Thursday, 16 February 2017


A giant among men: the irreplaceable Carlos Kleiber
Classical music ‘insider’ website Slipped Disc posted today a letter written in the hand of late conductor (and undisputed Unraveling Musical Myths favorite) Carlos Kleiber to a presently unconfirmed “Ms. Wright.”

The short letter – seemingly a response to an inquiry/request for advice from a budding conductor – is dated June 29, 1999, and is not one of the preserved limited exchanges between Kleiber and conductor Charles Barber, who published the duo’s correspondence in a book entitled Corresponding with Carlos (a personal favorite read) in 2013, as it is addressed not to Barber, but to an illusive Ms. Wright. 

**UPDATE: MYSTERY SOLVED? - February 16, 2017

It appears the letter from Carlos to the ellusive "Ms. Wright" may have been penned to American based conductor and musician Elizabeth Wright. A copy of the letter made a quiet online debut in 2013 on the social media platform Twitter. BUT WAIT!  As of Friday February 17th, even this hypothesis is up in the on:

**LATEST UPDATE: - February 17, 2017

Unraveling Musical Myths posed an alternate potential "Ms. Wright" - that of American band conductor Gladys Stone Wright - to Slipped Disc author/classical music insider Norman Lebrecht, who has since responded that Gladys may indeed be a possibility.

Corresponding With Carlos author and accomplished conductor Charles Barber has also weighed in on the conversation, and has vouched for the document's authenticity.

Kleiber fans everywhere are anxiously awaiting confirmation on this most exciting development.

Here's my original post prior to this afternoon's update:

Unraveling Musical Myths wonders if the intended recipient of this mysterious exchange could be the American band conductor Gladys Stone Wright?

According to Ms. Wright’s biography (available online), the Oregon born conductor was highly accomplished as a band director (boasting the title of President of Women Band Directors), had an extensive teaching career and toured much of North America and Europe in her heyday. She would go on to become the recipient of numerous awards and honors - including an induction into the 
International Women Conductors Hall of Fame in 1995 (as the first living woman to receive the honor, no less) - many of which highlighted her accomplishments as a female conducting in what was then (and still is) a male-dominated arena.

The tone of Kleiber's letter certainly feels like a response to someone (who is already accomplished) looking to branch into symphonic/operatic work (note the use of quotation marks around the word “symphonies” in Kleiber's response (below).

Could Gladys fit that bill?

The original letter, which can be viewed on the Slipped Disc website reads (all emphases are Kleiber’s own): [click here to view letter]

" 29 VI 99
 Dear Ms. Wright,

I never do any teaching! (And I hardly conduct anywhere any more).

Judging by your CD, you aren’t a beginner, by any means!

Orchestras* will teach you all that you’re capable of learning about conducting.

Try as coach in some opera company in the US. When the conductor gets sick, there’s a chance to take over a performance. If you don’t blow it, you’re in. Symphonies can wait. Symphonic music means, mainly, rehearsal. Opera means technique, in the broader sense of the word. With a good technique, you can forget technique. It’s like with manners. If you know how to behave, you can misbehave. That’s fun! (At least, that’s my theory).

Good luck!

Yours sincerely

Carlos Kleiber

*and watching conductors – preferably lousy ones! – at work (They’re everywhere!)

PS. This letter is all I can do for you OK? "

Did You Know?

1999, the year in which the above letter was written, would prove to be the year during which Kleiber’s final concerts would take place (at the Festival de Música de Canarias in Tenerife in January and elsewhere in Spain (Valencia) and in Cagliari, Italy the following month) as the conductor began to show the deleterious effects of early stage prostate cancer which would severely limit Kleiber’s already selective appearances on the podium.

Despite much rumor and hopeful innuendo of a return to the dais that would ensue following Kleiber’s all-too-early ‘retirement,' it seemed the conductor had had his fill as undisputed master of the arena. He would hole himself high up in the hills of Slovenia to be close to the grave of his beloved spouse, the late ex-ballerina he lovingly called “Stanka” (Stanislava Brezovar), refusing any and all treatments for combative prostate cancer (then still in its treatable stages), and to ultimately meet his end – which he would, on July 13, 2004.

Kleiber would be buried alongside his beloved Stanka, just outside of the Kleiber family home in Konjšica

To learn more about Kleiber’s life and ultimate fate, peruse the Kleiber archives here at Unraveling Musical Myths by clicking on the relevant links below (posts +1 article):

Listen to a recording (playlist) of Kleibers' "Final Concert:" featuring Beethoven's 4th, 7th and Johann Strauss' (II) Die Fledermaus (Overture), 26 February 1999, Cagliari, Italy:


No comments:

Post a Comment