I have always heard in the music what I am finding out from the books: the man was a tyrant who beat his musicians with insults and temper tantrums. He never smiled when conducting (not even in rehearsals!) never thanked or complimented his men, never made them feel they were valuable partners or had even done a creditable job. He would fail to give them cues, then blame them with curses and insults for needing them! Besides being a compulsive perfectionist, he was childish, petulant, inconsiderate, monomaniacal, and monstrously self-centered. His technique was fear, and I always heard that fear in his music...Reading about him - especially books by people who worked with him - strongly confirmed what I had felt in my bones"
On the subject of Toscanini - from Vroon's foreword to The mystery of Leopold Stokowski, By William Ander Smith, Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press, 1990, ISBN 0838633625
When an idealist is 20 he thinks he can make a real difference in the world. At 30 he still thinks so but realizes that a great many people stand in the way. At 40 he realizes that they will never get out of the way. Part of maturity is to accept the fact that we cannot change the world; the world is hell-bent in another direction and not interested in what we have to say or offer. Maturity does not mean giving up your ideals or giving up the fight, but it does mean giving up your illusions--being "dis-illusioned", seeing things as they really are, not "if only".
A college education was for me life-changing. It gave me a life-long passion for reading and learning. It challenged my narrowness and parochialism-really forced open my mind. It deepened my commitment to culture in general and to the higher forms of pleasure. Thus it enriched my life-permanently-by confirming me in habits of mind that would benefit me all my life long. Anyone observing could have seen that happening to me (and my fellow students) at the time. A real education is life-changing. You don't go to classes during the week and get drunk in dance bars on the weekend. You discover a higher level of life and pleasure, and you start living it. If the education takes, you keep living it the rest of your life. [...] Education releases you for real joy in the midst of a culture that is abysmally cheap and shabby. The people around you pursue TV, sports, and shopping-- obey the commands of their masters to indulge themselves in every way and not to question the value of what they are fed by the media. But the educated man is critical and even self-critical: he THINKS about things-even things like pleasure. Mindless self-indulgence is no longer enough when you have learned to think.
It is much easier to prejudge than to judge. It saves a lot of work to write about all the intellectual baggage one brings to the work. It is harder, even somewhat daunting, to start from scratch with what one is actually hearing. Actually it is not easy at all to make judgements in this field without falling back on preconceived categories. Comparisons often come to the rescue. Stokowski’s Scheherazade is without question an extremely effective, almost magical, performance. If I’m reviewing that work I must know outstanding performances like Stokowski’s. And I must know why it’s outstanding—I must know it by listening to it, not merely by reputation. I must compare the newcomer to it to see if he manages to make as much of the music.
Now we all know that new recordings carry Danger signs all over them. Danger: fantastic sound can subvert your judgement. Danger: artist’s names and reputations can affect the way we listen. Danger: a new recording has not had time to win you over—it may be unfair to compare it to one you have known for 20 years. [...] Danger: things that irritate now may endear themselves to us in time. Danger: there was only one Stokowski.