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161 The Bow and the Baton Chapter 6 WHEN ORMANDY ENTERTAINED VIPS in his dressing room, he often invited me to join them. Sometimes reporters were around and pictures were snapped. When we were photographed standing next to each other, I used to lean down so our faces were close together and the height difference was minimized. Sometimes he whispered, “Thanks.” I was only five inches taller, but to him every inch seemed to be a foot. A number of times in these situations, he introduced me as his successor. Eventually, someone told someone who told a reporter. Specifically, someone told The Evening Bulletin’s columnist Frank Brookhouser. In his “Man on the Town” column, Brookhouser stated that rumors were abroad that I would succeed Ormandy when he retires. Clueless, I arrived at rehearsal the next morning. “He wants to see you,” my colleagues said. I went to his office. “Shut the door.” I did. He was pacing. “When did you talk to Frank Brookhouser?” “Never. I don’t even know him.” 162 ■ Shoot the Conductor “Why did you tell him you were my successor? What an idea!” “I’ve never said that,” I said. “As if he would have heard it somewhere else!” “Well, he could have heard it from you. Or a concert guest you talked to,” I suggested. It was another of those moments when a helping of tact would have served me well. “I’ve never said that!” he said. I shrugged my shoulders and went on my cheerless way. On one occasion we were rehearsing Schumann’s Piano Concerto with Rudolf Serkin at the piano. In the third movement, Ormandy summoned me. I laid my violin on the chair and hurried up to the podium. “I want to go listen,” he said. “You conduct. The score is open to where we are.” He walked off. I had studied the score and we had performed the concerto in Cleveland, so I knew it well enough to know that we were approaching a passage that is extremely difficult both to play and to conduct. I looked down at the score: it was open to a random place, nowhere near where we were. The musicians were now beginning the difficult passage. Obviously Ormandy was hoping we would have to stop. From the piano, Rudi Serkin smiled at me and winked. I did what I had seen Szell do—ceased actual conducting and simply motioned for the orchestra to play softly. It worked perfectly. Ormandy came quickly back to the stage and thanked me. Rudi was all smiles. Interestingly, when we came around to that passage the second time that morning, Ormandy did the same thing, just let the orchestra play its way through on its own. Such challenging setups for failure punctuated our normally warm relationship. And yet, I could never be sure if this or that instance was intentional. The Bow and the Baton ■ 163 No, the kind Dr. Jekyll watched out for my interests and those of my family by giving me special recording opportunities. The orchestra had recording sessions on Sunday afternoons. After the symphony or whatever major piece we were recording was finished, Ormandy would dismiss some members. With just those necessary for Vivaldi, we would record one of his violin concertos in the Four Seasons. Eventually I had done them all. It was usual for the conductor to get royalties of 4 percent, and for a visiting soloist to get 2 percent or 4 percent, but concertmasters didn’t expect royalties because they were just doing their jobs. Nevertheless Ormandy did arrange for royalties to come to me for the Vivaldi concertos. Those checks helped our family considerably over the years. The royalties still come, though the pathways have meandered, today passing through, iTunes, and Napster. An organization like the Philadelphia Orchestra must make itself accessible to everyone, not just the lucky folks who can come to the Academy of Music or Carnegie Hall. Sometimes we played in places like a high school in Englewood, New Jersey. I pulled up in front of the Bellevue-Stratford where the Ormandys lived. Ormandy was waiting for me at the curb. He tossed his navy cashmere overcoat and the brown Homburg hat that didn’t match into the back seat of the car, and we were off. Gretel was not with us. She rarely attended any of the “run outs,” as we called the concerts in easy driving distance, unless they were at Carnegie...


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