Harvey Sachs, author of Toscanini: Musician of Conscience, editor and translator of The Letters of Arturo Toscanini
In Conversation with James Melo, ERC's musicologist and Senior Editor at RILM
By the late 1920s, Arturo Toscanini - then in his early sixties - was music director of La Scala in Milan and the New York Philharmonic, and beyond a doubt the most celebrated conductor in the world. He had worked with many of the world's most important opera ensembles and symphony orchestras, had brought about major reforms in the former, and had raised performance standards in the latter. But his hatred of Mussolini's fascist regime was beginning to become public knowledge. He declared that he would not perform again in Italy unless and until the fascist regime fell, and he extended his protest to Germany in 1933, when Hitler came to power, and to Austria in 1938, when that country became part of the Third Reich. In 1936 and 1938 he went to Palestine at his own expense to conduct the new symphony orchestra (now the Israel Philharmonic) made up largely of Jewish refugees from central Europe, and he spent the war years in exile in the United States, where he conducted concerts to benefit the Allied war effort and the Red Cross, helped refugee musicians less fortunate than himself to find work, and participated, with other leading Italian antifascist exiles, in efforts to insure that postwar Italy would have a truly democratic government. In this interview and conversation, Harvey Sachs will discuss the life and career of Toscanini, his political activism, and the scholarly process behind the writing of the definitive biography of the great maestro.