An Interview with Igor Stravinsky

New York Review: We hope you are enjoying your stay in New York, Mr. Stravinsky. Have you attended any interesting concerts or other performances?

I. S.: No concerts, but I heard a good Falstaff at the Metropolitan. And, oh yes, there was a television program, the wisdom of Pablo Casals, I believe. That was an interesting performance. In one scene the cellist and a composer, Zoltan Kodaly, are shown together with their great-granddaughters—or so the viewer supposes until learning a blush later that they are the wives. And what are the two racy octogenarians talking about? Well, they are talking about the trouble with me which is that I must always be doing the latest thing—they say, who have been doing exactly the same old thing for the last hundred and eighty years. Señor Casals offers extracts of his philosophy, too. It is a matter of some simplicities; of his being in favor of peace, for example, and of playing Bach in the style of Brahms. But I have strayed. You wished to talk about music reviewers.

N Y. R.: We wanted to ask why you bother to complain about them; what they say seems to be of such slight importance.

I. S.: I agree that what a reviewer says may be inconsequential, even in the short run. What I protest is his right to say it—Voltaire in reverse. Some people have earned the right, by knowledge and skill, but they are not the present—and yesterday’s present, and, in fact, the perennial—crop of reviewers. To protest is to plead for higher standards, and it is a duty to do that. Incidentally, it has been said to me in argument that certain reviewers are wrong but honest. I find this illogical as a defense and alarming as an indication of the state of ethics. I am not concerned with the honesty of an opinion but its worth. And what a condition we are come to that honesty is so exceptional as to deserve citation.

N. Y. R.: What are your principal strictures of the present system, Mr. Stravinsky?

I. S.: When a short time-limit has been imposed on the reviewer he should confine himself to reporting rather than, as at present, snap-judging. I would also suggest that his investiture be made to depend on the possession of certain qualifications (a good audiogram report, to begin with). There is but one at the moment, the knack of delivering five hundred more or less readable words in the allotted hour or half-hour. Under the present system this ability to deliver the pulp, both the daily dose and the Sunday causerie, can win for its owner a throne of authority in each of several specialized fields, as we well know in New York where a certain newspaper’s promiscuous hospitality has encouraged a sports writer to become both a music critic and drama critic.

N. Y. R.: But does it matter? After all, there are critical organs of …

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Letters

Musical News July 1, 1965