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In October 1958, Fritz Reiner and the Orchestra embarked on a two-week Eastern tour with stops in Ann Arbor, Cleveland, Syracuse, Rochester, Burlington, Boston, Philadelphia, New Brunswick, and Washington, D.C.

Fritz Reiner (Oscar Chicago photo)

Fritz Reiner (Oscar Chicago photo)

In Nancy Jordan Fako’s book Philip Farkas and His Horn, the Orchestra’s principal horn recounts the October 14 concert: “One incident that I think is worth repeating is a series of concerts we gave with Reiner in 1958 where we played in New York and several other cities, but the most notable concert was in Boston. This particular concert consisted of an overture by Berlioz, I believe it was the Corsair, and I know it was the Brahms Third Symphony, and after intermission we did [Strauss’s] Ein Heldenleben. The concert started off brilliantly, as the Berlioz would require, but as the concert progressed, it became apparent that we were about to give a flawless performance. Nothing happened! There were no cracked notes, no bad entrances, no bad intonation. Nothing! Nothing out of perfection! It went on and on, till the middle of Ein Heldenleben we all began to realize that were giving the perfect performance. And that is when the tension began mounting, much the same as the pitcher realizes in the eighth inning that he has a perfect no-hitter in the making, where each pitch becomes even more intense. At any rate, we finished the concert. It was an absolutely flawless production, even with Heldenleben. The audience was amazed and we were awed in our own ability. And as we came offstage, I saw Reiner standing in the wings at Symphony Hall in Boston and he was shaking hands with each and every musician as they came out. It finally came to my turn to shake hands and I noticed that Dr. Reiner was crying with tears running down his face, so I took the liberty to ask him why. He answered, ‘Well, we just had a perfect concert. All my life I have waited for a perfect concert and tonight we had one.’ Well, we all got backstage and everyone was elated. It was like we had just won the World Series. And who came backstage but Arthur Fiedler who had been in the audience, and he was shouting, ‘You’re not men, you’re gods.’ ”

October 14, 1958, Symphony Hall in Boston

October 14, 1958, Symphony Hall in Boston

This article also appears here.

the vault

Theodore Thomas


The opinions expressed here are mine and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer.

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