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In New York also women devoted to music have greatly contributed toward its https://badalba.info development, but occasionally the result of their efforts has not been so beneficial. Not so long ago a handsome but incompetent foreign musician (I will not disclose any name or dates in this story) came to New York and enlisted the sympathies of a few enthusiastic women. As many women need some personality on which to centre their devotion to art, they decided that New York should have this particular gentleman to direct its symphonic future. The American business man is proverbially good-natured to his womenkind and ready to pour out money for music provided he is not compelled to listen to it, and so these ladies gathered a huge fund with which to give a series of orchestral concerts. The amount was large enough to maintain a good symphony orchestra in proper hands for an entire winter, but in this instance was to be expended on six concerts only. The handsome young foreigner gave his first concert, which was a failure so complete and dismal—he being not only without any reputation but with hardly any experience in work of this kind—that even his little group of adorers became appalled and proposed to cancel the rest of the concerts. One lady, however, who had her own special favorite conductor, suggested that a complete disgrace might be averted if her protégé were invited to conduct the remaining concerts. As he was an excellent artist and thoroughly routined in the handling of orchestral players the results were so good and, above all, such a contrast to the dire tragedy of the first concert that the enthusiastic lady devotee saw her opportunity and suggested that a new orchestra should be formed for the following winter, the concerts of which should be conducted by the man who had saved the situation for them. New York had already an average during the winter of a hundred and fifty symphonic concerts by the New York Philharmonic, the New York Symphony, the Boston Symphony, and the Philadelphia Orchestra, and it would seem from this that the symphonic needs of our public were already more than amply supplied; but an enthusiastic woman, especially when driven by devotion for some pet artist, refuses to recognize practical conditions, and so this little group proceeded to gather more funds, amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars, in order to put the new orchestra properly on its feet.
Their first difficulty was to find good players. There are never very many first-class symphonic players to be found. Not only do the two old-established New York orchestras employ about a hundred players each, but the orchestras of other cities come to New York to fill their vacancies. For years the Philharmonic, the New York Symphony, and other out-of-town orchestras had a gentleman’s agreement that they would not steal each other’s players, but this new organization immediately proceeded to take thirty-seven from the Philharmonic by offering them immensely higher salaries. They did not take a single player from the New York Symphony Orchestra because, as they vowed, of their great personal respect for me, but I think it was partly because we happened to have a two-year contract with all our men which bound them to us very effectively for another season. They filled their ranks further from members of the Boston Orchestra and from other out-of-town organizations, and then proceeded on their first regular season as a New York Orchestra with loud protestations that New York at last had an organization worthy of the metropolis. This orchestra carried on its existence for two years, at the end of which it came to a dismal close with an expenditure for the three seasons over and above the receipts of the box-office of nearly a million dollars, which their surprised and chagrined men guarantors had to pay. This is but one of several such irregular ventures, each one of which has swallowed hundreds of thousands. One would think that the inevitable failure of these efforts would deter others from undertaking them, but such is not the case. Hope springs eternal in the breast of the musical woman devotee and I have just heard of a new orchestra now being formed in order to enable still another foreigner, whose interpretations will of course be a revelation to our public, to wield his stick in this country as his own has refused to accept him at his own valuation.
In recent years chamber-music in New York has received great encouragement and intelligent support from women. Mrs. Frederick S. Coolidge has proved a veritable godmother to this lovely branch of musical art, and every fall the festivals of chamber-music which she gives in Pittsfield in the Berkshire Hills bring together notable gatherings of musicians and music lovers as her guests. For several years she has offered generous prizes in competition for various forms of chamber-music. But to me the most encouraging thing that she has done is the commissioning of certain composers to write compositions for these festivals. Neither string quartets nor violin sonatas can ever become profitable to the composer in the ordinary way of commerce, as the number of copies which can be sold of such works is necessarily limited. Even young American composers must live, and if they are to devote their time to the creation of serious forms of art they should be assured of at least some financial recompense for the time they must give to it.
Mrs. Ralph Pulitzer has entirely maintained an excellent string quartet for the past three years, and I should like to see such excellent examples followed by others among our well-to-do, as chamber-music is essentially written for performance in the home and loses much of its charm and intimacy if given in a larger hall and before hundreds of people.
For some time to come the initiative for a more general musical education of our people will have to come from the women. If American mothers will demand and obtain for their sons the same musical privileges and opportunities which their daughters now enjoy America will speedily become the most musical country in the world.
So much has already been done, but much remains, and I should like to live a hundred years longer just to watch this development and to rejoice in its results.