Conductor / Composer Werner
A Conversation with Bruce Duffie
Werner Janssen, 91; Led Philharmonic In New
York in 30's
By JOHN ROCKWELL
Published: September 21, 1990, in The
New York Times
Werner Janssen, the first American-born conductor to lead the New York
Philharmonic and later an active film composer and champion of
contemporary music on the West Coast, died on Wednesday at the Stony
Brook (L.I.) University Hospital. He was 91 years old.
Mr. Janssen was born in New York, and attended Dartmouth College and
the New England Conservatory of Music. He studied conducting in Europe
with Felix Weingartner and Hermann Scherchen and composition with
Ottorino Respighi. In the 1920's, he also played piano in New York
cabarets and contributed numbers for the Ziegfeld Follies and other
His international career blossomed when he conducted an all-Sibelius
concert in Finland in 1934, winning glowing praise from the composer.
He made many appearances as guest conductor in Europe and the United
States, and later in 1934 was invited to lead the New York Philharmonic.
From 1937 to 1939, Mr. Janssen was music director of the Baltimore
Symphony, but thereafter he shifted his base to Los Angeles. He
composed scores for many films, including ''Blockade'' and ''The
General Dies at Dawn.''
He led his own Janssen Symphony in Los Angeles from 1940 to 1952, and
was chief conductor of the Utah Symphony, the Portland (Ore.) Symphony
and the San Diego Philharmonic. He also made numerous recordings of
venturesome 20th-century repertory.
He is survived by his wife, Christina Heintzmann Janssen of Stony
Brook; a son, Werner Janssen Jr. of New York; two daughters, Alice
Krelle of Lake Tahoe, Nev., and Jennifer Janssen of Stony Brook; two
sisters, Dorothy Szlapka and Alice Knipe, both of New York; four
grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.
Though not the earliest-born of my 1600+ interview guests, Werner
Janssen’s birth date of June 1,
1899 makes him one of the group who sprang from the
Nineteenth Century. For anyone who is interested, the earliest is
soprano Dame Eva
Turner, who was born on March 10, 1892. Next come several
composers including John Donald Robb (June 12, 1892), Paul Amadeus Pisk (May
16, 1893), Leo
Ornstein (December 2, 1893), Virgil Thomson (November
25, 1896), Vittorio Rieti (January 28, 1898), Ernst Bacon (May 26,
1898), Marcel Dick
(August 28, 1898), Alfred Eisenstein (November 4, 1899); Elinor
(February 23, 1900), Otto
(June 15, 1900), and Ernst
Krenek (August 23, 1900). Also in this date-specific group
are lexicographier Nicolas
Slonimsky (April 27, 1894), mezzo-soprano Sonia Sharnova
(May 2, 1896), and publisher Hans Heinsheimer
(September 26, 1900). [Names
which are links refer to my
interviews which have been transcribed and are posted elsewhere on this
At first, Janssen was somewhat reluctant to accept my
request for a conversation, but near the end of July of 1987 he did
allow me to call and, as you will see, things went very well . . . . .
. . . .
May I speak with Werner Janssen please?
WJ: This is
BD: This is
Bruce Duffie in Chicago.
Hello! You’re right on the
button! I was right ready for you! Are you as hot
over there as we are up here?
BD: We had a
little break, and I’m right by the
lake, but it’s still very
warm here in Chicago.
immersed in a pressure cooker!
BD: We’ve had
that all week. I haven’t had
the windows opened. I’ve been running the air conditioner all day
what we’re doing.
BD: Late last
night we got a little bit of
rain, and the wind shifted just a little bit. Right along the
lake it’s a little bit cooler, but it’s still not
WJ: I’m glad
to hear that it is cooler... [Both laugh] Well, you’re
right on the button, and I would just like to know what
you want to do.
BD: I want to
speak with you a little bit about composing and
about conducting because you’re been
immersed in music for so many years. I want to probe your
mind a little bit, if I may.
WJ: Well, I
will do what I can! It’s just that I dislike very much any kind
business, or, as they call it, publicity! But musical questions
and so on, if I can answer
them I will certainly oblige!
fine. I appreciate your graciousness.
WJ: It’s just
been a thing with me all my life, and I
suppose I’ve been wrong about it because people tell me I’ve been
let’s talk a little bit about music.
Music seems to be going in so many different directions today.
WJ: Oh, this
would take hours, but go,
ahead! [Much laughter] Are
you talking of music per se, or are you talking about orchestras, or
composers, or what?
BD: Let us
start with the general and then zero
in on the specific. Where do you think music is going today, or
is that an impossible question?
it’s not going in the direction of music,
put it that way.
BD: Too much
the main trouble actually. That’s one of the great problems, and
I saw it coming twenty-five years
ago. I said that the way the orchestras are
working their symptoms will rot. That’s an indelicate phrase,
assure you it’s been proven that the orchestras are in
trouble. There’s no question about it, and I’m speaking of
financial problems. There are one or two cities that are carrying
on but I wonder for how long at the rate they’re going. The
demands of the unions are such that it’s a long
haul. It’s a large question, and I wouldn’t like to spend hours
on it. Nobody seems to be interested.
BD: Is there
always hope. Yes,
there is hope. It has to be done, but not just by
raising money. It’s a terrible thing to say, but you know it’s
true. The first consideration today is money, and while it does
take money to unionize, to pay the various players in the orchestra,
the salaries as quoted for people
earning the money must keep pace with our inflation. You’ve got
to live! A musician has to live,
but there are other ways. We did it in Los Angeles.
BD: With the
Janssen Symphony you mean?
Janssen Orchestra of Los Angeles, which never
took any money from anybody. How did we do it? It’s
very boring, but it nevertheless it worked, and we
gave more first performances of music than six or seven of the other
big orchestras put together. That, I think, we
can be proud of today. I dislike talking about it, but I do like
about real musicians, composers who have done something. You can
name half a dozen or a dozen that we did first performances, and I am
very proud to say they have made it on their own
due to their work. But they’re having a heck of a time now.
people that don’t want to listen to modern music. You
have to go back to the old ones such as Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn,
was brought up on. These are the same old dreary masterpieces
marvelous masterpieces when we were younger, but to
replay those is like telling a joke over 50,000 times. You’ve
heard it! While you can hear that this
man plays it faster, this man plays it slower, this man plays it with
more strings going or whatever it happens to be, and the digital
sound comes in and the most marvelous things happen, who’s been
doing all that stuff? I’ve learned one thing out of all this, and
that is it does not
help to bring about the music to put it into a
showcase of certain composers that deserve
better treatment and deserve a hearing. It seems
they’re not getting it. I’m getting many letters about this from
musicians. I haven’t got an orchestra right now.
I jump around and guest-conduct. I call that
jest-conducting! [Both laugh] And by the time you get
through, you haven’t got time enough to really rehearse. So that
great problem. There are so many ifs and ands and buts
which nobody will agree with me on, of course, but we did it for
fifteen or twenty years in Los Angeles and never, never took a
dime from anyone.
that same kind of set-up work today,
either in Los Angeles or in any other city?
WJ: Yes, it
would! They always have to sound bigger.
It’s more difficult to write a string quartet or a trio than it is for
orchestra, because there you have a full palliate and you go to
town. Heaven knows, we did the first recording of parts of Berg’s
and, my goodness, more modern composers than just Mr. Berg. But
were people that are recognized today, and the reason is their
music. They have something to say.
you’re running an orchestra and you’re bombarded with new scores, how
do you decide which ones you will present, and which you will send back
WJ: That’s a
good question. I never cared about
the public, never! It’s true.
BD: Not at
I always thought of the music first,
last, and always. Music to me is either music or it isn’t
music. I thought about music. Stravinsky and I had quite a
talk about one day. His Danses
Concertantes, which is dedicated to our orchestra, is one of the
best ballet scores I’ve done. We’ve done every one
of his pieces, some a hundred times. How did I pick that
score? I knew he was in another ‘home’ that week, that month or
something. He was always changing his
style, and I noticed something. There was a
chamber quality to his music, which didn’t use, as I call, ‘the
constipated orchestra’ where you’ve got the full blast going all the
time. That is all so out of date, so 1825. You’ve got to
modify it! First
of all, what we need in our country is a very outstanding chamber
orchestra that was ours. You only have to read any of the
critics... well, only
the top critics. Don’t read anybody else! They speak to
the musicians, and also from the letters. These are people like
Hindemith, Stravinsky, Aaron Copland, Virgil Thomson. I can go on
and on speaking of the Americans, and as far as the foreigners are
concerned, many of whom I brought to this country.
looking for works
that you could do?
Music! I was looking for music!
BD: Real music?
right. I consider several of
Stravinsky’s works real music. I consider Copland’s also.
BD: This is
what I’m looking for. What
makes it real music?
WJ: That’s a
very good question. Oh, my
goodness, I could go into that all night! It’s what I call the
feeling for key as well as the feeling of honesty throughout the score;
the feeling of originality comes in, the thrust of the music. The
harmonization is perhaps least of all. There’s something that
finally edits into a long line, and that long line gives you
something, and somehow or other it touches my backbone. For
instance, I don’t want to mention the name, but I found a
score that I plan to do in Europe this year that I think is a
departure, and yet he’s not trying to be, as they’re all saying, this
new style. You have to be an architect. Today you
have to be a factory player.
You have to be a practical technician today to get in. They’re
trying to imitate. I have made two or three hundred records that
we’ve done for Victor and for Columbia Masterworks, and I have driven
engineers insane because I’ve never gotten a real true string
tone. Never. I’ve not heard it on any recording yet.
I don’t care
who these people record digitally or whatever is the
newest thing now.
BD: So it’s
only an approximation?
WJ: It’s an
approximation. That is a good word for it. Regardless, that’s
easy, but the string tone has never been
faithful, as far as I’m concerned. Even the Germans with their
system have never hit it right. This is a question that
you could go on for days.
BD: If you
are so dissatisfied
with the sound that comes back, why do you make records?
WJ: That’s a
good question because I have been working with engineers for
years trying to achieve this tone that has never been achieved.
I thought some Germans had it last year, and I went
to two or three cities to try out what they had. They put
an orchestra to my disposal and I tried it there, but I never got the
real thing that I wanted. When you come to divided strings,
divisi, you have real problems
— unless you don’t want
to hear the things that are in there! [Laughs] You want to
them, but given the way they’re reproduced today, I know the
record companies will scream but it’s the truth. They admit
it! Finally, they admit it! The nearest that comes to it is
Deutsche Grammophon, however they’re still seeking
and working on it. They may achieve it, I don’t know.
We, who have the best techniques in the world and finest engineers
over here just haven’t seemed to get it right. So why do I keep
recording? I’ve been working on it, and every time I drive the
engineers crazy because they know that I work on that and I have
never achieved it. I’ve never been satisfied with very big string
works that I’ve done. I’m talking about some of the
complicated works of Schoenberg or even Ives, which I’ve tried to
differentiate from the usual.
BD: On the
record are you looking for an exact duplicate of what you would hear
in the concert hall?
WJ: Sure, but
it goes more than that because in the concert
hall you’re running into trouble with the acoustics. There you
have problems because of the way it bounces
off the walls. Let me tell you a story... There was a
little piece that was written by a violinist in
second violin section of the New York Philharmonic, and we did it on
a Sunday afternoon. This piece was
published by Ricordi, and is a marvelous little piece for nine
stands of fiddles. The composer has written that he wanted to
put an extra stand, so we had eighteen first violins. Then we
used an extra stand of violas in
order to balance it. I don’t know why he wanted that but he
wanted that. So
we went with the composer’s request, and so we added the stand of the
piece only lasts eight or nine minutes. I
think I’ve only done it once more, and that was in Turin in Italy...
which reminds me I want to do it again! It’s really
something. Well, that piece was such a hit that afternoon.
His piece was such a success. Here
he was, buried in the second fiddles for all those years playing
everything else, second fiddle parts, and we had for once, I
thought, a string tone that I was envisaging and hearing in my
‘somewhere’. But then, The New York
Philharmonic audience at Carnegie for the first time in history heard a
number repeated in the Philharmonic Symphony program! I don’t
know what happened but there was a real string tone throughout
with the vibrato, which is an art in itself, and somehow or other they
caught it. On the front pages it all came
out I did a horrible thing for repeating a number and
breaking the tradition of the New York
Philharmonic. Oh, was I proud! The composer was so
delighted that he gave me a little lollipop after the
concert. I’ll never forget that! But the story being, that
the broadcast-recording of that piece rang a bell within me. I
played this for three
recording companies, and I said I would do this
piece for them, but nobody bought that, nobody. I don’t say we
could achieve it again. Whether it’s a question of
pulsations or whether it’s a question of fast or slow vibrato, or no
vibrato I don’t know. Yet I’m experimenting every day in hope
that before the sun sets I will, somehow or other, achieve that.
Eventually some engineer will come up
and get it. Honestly I’ve recorded all over the world and
attempted it all
over, but I have not yet found it. They all think what they are
getting is good enough. Well, maybe my ears
BD: I want to ask
you about your compositions now. You are still composing, yes?
WJ: Well, no,
I’m decomposing! [Laughs] Does that answer it?
BD: I don’t
what seems like 15,000 boards of directors in my life, I would like to
say they have no sense of humor for the reason that they think
of that almighty dollar, which is of course true. We are asked to
replay the Brahms symphonies over and over again. My God, they’re
masterpieces! I did those when I was ten or eleven
years of age. Most of us know those backwards. We’ve got to
hear new music. New things should be played, and the repertoire
should have the accent
on new music.
written quite a bit of music...
WJ: Yes, I
have, but I don’t
like to talk about my own because I’ve never taken
it seriously. It’s just been for the fun of it. Maybe
it’s like a runner that has been running a great deal, and he’s out of
breath! It is then he says, “Oh gee, I
just thought of something! Wouldn’t it be nice to use
the cello and the viola to double something?”
These things, fortunately or unfortunately, occur to me, and so what
have I done? New York's Eve in
New York got the
Prix de Rome (1930). You always
have to have somebody sponsor you in this business, which I
think is madness, but how is a composer to live?
BD: You say
you don’t take that so
seriously. Do you expect the listener to take your music
never taken my compositions
seriously for the reason that I’ve probably been so absorbed in
music of other people. That’s funny or strange! I’ve done
quartets. The Library
of Congress gave the first performance of the Second String Quartet (1938).
It was Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge who commissioned that, and the
Jacques Gordon, who was the concert master of your orchestra there,
with whom I did my Ravinia performances later. But he gave a
really first-class performance of that.
Jacques Gordon died on September 15, 1948, the musical world lost one
of its most brilliant violinists and the Eastman School of Music one of
its most beloved teachers. For years the solo appearances of Mr. Gordon
were marked by tremendous ovations in response to his masterful
interpretations of violin literature. For years also the famous Gordon
String Quartet toured the country, giving concerts of the highest
caliber and bringing chamber music to cities both large and small. Mr.
Gordon's pupils at the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago, the
Eastman School of Music in Rochester, and the summer music school at
Music Mountain in Falls Village were outstanding young artists and
Jacques Gordon was born in Odessa, Russia, in 1897. At
the age of five he began the study of the violin, and by the time he
was nine he was ready to appear in concerts as a child prodigy. At
sixteen he made a continental tour of Europe, receiving many awards,
among which was a gold medal given him by the Czar in 1913. He made his
first tour of the United States and Canada during the 1914-15 season.
Three years later Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge chose him to lead the
Berkshire String Quartet, for in the meantime he had studied with Franz
Kneisel, famed quartet leader, and had not only become acquainted with
the standard repertoire but had become an enthusiastic chamber-music
player as well. In 1921 he was appointed Concertmaster of the Chicago
Symphony Orchestra under Frederick Stock; being twenty-four at the
time, he was the youngest concertmaster in the history of that
orchestra. His residence in Chicago lasted for nine years, during which
he was head of the violin department at the American Conservatory of
The first Gordon String Quartet was founded in Chicago in 1921. By 1930
the demand for quartet appearances had become so great that he resigned
from his position in the orchestra in order to devote his entire time
to the ensemble and to his own solo playing. In the larger cities where
the quartet performed, the members were greeted by enthusiasts whose
interest already lay in the standard works of chamber music and in the
newer compositions being written for that medium. In the smaller cities
where chamber music was practically unknown the quartet did much to
introduce this literature.
In 1930 Mr. Gordon established summer residence in Falls Village,
Connecticut. The Gordon Musical Association, established that same
year, maintained a summer school of music called Music Mountain, where
many students gathered to study repertory and chamber music and to hear
performances by the Gordon String Quartet.
Jacques Gordon came to the Eastman School of Music during the academic
year 1941-42, when he substituted for Gustave Tinlot, upon whose death
he was appointed head of the violin faculty. The Gordon String Quartet
subsequently became the quartet-in-residence at the school, where they
played regularly on chamber music concert series, on radio programs,
and for recordings.
-- Ruth Watanabe
I did a work for
Harvard Musical Association, which I called Octet for Five (1965)! The
one player had several doublings. [Besides the usual quartet of strings, a
wind player performed on alto flute, alto sax, clarinet and bass
clarinet.] The man
had so many doublings to do, he would be
able to sit on the instrument to have it warm for the next
BD: Are you a
conductor because as you are also a composer?
yes. I’ve learned a lot through my mistakes. I’ve also done
some 72 motion
pictures, as you know, which is good practice, and that’s what
kept the orchestra alive in Los Angeles! During that whole
period, those years I spent in Hollywood, all of the money that I
earned for those
motion pictures, every penny of my entire earnings went into the
We had the
Standard Oil programs, so with
what we earned from that
we never needed another penny. I have some marvelous stories
about the money. When the Los Angeles
Philharmonic, which I also had, were raising their money,
the main lady, a wonderful lady whose name I forget right now came
over and said she wanted to work for us. I said, “Well
most marvelous thing. We need your spirit rather than
your money!” She looked at me and she said
she wanted to help. She lasted one week because they made her
miserable that she left the organization. [Pauses a moment to
reminisce] In one edition of The
Record, they said I was dead! It said that I died in
1965! But that’s the best thing that ever
happened because I was going through my eye
problems which caused me to re-think things I had to relinquish.
But I was still very much alive, as Mark
BD: In the music for
films you’ve incorporated some
jazz into the scores.
very interesting that you
mentioned it. Yes, that’s true. We should ask the composers
have we got left here? What are we trying to do?
Architecturally are they trying to become electricians? They’re
forgetting that music has something to say. They say it their
and there are some very good men, very good men that are
doing it. I regret that I haven’t got a permanent orchestra
right now to do a few scores that have come in that interest me.
I learn every score, every note,
every word of it. I can’t do it any other way. I
did, for instance, the first performance of John Alden
Carpenter’s Sea Drift (N.Y.
Philharmonic, 1934). And while I’m speaking of that, I did
the Dance Symphony of
Copland. I’ve conducted many works that we are proud of, that we
did before anyone else was interested.
But now the orchestras lack the courage or
the means, or they haven’t got the rehearsal time. I feel sorry
the conductors that way. They haven’t got the rehearsal time in
order to really go into a new work.
BD: Let me
turn the question around. You’ve done
many first performances of what are now great works. Have you
done any first performances of things that you would like to forget
WJ: Let me
say it this way, yes. I would say out of the maybe one hundred
that I have done, most I’m proud of, and I would say out of those maybe
five or six I don’t think deserve a
second performance. Maybe I was a little bit too
enthusiastic at the time for some things, and I wouldn’t want to
mention names because I would never do that.
Especially one very important teacher who is a big name today just
didn’t interest me sufficiently. Maybe I was wrong, and I
certainly can be, but maybe I was
right, although it didn’t get a second or third performance. For
me a second performance is almost more important than a first
true. Take one
work, Dance in the Place Congo
by Henry Gilbert. I made a recording of it. I first thought
was a load of tinsel and noise shouting around.
Then we did it a second time. I did it in Europe
quite a bit, and that darn thing, well, rather to me
it’s a good second-class work. How’s that? [Both
laugh] It’s a good second-class work, but it never really came
through like many of the things we’d done that I’m really proud
of. But if I
believe in a work, I will do it, I will really do it. I think
that I ought to probably get busy again, and I’m thinking
about it. So because I feel sorry for the composer of
today, I feel sorry for myself that I didn’t or couldn’t do
better work as a composer. It’s my language and I just couldn’t
continue. Perhaps I knew too many scores. I don’t know the
that one, and maybe time will tell.
BD: What did
you learn from working with
that’s a very marvelous question, and an important story for me to tell
you. When I got the
Prix de Rome, I was in Rome about a week when Santa Cecilia called
me. They said they had looked at two or three of my things,
and would I come over and see them. They said they’d decided to
give me the Rome Prize for three years. It
was three years then, and we got twice the money that they’re giving
today. I was
given a post-graduate, too. So, coming back to Respighi, the Santa
Cecelia offered me free tuition the whole time I’m there to study under
this master of
orchestration. I had been scoring like crazy before. I
would do a whole Bach fugue for the fun of
trying to put it into the orchestra, and all that before Lucien
Cailliet (1891-1985) who did a fabulous
job of it in Philadelphia. I was doing
these things as practice, and Respighi called. We had a big
meeting, and he asked me to come to his masterclass. I was
honored to do so, as a matter of fact.
So I went in there, and there’s a
funny thing about that. We called them the pigeons because the
window would be opened and the Roman pigeons would fly in and make
droppings on paper! It was
always music paper, of course, so we always had funny little gags
about that. But what did I learn from Respighi? The
simplicity of orchestration. No matter how involved you are, no
involved the piece is, you still have to see it through. He
taught me that. I was a graduate of the original Leipzig
Conservatory, which is now in
East Germany, and of course was the big place. I worked
there for three years as a kid, and I had mastered things to a certain
extent, but not to satisfy myself unfortunately. That is just
what they teach
you there. They were so thorough back then, like the thoroughbass
always say, and they applied it almost all the instruments. If
you hear those tones which they taught you, you could believe you
probably get somewhere. Well, after a year of Respighi, I thought
it was time to quit. So I left Respighi’s place. I was busy
then because I was also doing the Rome concerts, and writing an opera
and string quartets like crazy. The experience of Respighi was
one that I shall be always grateful for
because he showed me the luminosity that there is in certain ‘modern’
hate the word because everybody speaks of a it
as ‘modern’ music or ‘classical’
music. It’s music of
1875 or 1986. It’s that kind of music. We’d speak of
Mendelssohn at that age, of that time, or we speak
of Brahms in his second period, or Stravinsky, who had the
genius of being able to simplify.
BD: Is this
the advice you have for
young composers, to learn the simplicity of orchestration?
WJ: I have a
very young student and I’ve looked at his
writings. He has a facility for putting down tones that don’t
exist to the melody,
or to the idea of the thematic material that he has, and that he
thinks of. He does a simple phrase, and he will then take sounds
out of the universe and put them down. As long as they sound
beyond Alban Berg, to their ears they call it very modern. Now
this may be getting
a little deep but he’s only twelve or thirteen and he needs real
direction. I haven’t the time because I
am always studying new stuff. He needs some real
direction. I have a man in Europe I want to talk about him, and
maybe he’ll get over there because this boy may just go
places. His musical ideas are so
refreshing, so simple that they will grow by themselves.
got orchestration under his belt, and I said
to just forget those things. I told him just start in and write
what he has right
now, and keep growing on that. Well, he came back about a month
later after I saw him the first time, and he really had something
I became so excited about. That ruined it for him, of
course... There is a terrific need in our
country and throughout the world. Hindemith almost hit it in his
great book, just like I hope that I’ll hit that violin tone some day
BD: Let me as
philosophical question. What do you feel is the ultimate purpose
WJ: The ultimate
purpose of music is to save
civilization. Curiously enough, it can save civilization because
it being — to use a very corny phrase
we’ve heard a thousand times — the universal
was in the war, and I remember one time there were three of us in a
trench. There was a Frenchman, an Italian-speaking boy,
and myself. I speak French and I speak Italian because I studied
in Europe. We were in a
terrible spot, and they couldn’t commute because they didn’t know
English. Somebody had a record and an old machine, and he played
second movement of the Brahms Second
Symphony. He had these three people there and we didn’t
have to talk. We
never talked again until the next shell. That’s one
way of communication. I would love to work for a
dollar a year, truthfully, survive on it, and help young people with
advice do you have for aspiring young conductors?
heaven’s sake, get away from the
mirror! [Pauses a moment] Does that answer you?
BD: To have
the conductors get off themselves and back to the music!
right. It’s in
your bowels, it’s in your head, and if it isn’t, God help you!
If the second oboe asks you if a certain note should be an F
sharp or an F or an E, and then he watches your fingers go through the
score to find what that note
is, and you waste all that time because you don’t know the answer,
you’re already finished! You’re already dead! We have to
know the details, just as a musician should know what his partner is
playing. They are so busy
reading notes, but you have to teach them how to listen
the same way as with learning a language. You know the language,
but you must talk about the way they’re going musically. I feel
the young composers. I feel for elderly composers who are, I’m
sure, writing good works and they’re not being heard, because here they
don’t have the money around, or the conductors are not
interested. They don’t take the time to learn a new score, to
digest it. This is what I’m referring to,
and I think this is a serious thing in our country. Maybe with my
88 years I can talk about it!
BD: This is
why I contacted you — to get some of
the experience of those 88 years.
pleased to meet you. You are somebody that has intelligent
BD: Thank you
for the compliment.
it’s sincere and it’s the
truth. Of course, it’s near
to my heart. That’s why I started off by
saying I never talk to the papers. But you’ve been very nice on
the telephone, and you intrigued me. I wondered what you were
ask me, and you aroused my interest. That is
something I appreciate, so thank you!
BD: Thank you
for spending this time with me today.
WJ: Thank you
very much, Mr. Duffie. It went very well.
© 1987 Bruce Duffie
This conversation was recorded on the telephone on July 25,
1987. Since the sound quality of the recording was poor, I used
quotations from the conversation along with recordings on WNIB several
occasions through 1999.
This transcription was made in 2015, and posted on this
at that time. My thanks to British soprano Una
Barry for her help in preparing this website
To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been
transcribed and posted on this website, click here.
Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975
its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001. His
interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since
and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM, as well
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
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.