Music: Toscanini's Triumph

Giuseppe Verdi, a formidable old man in his 70s, looked sternly down on the four cellists. In rehearsal for the first performance of his new opera, Otello, the La Scala orchestra had just reached the important cello passage in the first act. The second cellist, a 19-year-old boy, could barely be heard. The composer demanded to know his name. "Toscanini," he was told. Toscanini had played the passage exactly as it was marked—pppp. Patiently, Verdi explained that the fault was his own: he really intended only pianissimo, and had exaggerated his directions to...

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