Forty years ago this week. at New York Magazine, Clay Felker
allowed me to get away with an entire music column in
rhyming doggerel. Bob Grossman supplied the artwork,
which I continue to use, in Bob’s color upgrade. He
asked me about the original text, so this is for him.
Rudi and Julius were the opera honchos in 1968;
Sargeant and Haggin were stuck-in-the-mud critics,
the Bernheimers of their day. That’s Lennie
on my typewriter.
A ho! For September, with anticipation
Of concerts and operas, a season of cheer.
A toast to the autumn with joy and elation
As music resoundeth, piled right up to here.
The critics, all rested, their bon mots are sharp’ning
For Lennie, and Rudi, and Julius, and you,
Dear readers. We listen to all that is happ’ning
And try to relate everything we’ve been through.
For Julius and troupe there’s a birthday to honor,
Of twenty-five years full of struggle and pain.
They’ve got a new “Faust” (man, that opera’s a goner),
At least it’s a way to get out of the rain.
And Beverly Sills will sing Manon to charm us
(The Met’s digging up the same opera, I see.)
And Rudi can rage, throw a tantrum enormous,
But His “Manon” stinks, just between you and me.
Sing ho! Lincoln Center, Bill Schuman and minions,
With four pretty buildings and one on the way.
They lunch all the critics and woo our opinions,
It’s part of a game that we graciously play.
And Lennie is fifty; he’s leaving, he’s tired.
His job’s up for grabs, a most difficult choice.
The applicants, all of them greatly admired,
Will have to excel in both Boulez and Boyce.
The orchestra’s dead, or the orchestra’s dying;
The audience thinks all the moderns are trash.
They may be, but surely a handful are trying,
But they’re not the ones who go home with the cash.
So Ormandy comes and he plays all-Tchaikovsky,
And Leinsdorf shows up with a Schumann or two,
While Babbitt and Cage and that chap Davidowsky
Retreat to the hinterlands, clever but blue.
So ho! Winthrop Sargeant and Haggin and others…
They’re deeply insulted by tones numb’ring twelve.
The music they like was enjoyed by their mothers;
Into anything new they reluctantly delve.
At Carnegie, which I recall from pre-puberty,
The coffee is sour, acoustics are fine.
Fischer-Dieskau will come with a program all Schuberty;
If you want to buy tickets you’d best get on line.
Upstairs in Recital Hall kids from all over
Give New York debuts with their eyes full of hope.
A tiny percentage will land in the clover;
The rest will go home to St. Louis and mope.
But let them not stop; they’re the ones that excite us:
The youngsters creative, ambitious and strong.
They bring in the new blood; the pathways they light us
To musical futures, to which they belong.
Then ho! To the future; it’s got to be better!
Without this assurance we couldn’t go on.
Dame Fortune will smile on us; please, someone, let her.
The musical season looks rosy at dawn