Bruno Walter and Arturo Toscanini with Thomas Mann
“I had the privilege of making music with some of the greatest conductors of the older generation. I consider that the Toscaninis, the Bruno Walters, the George Szells, etc, were much greater than the present day conductors, even if, of course, there are good conductors today.”
For a mutual understanding, a conductor and a soloist do not need words. Either we agree on the music, or, in a very professional manner, since there is a concert to give, we compromise to be able to play together. Usually a conductor has to give way, as a soloist has reflexes, he is trained to play in a certain way, it is difficult for him to change. A conductor is not a prisoner of his muscles – he simply makes signs to the orchestra, so he can be much more flexible. The soloist should have the final say. After an awkward experience, a conductor can of course decide he will no longer make music with this soloist, but the concert requires an agreement and the conductor has to compromise the most.
Numerous conductors were very important in my career and in my life. First of all, Eugene Ormandy, with whom I recorded most of my concerto repertoire. The Philadelphia Orchestra was the best orchestra in the world in the 1950s and the 1960s, and Ormandy was a tremendous accompanist. George Szell had a difficult personality but he was a giant. We quarreled quite often, but I retain a deep affection for him, even a love. He was a very great artist and I cherish the memories of our collaborations. Fritz Reiner was wonderful, he was supposed to be difficult, but he was very nice to me, and with young musicians. Munch was a good friend – I gave many concerts with him in Boston. He could achieve extraordinary things. I also greatly admired Paul Paray, a generous person, who invited me for the first time in France. Bruno Walter, of course, who honored me by recording one of the only three piano concertos he ever recorded. I would also have to mention many others: Leopold Stokowski, Dimitri Mitropoulos, William Steinberg who I regard as on quite the same level as Szell and Ormandy, Leonard Bernstein, with whom I actually did not give so many concerts, but for whom I have the highest esteem. Of course, there is also Casals, who is the person with whom I had the greatest satisfaction to make music, in any form.”
“I have never forgotten that I owe my career to all these great conductors, who trusted me, acknowledged me as one of their own, and who reengaged me even when the critics destroyed me. They relied on me and were happy to conduct me – this is the only thing which mattered to me. Among them, Artur Rodzinski was my first supporter, and the most committed. He not only engaged me several times with the New York Philharmonic, but he took the initiative of writing to his colleagues of the big American orchestras to recommend that they invite me!”
Interviews with Bernard Meillat, 1987
Apart from the 37 conductors with whom Istomin had a lasting collaboration (or who were of particular inspiration to him), and to whom an article in this chapter is devoted, Istomin also played under the direction of a great many other conductors. Here is a far from exhaustive list: Kazuyoshi Akiyama, Gerd Albrecht, Takashi Asahina, Franco Autori, Alan Balter, Arturo Basile, Rudolf Baumgartner, Léon Barzin, Peter Bay, Philippe Bender, Roberto Benzi, Mario Bernardi, Gary Bertini, Theodore Bloomsfield, Victoria Bond, Anshel Brusilow, Emerson Buckley, Richard Buckley, Semyon Bychkov, Paul Capolongo, Miltiades Caridis, Jean-Claude Casadesus, Juan José Castro, Saul Caston, Aldo Ceccato, André Cluytens, James Conlon, Josif Conta, Désiré Defauw, Paul Lustig Dunkel, Robert Emile, Peter Eros, Vladimir Fedoseyev, Victor Feldbrill, Lukas Foss, Lawrence Foster, Paul Freeman, Massimo Freccia, William Fred Scott, Rafael Frübeck de Burgos, Piero Gamba, John Gosling, Morton Gould, Philipp Greenberg, Manos Hadjidakis, Bruce Hangen, Walter Hendl, Bernard Heinze, Luis Herrera de la Fuente, Alexander Hillsberg, Irwin Hoffman, Yun-Taik Hong, Isaiah Jackson, Donald Johanos, Samuel Jones, Arpad Joo, Paul Katz, Brad Keimach, István Kertész, Hans Kindler, Leon Kirchner, Bernhard Klee, André Kostelanetz, Karl Kritz, Emmanuel Krivine, Efrem Kurtz, Siegfried Landau, Louis Lane, Daniel Lewis, Jesús López Cobos, Lorin Maazel, Charles Mackerras, Ernest MacMillan, Nikolai Malko, Igor Markevitch, Neville Marriner, Eduardo Mata, Howard Mitchell, Claude Monteux, Sheldon Morgenstern, Hans Münch, Gunter Neuhold, James Paul, Seiji Ozawa, Maurice Peress, André Previn, Jean-Pierre Rampal, Karl Anton Rickenbacher, János Rolla, Antoni Ros-Marbà, Hans Rosbaud, Joseph Rosenstock, Julius Rudel, Max Rudolf, Kenneth Schermerhorn, George Schick, Gunther Schuller, Jeremy Schulman, George Sebastian, Uri Segal, Klauspeter Seibel, Edgar Seipenbusch, Robert Shaw, Maxim Shostakovich, Leonard Slatkin, Alexander Smallens, Georg Solti, Henry Sopkin, Donald Spieth, Russell Stanger, David Stern, Michael Stern, Simon Streatfeild, Hans Swarowsky, Ken Takasaki, Michael Tilson-Thomas, André Vandernoot, Edouard Van Remoortel, Frederick Waldman, Alfred Wallenstein, Akeo Watanabe, Otto-Werner Mueller, Robert Whitney, George Zack, Hans Zanotelli, Ottavio Ziino…