Notes on Conducting: Conversations With Koussevitzky


IT is five minutes of ten on a Thursday morning. Slipping past the faithful Cerberus who stands guard at the stage entrance, I find myself in the gloomy corridors of Symphony Hall. Barren now of the chattering débutantes who flock to the Friday afternoon concerts, empty of the fervent devotees of Saturday evenings, the halls are dim, their quiet broken only by the swish of a mop or the plop-plop of water in the pails of the cleaning women. I push open one of the sound-proof swinging doors and enter the great auditorium, cavernous, dark save for the feeble rays of wintry light which, high up in the wall, break through a small window to touch into ghostly white the rows of classical casts, gray and aging in their niches, ‘Faun with Infant Bacchus,’ ‘Apollo Citharœdus,’ ‘Girl of Herculaneum,’ ‘Demosthenes.’ . . .

An enormous curtain of a thin muddy red material hangs from the ceiling to the floor, cutting off the whole auditorium, except the first five or six rows, and forming a barrier to keep the sound from traveling back over the acres of unoccupied seats. From behind the curtain blares forth a hideous medley of sounds; the most determined modern composer does not achieve such cacophony. I pull aside a corner of the drapery and slide unobtrusively into a seat near the stage, where I watch, trying not to hear, the hundred and ten members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Perhaps ten of them talk and smoke quietly; the rest, with deaf concentration, are practising a hundred different musical phrases, entirely unrelated, though they may possibly come from the same composition. The result is not, for the moment, music. But very soon it will be.

Suddenly there is quiet. The musicians pull their chairs around into position, shift the music on their stands, extinguish their cigarettes. A door at the side of the stage has opened. With quick short steps the conductor makes his way to the front. He is a slender man, not tall, with iron-gray hair and rugged features. His shoulders are slightly stooped, contrasting with the almost athletic litheness of the rest of the torso, so that the head juts forward, giving an immediate impression of determination and power. In the long, dark blue cape, velvet-collared, he is a romantic figure, the picturesque musician of an earlier day. But beneath the cape, which he immediately discards, he wears baggy rough trousers, a soft white shirt, and an old gray sleeveless sweater, the natural and comfortable costume of a hard-working modern conductor. For the present we have music in its shirt sleeves.

Now it isexactly ten o’clock. Theconductor stops to speak to the concertmaster for a moment, then, with a smile of greeting to his men, mounts the podium. There is a decisive tap of the baton; a crisp command. Serge Koussevitzky begins the rehearsal.

For a time all goes smoothly. They are playing Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony. Though it is a familiar piece of the orchestra’s repertoire, it is not treated to a cursory or cut-and-dried rehearsal. Indeed, Koussevitzky does not know the meaning of the expression ‘cut-and-dried.’ His attack upon the composition is fresh and spontaneous, and he works on this symphony with the sharpest concentration. Sometimes, with a gesture, he stops the music, indicates the number of measures to be repeated, and continues with the playing. Sometimes, in a sudden fury, he snaps his baton against the music stand with a report like a revolver, and then, shattering the immediate silence, bursts forth, in French, German, Russian, or English, into heated criticism.

‘No!’ he shouts to the erring violins. ‘No! Dal Da! Da-da-da-DA!’ He sings, stressing the rhythm in strident tones.

When the violins have achieved the desired result, the work proceeds.

The rehearsal lasts for three hours. For three hours I listen, watching the conductor as with infinite care he works out the brilliant pattern of his musical conception.


Serge Koussevitzky was born in a little town in central Russia in 1874. His parents were very poor, but musical; and his earliest memories are of music. Although he took piano lessons and, as leader of the local theatre orchestra, learned to play other instruments, by the time he was fourteen he had exhausted the limited possibilities of Vishny Volochek. Penniless, his heart set on a musical career, he ran away to Moscow. At the Philharmonic Conservatory the only instrument for which the boy could obtain a scholarship was the despised double bass. He achieved a technique hitherto unknown on this difficult and ungainly instrument, which he plays as if it were a ’cello, and the concerts which he gave in Russia and European cities from 1896 to 1905 caused a sensation in musical circles. He was —and still is — regarded as the world’s greatest double-bass soloist.

But his musical powers demanded a wider outlet: he had always wanted to conduct an orchestra and he now determined to do so. After his marriage to Natalya Ushkova in 1905, they settled in Berlin. In 1906 he made his début as conductor with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, later in the same season conducting in London, Paris, and Vienna. Returning to Moscow the following year, he soon organized his own orchestra and with this group of carefully trained musicians gave regular concerts in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and the provincial cities. His training, his knowledge, his magnetic personality, fitted him for orchestral conducting; he was independent and ambitious; his orchestra was his own, so he was entirely free to carry out his musical plans. Koussevitzky’s concerts made familiar to his countrymen the great literature of symphonic music, before this time almost unknown in Russia, and brought to them, too, the leading European conductors, composers, and soloists. He fostered enthusiastically the development of Russia’s own musical genius, performing the works of national composers and also commissioning new compositions. Among his innovations were popular Sunday concerts at which young conductors led his orchestra and young soloists had their opportunity. Particularly interesting ventures were three tours down the Volga in 1910, 1912, and 1914, when he took his whole orchestra on a specially chartered steamer and for six weeks gave concerts at all the large towns on both banks of the river.

But in 1914 everything was changed. He carried on as best he could during the war years; then the revolution and the Bolshevik upheaval brought new disaster. Koussevitzky’s fortune was swept away; artistic freedom and musical opportunity no longer existed. In 1920 he and his wife left Russia. During the four years that followed he appeared as conductor in Paris, England, Italy, Spain, and Portugal. He conducted Russian opera, a new venture for him, in Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, and Lisbon, and his regular series of concerts in Paris became an important feature of French musical life. And in 1924 he was invited to conduct the Boston Symphony Orchestra.


Not long after the Thursday rehearsal I had tea at Koussevitzky’s home. As we sat at the dinner table with its white plain cloth and simple silver service, — in this household t he family takes tea in the comfortable European fashion with all the necessaries set before one and no need to balance a precarious teacup on one’s knee, — we talked of painting and politics, and, inevitably, of music. Koussevitzky mentioned several new compositions which he intended to present during the season and some old works which had not been played for so long that they were ready for rediscovery.

‘Tell me, please,’ he said as he spread honey carefully on his rusk, ‘how did you like the Taneiev Symphony? You have never heard it before, I know. How did it impress you?’

My answer to this question is of no importance. But it is characteristic of Koussevitzky that he had asked it. He wants to know how listeners, young, old, intellectual, emotional, are affected by a performance. I have heard him question a sixteen-year-old boy about his impressions of a composition and listen with keen seriousness to the reply. He likes to find out the reaction of the musically untrained mind; in discussing musical matters with the elect, he may wander in fields forever barred to the uninitiated, but he has sincere respect for the opinions of those who, though lacking a background of musical education, listen eagerly to music.

His frank, unaffected interest offered me an unusual opportunity. I realized that here was an expert who would be willing to answer, without complex technicalities, some of the questions about music which had been in my mind for a long time.

‘The more orchestral performances I hear, ’ said I, ‘ the more mysterious the art of conducting seems. If you would tell me . . . ‘

‘Before you start that conversation,’ observed Mrs. Koussevitzky from behind the tea urn, ‘you must have some fresh tea and a piece of vatrushka.’

So we fortified ourselves with the delicious Russian cheesecake and more tea with lemon.


‘ If we are to discuss conducting as an art,’ said Koussevitzky, ‘the first logical question is, What is conducting? To answer that question is not altogether simple. For conducting is not a simple matter, though many think so. I suppose that the majority of people in the average audience honestly believe that the conductor does nothing but wave his baton in regular beats — one, two, three, four. Well, there are in the world many thousands of orchestra leaders who do this and very little more. One of the old, old stories is about a violinist who was suddenly called upon to lead a group of musicians for the first time in his life. Afterward he confided to the real leader whose place he had filled, “It was very easy. I just stood up and let them play!” “Hush,” warned the leader, “don’t tell anyone!”

‘The art of conducting is so young that there is as yet no recognized system which can be studied by a young man ambitious to lead an orchestra. When I began there was one school of conducting in Germany under Artur Nikisch; it was the only place where one could make an attempt to study for this career, but the school was not established on any definite principles and it produced no real conductors. When I remind you that Mendelssohn and Richard Wagner were the first great conductor-interpreters, you will realize that there has hardly been time to evolve a theory. In my youth I could only study and listen and watch such leaders as were at hand. Nowadays, the student has a far simpler task; for he has at his command the phonograph records of every type of music played by the greatest conductors. These records he can play over and over again, studying at his leisure the interpretations and comparing the methods of the various artists. Never has conducting been at such a high level, so near perfection as now. And by a brilliant mechanical contrivance all this perfection is stored up and preserved safely for generations of students and lovers of music.

‘But I am going too fast! Our hypothetical young conductor is still in need of training. He will find, in the first place, that a thorough study of musical theory is indispensable. He must understand composition — that goes without saying — even if he has no talent for composing. So he not only understands how to read a score, but can more readily analyze and comprehend the intention behind a score. Through study of musical theory, harmony, counterpoint, composition, he learns the theoretical mechanics of music.

‘For the actual physical mechanics, our conductor must know how to play the piano. It is still better if he knows also how to play the stringed instruments. And he ought to have a practical working knowledge of all the other instruments as well, so that he understands thoroughly both their possibilities and their limitations.’

‘ But, Mr. Koussevitzky, he can’t play every instrument in the band!’

‘No, but it will be enormously helpful if he knows how — at least a little! In any case, the acquisition of this knowledge is only the elementary routine of his musical education. The next step takes him forward: he must begin as soon as possible to practise with an orchestra.’

I remembered that at the age of twelve Koussevitzky himself conducted the band of adult musicians who played at the performances of the strolling actors of Vishny Volochek. When the company went on tour to the neighboring towns they took with them their conductor, in whose young hands they left entire supervision of the musical end of their entertainment. He learned to play their instruments and he learned the rudiments of conducting.

‘From the very beginning of his work with an orchestra,’ he said, ‘a conductor will realize the important fact that he must also be a very good teacher. For the musicians working under him, though they may not recognize it, are actually his pupils, following his ideas, his interpretations. The fact that in a great orchestra these men are individually fine artists does not alter the teacher-pupil relation. They are artists in their own right; naturally, therefore, it is a difficult matter to impose upon these hundred talented individuals the conductor’s conception of the work in hand. But I forgot! Our young man is just starting out, and his musicians will not be quite so expert. However, he must practise with them — that is as important to the conductor as practice with a fiddle is to a violinist. It is the only way in which he can achieve technique.

‘Technique,’ he repeated thoughtfully. ‘Ah, now we come to a matter of vital importance, a matter of which there is so little understanding, and such difference of opinion, that for the present each man must work it out for himself. I am speaking of what I call the plastic art of the conductor — that is, the use of his arms, his hands, his whole body in this business of conducting. The art of gesture is tremendously important. In these gestures which the conductor uses to convey his thought to his orchestra there must be meaning. Aimless gesticulation is inexcusable. Moreover, there must be coordination and grace. It is perfectly possible that the gestures of a conductor, if badly coordinated or gauche or without reason, may shock the audience and may thus intrude between them and the music, snapping the thread of their attention, disrupting the musical idea — in short, effecting just the opposite of the conductor’s intention. The conductor is responsible not only for the musical effect on the players but also for the æsthetic effect on his audience.’

‘Then it is reasonable,’ I asked, ‘to watch you and learn from seeing, as well as hearing, what the music is all about? ’

‘And why not? Why should you not benefit as well as the musicians? But I think that if you would close your eyes you would usually feel what I am trying to express — that is, you should feel the result of the gesture.’

I remembered many arguments about the necessity of gestures in conducting. All the work on a composition, say the skeptics, has been accomplished at rehearsal; there is no need, at the performance, of indicative gestures. And they usually add, in triumphant conclusion, ‘Most of the time the musicians don’t even look at the conductor!’

My question was direct. ‘Do the players see your gestures?’

‘Yes, they do. If, occasionally, they do not actually see them, they feel them. Do not think that an orchestra, however well rehearsed, can conduct itself. No, it must be led. For some reason, if left without guidance beyond a certain point, the musicians lose their rhythm — the fast tempi begin to go too fast, the slow tempi grow slower and slower. The conductor, as you know, usually beats the time with the right hand and conducts the musical phrase with his left. Let me remind you that the mediocre leader conducts a bar of music — the real conductor is concerned with a musical phrase.’

Serge Koussevitzky’s beat has sometimes been criticized as irregular. The baton, held between the thumb and the first finger so lightly that it seems an extension of the hand, beats the rhythm almost involuntarily, as if set by some internal metronome; while the flexible left hand, free to indicate the phrasing, now directs a lyrical passage with motions as delicate as a dancer’s, then, suddenly changing character, conducts with broad and powerful gestures a stirring episode. Occasionally, the tempo set, he leaves the rhythm to the orchestra while with both hands he devotes himself to the phrase; or he may stop directing entirely for a few measures and stand almost motionless listening to the music. Then, sensing the moment when he is needed, his baton again marking the beat, he continues to conduct.

‘After a recent concert you said, “The Scriabin Poëme de l’Extase was much finer on Saturday than on Friday. I played better.” You spoke as if you were playing an instrument.’

‘But I do feel just that,’ he answered quickly. ‘The orchestra is a great instrument; I play it with my two hands. You see how important are the motions of those hands?’

‘Yes, that is clear. But of one point I am not certain. Forgive me if this question is mere A B C! These gestures of yours, the sweeping motions of the arm, the slight flection of a finger — is each one planned? Is each expected by the orchestra ? ’

‘That question is so difficult to answer that it cannot be very childish! I should not say that each gesture is planned, nor that I inevitably use the same gesture in the same place, nor even that I know what gesture I am using. The motion is an unconscious expression, a method without words of communicating to the players what I want them to do; involuntarily, I suppose, I do use a certain gesture at a given point in the music. But not necessarily. Of one thing only I am certain: these gestures convey to the orchestra what I want to tell them.’

He held out his left hand. ‘Look! ’ he said. ‘All that I study and think about goes just to here on my hand,’ — he drew the right hand across the left at the base of the fingers, leaving the palm for study and contemplation, — ‘and that gives you fifty per cent of the performance. But on the days when all proceeds well, when (if I may say so) the fire is burning, then the inspiration goes to the very tips of the fingers; then I can play my instrument-orchestra as surely as if it were my double bass. Then I give you a performance to the full extent of my ability.’


‘One hears so much discussion these days,’ said I, ‘about the relative merits of conducting with and without a score — especially since Boston has seen several eminent conductors who lead their orchestras without music. I find, among the listeners, considerable difference of opinion. One of my musical friends says that it makes her nervous and takes her attention from the music when a conductor directs from memory; she is constantly afraid that “something will go wrong,” and she can neither relax to enjoy the concert nor concentrate and forget the conductor. On the other hand, many people are so impressed by the memory feat of the leader who uses no music that for them the whole performance takes on added interest. Do you think there is actually any difference in the effect achieved by the conductor?’

‘To my mind this is a purely individual matter. One man feels more comfortable without a score, another more comfortable with it. You will find that almost always a pianist-conductor will conduct from memory, because he is used to memorizing vast quantities of music for performance as a soloist and continues to do so in his orchestral work. If you are asking me why I use a score,’ — there was a twinkle in his eye as he answered my none too subtle question, — ‘ I can only say quite simply that I have never made a practice of working without one. As a soloist I was, of course, accustomed to play everything from memory. But I have never carried over that habit into my conducting. I am certain that any first-rate conductor knows his scores well enough to dispense with them entirely, so his choice is a personal one. As long as he feels completely free in the method he has chosen, how can there be any difference in the effect of his performance? If he is nervous without a score, the audience will be aware of it at once; if, on the other hand, he feels bound, tied down, when he uses one, they will be equally sensitive to his mood. There is this to be said, however: unless a man has an absolutely phenomenal memory, his determination never to use a score will in some degree limit his repertoire. We have, alas, just so much time for what we want to do — and there seems to be no limit to the amount of music that we must study and perform.

‘You spoke a moment ago,’ he continued, ‘of audiences and their reaction to the conductor. Do you know, I often wonder if the public realizes the part they play. The contact with the audience — that is as vital to the success of an orchestral performance as it is to an individual musician, actor, or speaker. This contact, I believe, is of equal importance to the audience. To listen eagerly in company with other listeners is a rich experience; the waves of attentive sympathy which travel through an interested audience create an almost electric effect upon both hearer and performer. So! These currents the conductor has to set in motion. When he succeeds in establishing the contact, a good performance is assured.’


Na vkoos ee tzviet tavarishcha niet ’ — literally translated the Russian phrase reads, ‘On taste and color there is no comrade.’ On questions of sound, too, there are very few comrades. In our Boston audiences — and I suppose this is true of most cities — are many violent opponents of modern music. They will have none of it. They walk out in the middle of a Roy Harris symphony or show their disapproval by the feeble applause that is colder than silence. Beethoven, Wagner, and Brahms are their gods. But the young classicists from Harvard who sit in the second balcony scorn Wagner and look ostentatiously bored at the opening chords of the Siegfried Prelude. Tchaikovsky they detest. They worship Bach — and Stravinsky. Modern music they respect if it is extremely intellectual and pure in form; but they are sternly critical of any living composer who leans toward the romantic.

To interest these diverse musical tastes is a task for a conductor. Koussevitzky has always been famous for programme making. He fortifies his instinct for successful combination by definite theories; and the results are usually a challenge to his audience.

‘In planning a programme,’ he says, ‘one considers the composition from several points of view — the key in which it is written, the length of time it takes to play, its dynamics, and the period it represents. The matter of tonality will not concern the general public much, though a musician is highly sensitive to a satisfactory arrangement — and perhaps people without musical training are more aware of it than they realize. As for the dynamics, variety in the general character and intensity of the compositions saves a programme from monotony and anticlimax. Finally, a well-balanced programme (this leaves out of consideration programmes devoted to the music of one period or one composer) contains a suitable combination of classical, romantic, and modern music. We should always include modern compositions. Music is a living, growing art; we cannot refuse a careful performance and a fair hearing to the composers who are working in our own time.’

I mentioned a modern tone poem which he had introduced at a recent concert and which had been very coolly received.

‘Why did you play that particular composition? Do you like it?’

‘Whether I like it or not has nothing to do with the fact that I play it,’ he answered vehemently. ‘It represents a musical line of thought of our own time, and if you are to understand what is going on in the musical world you must have the opportunity to hear such compositions. It is important for the public to be aware of these new developments, to be able to make comparisons — if I did not play this music for you, I should not be true to my duty. And I assure you that listening to modern music will not cause you to love Brahms the less. . . . You ask me what I like? In musical art, as well as in life, above all I like progress. I like to help young people to advance in their creative work; but how can they go further unless they hear their own works performed?’

During the three decades of his career as a conductor, Koussevitzky has been the consistent champion of modern music, which he understands thoroughly and conducts with conviction. Despite his sixty years, his is a young mind. Constantly seeking out new experiments, eager for new impressions, he is alive to every expression of modernism. In the early days in Russia he established his own publishing house to assure publication of composers like Scriabin, Taneiev, Stravinsky, and Prokofiev. To-day he is no less the friend of young musicians.

Not long ago he told me that he had been listening to a new symphony by an American.

‘ It was not good,’ he said sadly. ‘ The trouble with many of these young composers is that they have no sense of form. They lack æsthetic background.’

‘America is still very young,’ remarked Mrs. Koussevitzky in her usual quiet way.

‘That is the answer, of course, America is young in all the arts. Her great achievement thus far is in architecture. But it is to be expected that in music, most abstract of all the arts, progress should be slow.’


We were talking about modern ‘arrangements,’ transcriptions of classical compositions, frequently scorned by the musical purists.

‘In art, in literature, and in music,’ Koussevitzky said, ‘ it is inevitable that people attempt to explain the old ideas from the modern point of view. We are not surprised or offended when generation after generation of painters are inspired by the same theme and achieve beauty by their individual approach. In literature, certainly, there is very little new under the sun: the old situations become new through original treatment. In music, perhaps, the conditions are somewhat different, because there seems to be no limit to the possibilities for variety. At the same time, it is interesting to see what form an old musical idea will take when it is amplified or reworked. In the nineteenth century it was very much the fashion to “arrange” the composition of a master, but to us to-day most of the attempts seem over-elaborated and very dull. True, the composer who “arranges” is not usually a great genius himself, — if he were, he would not be willing to use a borrowed idea, — but he may produce a fine piece of work. Take, for example, Respighi’s arrangement of Bach’s Passacaglia and Fugue: it is a beautiful composition, because Respighi was an artist. I myself like better the original unadulterated Bach, but I think the public should have a chance to hear this modern conception also.

‘But, whether or not we approve modern arrangements, it must be admitted that in a way much of the music we play to-day comes through a modern medium. Even though Beethoven had approximately the modern orchestra, — often a very large one, as many as two hundred players, — his orchestra was not to be compared with ours, and his effects could not have approached ours. For one thing, we have available to-day many more highly skilled musicians. The presence of these real artists makes of our orchestras practically perfect instruments. With their extraordinary technique to draw upon, there is nothing to limit the sonority, the smoothness, the beauty, which can be achieved by a conductor.’ VIII

Koussevitzky’s study is a large sunny room, neat and simple and bare. It contains countless musical scores, a grand piano, a chest of drawers, two easy chairs, and one stiff little armchair in front of his worktable. On the table is a music stand, two or three volumes of music, a fat pencil, two stop-watches, and a Russian Bible. No extraneous details, no pictures, no mementoes to catch the eye: this is a place for concentration.

When he came into the room I was examining the score of Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony which lay open on the table. The only marks on its pages were the blue-penciled f ’s and p’s and the bold crescendo and diminuendo arrows with which Koussevitzky occasionally enlarges the printed symbols in order to see them more readily when conducting.

‘Can you read music?’ he asked.

‘Well, up to a point,’ I murmured apologetically. ‘Not, I fear, what you would consider reading music. I can follow choral music or a solo instrument and play a simple melody. With a little more effort I think I might be able to follow an orchestral score at a concert.’

He interrupted me with a laugh. ‘Why try? Unless you are a serious student of music and wish to learn how certain effects are achieved, you will gain nothing at all by bringing a score to a concert. On the contrary, you will lose, because your attention is divided, you cannot give yourself up to the music, you arc cheating yourself of the supreme enjoyment.’

Accepting this advice with relief, I remarked that I was puzzled to know how a conductor begins his study of a composition. In answer, Koussevitzky picked up the shining new score, as yet unmarked by his blue pencil, of Roussel’s Fourth Symphony.

‘Look at this first page. It happens to be very simple. When I was young — a hundred years ago! — I would study that music first horizontally, line by line, then vertically, measure by measure, to make sure that I had missed nothing. Then I would read it all together. Now, naturally, I no longer study separately the horizontal and the vertical, for I hear it in my mind at the same time. Occasionally, when the dissonances are so sharp that I do not trust my mind’s ear to hear them accurately, I play a few measures on the piano. Then the work begins — the work which is required before the music can be brought to life by performance. I study, study, study. I study the notes and I contemplate the purpose of this piece of music; then finally I arrive at a point where I feel that I realize what the composer wished to say, what is the true meaning of his music. This procedure is the same for programme music as for absolute music — no so-called “programme” gives anything but the mere outline of a composer’s thought.’

He looked intently at the music in his hand as if he would wrest some secret from the rows of little black notes.

‘The composer’s thought! That is the key to the mystery, a key not always easy to find. You know, it is an error common to many whose musical education is incomplete to think that everything lies in the printed page of a composition. They sit at a concert with the score on their knees, following so carefully that they can hardly listen to the music. “Ah!” they murmur, — even in their excitement they must remember they are in the concert hall, — “Ah! What is that accent? Why that pause? It is not indicated here on the printed page. It is wrong!” Then they scribble little indignant notes on the margins of their nice clean music. . . . What they do not realize, perhaps have not had time to learn, is that there is more to a score than the simple ability to read it will reveal. Tempo is retarded to clarify modulations, to reveal harmonic beauties of certain passages; accents are emphasized to point a phrase and make it more expressive. These liberties are accorded the interpreter by the composer. As an example of the greatest living composer’s attitude on questions of this kind, I must tell you about Sibelius. I was working on his Fourth Symphony and was much troubled by the tempo in one movement. I wrote him, asking his advice, saying that I simply could not feel the tempo as it was indicated in the score. His answer was, “The right tempo is as you feel it.”

‘Now, in the interpretation of Beethoven, whose opinion we cannot ask, certain passages are played in such a way because that is in the true tradition of Beethoven, even if there is no mark to indicate it. What the conductor has to study is how to interpret the composer’s idea. So, when I speak of playing a passage “in the tradition of Beethoven,” I do not mean the traditional way in which Beethoven has always been interpreted, but rather in the style of Beethoven, as Beethoven would have desired it. A knowledge of the background — historical, musical, even personal — is required for a complete understanding of the work of a composer. Only when armed with all the knowledge available is the conductor ready to present a legitimate, authoritative version of a piece of music. And beyond that actual knowledge is the instinct, the intuition, which guides the conductor to a true interpretation.’