Here are some quotes and anecdotes that I’ve found. I will start with one of my own. Our Gospel singing group was scheduled to play at a fair put on by a local monastery in the San Gabriel mountains of California. This was back before everyone had digital pianos to schlep around. One of the organizers arranged to have his personal piano brought in but he wasn’t sure when it had last been tuned. Although I am not a piano tuner I brought my electric tuner and tuning hammer along just in case it needed a little “fluffing”. We had several other instrument that had to play in tune with the piano. I also got there a bit early. You can imagine that when the piano finally arrived on stage it was not just out of tune, it was a total horrific disaster. It probably had not been tuned since it had been purchased decades before. I went to work the best I could but I only had time to tune the middle three or four octaves. Another pianist and I split duties and I had to show her the extent of where we could play. We got through the concert somehow without straying too many times into “No man’s land”.
Famous English conductor and impresario Sir Thomas Beecham was rehearsing a rather elaborate production of Verdi’s Aida complete with a menagerie of live animals. A horse left a rather large odiferous contribution to the opera whereas Beecham retorted, “What a critic!” He also once quipped,“Brass bands are all very well in their place – outdoors and several miles away.” and also, “The English public may not like music, but they absolutely love the noise it makes”.
Although there is no lineage evidence for it Hungarian conductor Eugene Ormandy seems to have inherited Yogi Berra’s gift for damaging the English language. Here are a few quotes:
“Why do you always insist on playing when I’m trying to conduct?”
“I never say what I mean but I always manage to say something similar”.
“I don’t want to confuse you more than absolutely necessary”.
“He is a wonderful man and so is his wife.”
“The next movement is still in the factory.”
“It’s difficult to remember when you haven’t played it before.”
“Who is sitting in that empty chair?”
“The notes are right, but if I listened they would be wrong.”
“It is not together, but the ensemble is perfect.”
“During the rests — pray.”
Frederic Chopin asked his friends to play at his funeral. Someone suggested one of his own sonatas to which he responded, “Oh, no, not mine, play really good music, Mozart, for instance.’”
It was the compulsive habit of Grieg to keep a small figurine of a frog in his pocket and rub it for good luck.
It is claimed that the meticulous Beethoven would make his coffee with exactly 60 coffee beans, no more and no less.
Leonard Bernstein said, “To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan and not quite enough time.”
Bela Bartok once said, “Competitions are for horses, not artists.”
Richard Strauss quipped, “I may not be a first-rate composer but I am a first-class second rate composer.”
On the morning of the premiere of his opera Don Giovanni, Mozart wrote the overture while coping with a monster hangover.
The great Stravinsky observed “Lesser artists borrow, great artists steal.”
Here are a few quotes from the routines of pianist and humorist Victor Borge:
“I do not have a single white note on my piano; my elephant smoked too much.”
“I only know two pieces; one is ‘Clair de Lune’ and the other one isn’t.”
“Flint must be an extremely wealthy town: I see that each of you bought two or three seats.”
— while playing to a half filled venue.
After coming to the US to escape Nazi tyranny in his home country Denmark, Borge was booked into a club where he was offered $1 a head for everyone who came. 300 people showed, a very sizable crowd during that part of his career. While being paid he noted to the manager that the 40 waiters also had a good time. He was paid $340.
George Bernard Shaw commented, “Nothing soothes me more after a long and maddening course of pianoforte recitals than to sit and have my teeth drilled”
“When she started to play, Steinway himself came down personally and rubbed his name off the piano.” Bob Hope dissing comedian Phyllis Diller in a routine.