Julian Lloyd Webber
Arturo Toscanini, the perfectionist conductor, was pacing up and down backstage before a performance with Gregor Piatigorsky, the perfectionist cellist. ‘I’m no good, you’re no good,’ muttered Toscanini. ‘I’m no good, you’re no good,’ he repeated. ‘Stop it!’ Piatigorsky interrupted, ‘you’re making me nervous!’ As they made their entrance on to the platform, Toscanini began once again: ‘I’m no good, you’re no good. But,’ he whispered to his soloist, ‘all the others are worse!’
Eccentric pre-concert behavior seems almost obligatory amongst musicians. Some of my most memorable collaborations with a conductor were with a musician who was much better known as a violinist – Yehudi Menuhin. He was a lovely, gentle man who certainly had a unique way of preparing for his concerts.
Before a performance of the Elgar Cello Concerto in Sydney, I wanted to discuss some point or other of interpretation and knocked on his dressing room door. “Come in, come in” cried Yehudi. I duly entered and was surprised to see him standing on his head. “It’s about this accelerando in the last movement” I told his feet. “Where exactly? Show me on the score”. Prostrating myself on the floor, I carefully placed the music upside down in front of Yehudi’s eyes before beginning a detailed discussion of Elgar’s masterpiece with the upside down maestro.
But this was hugely reassuring compared with the famous Russian conductor who drunk an entire tableful of wine that he noticed had been left untouched at a sponsor’s reception - moments before we performed the Dvořák Cello Concerto.
Some musicians like nothing better than a good argument before concerts. I will never forget ‘rehearsing’ for a concert of chamber music with Sir Clifford Curzon. Neither will the lighting technician. Evidently the lighting was evidently not to Sir Clifford’s taste. Apparently, there was a terrible reflection coming back off his music; then a spotlight was shining straight in his eyes; then there were shadows on the keyboard.
With admirable patience, the unfortunate electrician went through every possible combination of lighting - each one provoking a further outburst of temper from Sir Clifford. Eventually, after more than an hour, the distraught technician admitted defeat and set the lights back to their original position. ‘That’s it!’ cried Sir Clifford. ‘Why didn’t you set them like that in the first place?’
So, do I admit to any eccentricities? Well there is my reluctance to washing my left hand before concerts as water makes the fingertips soft. And then there’s my sweatband. I began wearing one of these annoying things in the 1980’s in an attempt to keep large amounts of sweat from dripping onto my 1690 Stradivarius cello. Although to me its use is obvious, to others its purpose on my forehead is less apparent.
‘Why do you wear a sweatband?’, asked one young lady after a concert in Hong Kong on a boiling hot night. ‘Why do you think I wear it?’ I replied, wiping yet more sweat from my forehead. ‘I know,’ she replied with complete certainty, ‘it’s a protest against the war!’
—— Chinese Translation by Terrie Dai
阿圖羅 托斯卡尼尼， 完美主義的指揮家，他在和著名美籍俄羅斯大提琴家，也是完美主義者的格雷戈爾 皮亞迪戈爾斯基的音樂會前。“我不行，你也不好”托斯卡尼尼一邊在後台緊張的來回踱步，一邊喃喃自語。“我不行，你也不好”他重複着。“停下！”皮亞迪戈爾斯基打斷他，“你這樣讓我緊張！”。直到上台前，托斯卡尼尼再開始說：“我不行，你也不好。但是，”他低聲對他的獨奏家說：“所有其他的那些更差！”
怪癖行為，幾乎是音樂家們在音樂會前必定的。在我和一些指揮家的合作中，我最難忘的是著名的小提琴家 耶胡迪 梅紐因。他是一個可愛的，溫文的人。他無疑以獨特的方式準備他的音樂會。
我在悉尼演奏《埃爾加大提琴協奏曲》之前，我想討論關於樂曲中某些意義上的理解，敲了敲他化妝間的門。“請進，請進”梅纽因大聲說。 我進入房間，驚訝的看到他在倒立。“這是關於那個‘漸快’在最後一個樂章”我對他的腳說。“具體是哪裡？在樂譜上指給我看”， 於是我匍匐在地，小心翼翼的把樂譜倒轉過來，放在仍在倒立着的梅纽因的眼前，不停上下移動和調整，開始討論埃爾加的傑作。