don't know; we'll go and see it next week.  This is a very famous thing.  The onstage band is playing during dinner and Leporello says "Bravi!  Cosa rara!"  Finally, after all these years, we are going to hear it!  I'm looking forward to it very much.

BD:  Are you maybe anticipating it too much?

HH:  No, because I will just judge it by what it is.

BD:  As we dig up these old pieces, are there perhaps a few masterpieces lurking around that we will discover?

HH:  It is possible, but I would almost doubt it.  "Masterpieces" is a big word.  I doubt it.

BD:  Let me ask you about recordings.  Are recordings of music a good thing?

HH:  Of course they are a good thing.  They are the most important thing because this is the best way to get music around, to let people enjoy music and musical performances.  In our age today it's essential to have recordings.

BD:  They make a new piece more available.

HH:  Of course, absolutely.

BD:  Are we being over-inundated, though, with re-recordings of the big pieces?

heinsheimerHH:  I would think so, but that's a problem of the recording industry and not my problem.  [Both chuckle]

BD:  If a lot of these modern compositions are being recorded someplace, even if it's a very small label, do you feel that that will cut down on the possibility of a revival 100 years from now because the recording is available or can be found in a library?

HH:  It might not cut down.  It might help because if there's a recording, somebody might pick it up and perhaps perform the piece and publish it.

BD:  I just wondered if there had been a recording, for instance, of Cosa Rara, if it would still get the same publicity and attract the same crowds today as it is.

HH:  Probably not; you're right.  That's very possible.

BD:  How is the publishing industry today
is it healthy?

HH:  I really don't know; I'm out of it for a long time.  I'm retired since 1977, so I really have no direct contact.  One fact of some interest is that many publishers have been sold.  Twenty or thirty years ago there were perhaps 30 or 40 publishers interested in music.  Now there are a dozen or so.  They have all combined and sold to each other.  So whether it's very healthy I really doubt it, but I don't know.  I cannot really answer that.  I'm not in the publishing business anymore.

BD:  Do you have any advice to give to people in the publishing business?

HH:  [Thinks for a moment]  When the publishers' association in New York had their 50th anniversary
about 20 years ago, they asked me to make the official speech.  I said, "You're not going to like it!"  They replied, "We want it anyway."  So I told them that when we were young 50 years before this speech we published a lot of pieces that are now in the repertoire, like the Bartók Concerto, Pictures at an Exhibition in the Ravel instrumentation, works by Prokofiev and Kodály.  In other words, we created a repertoire.  I said, "Now, when you really look at your catalogs, without these old pieces, the 20th century classics, could you exist?  You couldn't exist."  I said, "I can tell you one thing, I have a son who is a balloonist.  He's not in the music publishing business, and I congratulate him about it.  This is my message to you."

BD:  It seems like they're not laying the groundwork for the next generation and the generation after that!

HH:  Probably not.

BD:  It seems ironic, though, because now we have almost an explosion of composers!

HH:  We have, but is it good?  It's an explosion, because everybody thinks he can compose!  But can he really?  And of course they all get performances.  We have over 150 symphony orchestras in America.  They all play a piece once, and the man says wonderful, he's a composer since he has performances.  But is it really something worthwhile?  Will it ever be repeated?  This enormous explosion, as you say, is perhaps very dangerous
— as all explosions are.

BD:  So we're training too many composers?

HH:  Absolutely.

BD:  Then how do we weed out the great ones from the mediocre ones?

HH:  We don't.  They will be weeded out by time, and by the fact they find out
or they don't find outbut anyway they will not be performed much, and they will not be published, and they will fall by the wayside.  Then comes a man like Lutosławski, for example, and suddenly we have a great composer!  There's one Copland and how many others that don't get anywhere?  Elliott Carter is now important, and a few others, but how many?  I go down and look at all these composers.  I really don't want to mention any names, but most of them are not.  They just might as well be in the wholesale business.

BD:  Are you not optimistic about the future of music?

HH:  I am!  But I'm not optimistic about the explosion, as you say.  Music will go on; there will be other composers.  I'm not too optimistic, really, because sometimes I feel that music has peaked.  We have music we consider important only since around 1500.  Before that they had something, but really it started only about 300 or 400 years ago, and that's not a long time!  Maybe it has run its course.  After all, there are only so many tones in the scale.  How much more can you produce?  I am really convinced, and when you look at the programs of the opera houses and the orchestras, 99 percent is "classical" music!

BD:  So you think we've run out of possibilities?

HH:  Yeah.  I really think so.

BD:  Is it going to die, or is it going to metamorphose?

HH:  It will not die because the classical repertoire is enormous, and as you said before, some old pieces are being revived.  But of the new music, when you look at the programs today of the opera houses or the orchestras, what is being played of that music?  How little, how terribly little is being played.

BD:  Is there any way to encourage more of it to get played and encourage more people to come to the concerts, or is this a futile effort?

HH:  I really don't know.  They have teas, and they have the kind of things where they invite people.  I think you just have to let it go and hope for the best.

BD:  Have we set up an artificial dividing line between classical music and popular music?

HH:  This is a feeling; you have to have a feeling.  Take Johann Strauss.  Is Die Fledermaus classical or is it popular?  It's probably classical in a way; but it's just on the borderline.  Other pieces of the same style are definitely popular, though you cannot take a Leo Fall waltz seriously like Johann Strauss waltzes, which are great masterpieces.  I think this will take care of itself.

BD:  Is rock and roll music?

heinsheimerHH:  I know nothing about it.  Nothing at all.

BD:  You have no interest in it whatsoever?

HH:  No.  I never listen to it; I cannot tell you anything about it.

BD:  It seems to be another avenue of this big explosion of commercialism.

HH:  Well, that's all right, but it certainly does not enter the field of classical music.  You cannot play rock and roll in a concert hall! 

BD:  Occasionally people try...

HH:  You can, but I think it will not be very successful.

BD:  Do you still enjoy going to concerts?

HH:  Oh, yes!  I go as often as I can, and I write about it.  I enjoy it.

BD:  You've been observing singers and performers and conductors for nearly three quarters of a century.  Have the performers become better technically nowadays?

HH:  I would say the pianists and the violinists are absolutely stunning today.  I knew an old man
— a pianist who is dead nowwho lived in New York, and he once told me the young pianists today are so far superior to the ones in his youth, technically; they are absolutely stunning.  We have today an enormous abundance of first-class performing artists.  In only a minute I could mention the names of 25 first-class pianists!  That wasn't the case in the older days.  There was Liszt and nobody else!

BD:  [Chuckles, then asks with a sly nudge]  Not even Thalberg???

HH:  Oh, right.  Thalberg, yeah.  [Both laugh]

BD:  So the musicians today are better technically, but are they better artists?

HH:  [Thinks for a moment]  I wouldn't say that, but they are good artists; they are very good artists.  I don't know whether they are better, but a man like Itzhak Perlman is a perfect musician, a perfect technician.  And there are so many others.  We are in a time of a very high level of musical reproduction, a very high level.  And conductors!  My God, we have a great many first-class conductors!

BD:  This is encouraging, but mostly for the older music!

HH:  Of course, a very important conductor can perform any music, even new music that he wants because the public would go with him.  The general picture of music making and music reproduction is very bright.  It's a very, very wonderful time in that respect.

BD:  How do we encourage more of the conductors to champion new music, such as Koussevitzky or Beecham did?

HH:  You can't do much about it.  Beecham did it, Koussevitzky did it, Reiner did it, other people did it
even Solti used to.  Once in awhile he does a new work, as you know.  [See my Interviews with Sir Georg Solti.]  If they get interesting scores conductors perform them.  Toscanini didn't do anything of that later in his life, but others do, and when you realize we have about 50 first-class symphony orchestras here, this is absolutely enormous.  And they do new music too.

BD:  Is there ever a chance that we are getting too many good musicians?

HH:  I don't think there's any danger of that.  If there are too many, they will not find employment, but my God!  You take the map of the United States, and there is not a spot where there is not a symphony orchestra.  And now opera too.

BD:  I assume you are continuing to write.

HH:  I do, yes.

BD:  Good.  Is it just reviewing concerts, or are there any other major things?  I'm kind of longing for a fourth book!

HH:  Many people have said this to me, but frankly, when you are 85 years old, I think one should know one's limitations.  I write my articles, I do my broadcasts
like this one.  I have a program in Berlin, where I speak in German, and I do many articles all the time, and that's about all I want to do.  I really don't have any ambition anymore to write another book.

BD:  [With disappointment]  Ahh.

HH:  [Kindly]  It's very nice of you to suggest it; I appreciate it.

BD:  In a way I'm just greedy, because the three you have done are so wonderful.

HH:  Well, maybe it's enough.

BD:  I want to thank you for all of the writing that you have done, and for all of the influence you have had at the publishing houses for new music.  Without you and without your influence, the world of music would be a great deal poorer.

HH:  Well, that's very nice to hear.

BD:  And I want to thank you for spending the time this evening chatting with me.

HH:  Thank you; it was a lovely talk.

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© 1986 Bruce Duffie

This interview was recorded on the telephone on April 14, 1986.  Portions (along with recordings) were used on WNIB in 1990, 1995, and in 2000.  An unedited copy of the audio tape was placed in the Archive of Contemporary Music at Northwestern University.  This transcription was made and posted on this website in 2011.

To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been transcribed and posted on this website, click here

Award - winning broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001.  His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since 1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM, as well as on Contemporary Classical Internet Radio.

You are invited to visit his website for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of other interviews, plus a full list of his guests.  He would also like to call your attention to the photos and information about his grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a century ago.  You may also send him E-Mail with comments, questions and suggestions.