A conductor's job is to make harmony. He plays the most complicated musical instrument conceivablea symphony orchestra. When he plays well, he has only to raise his hand, or nod his head, and strings bow in unison, brasses, flutes and kettledrums come in on cue.
That is the harmony the public hears. But there are other, behind-the-scene noises that go to make up that harmony. They are the clashes of musical temperament, the clanging demands of the cash register, the murmurings of directors and managers. A successful conductor has to make a harmony out of them too.
Last week a pent-up man eased his big frame into a desk chair in a plainly furnished 16th-floor ofnce in Manhattan's Steinway Building. The man was Dr. Artur Rodzinski, conductor of New York's renowned Philharmonic-Symphony. His small eyes, almost concealed behind thick glasses, took in his audience: seven tense members of the Philharmonic's executive committee.
They had offered to renew Rodzinski's contract for three years. There were a few strings attached, of course, but. Well, what did he say? Grey-maned Artur Rodzinski had a lot to say. Speaking above the muted horns of the 57th Street traffic below, he said it for an hour and 20 minutes. A lot of it was on the state of the orchestra whose greatness he had restored. Improved, rather. But a lot more was about a man named Arthur Judson. His speech rose to a bitter, excited tirade that accused Arthur Judson, the handsome, leonine manager of the Philharmonic, of trying to run the orchestra and hamstringing the conductor. Mr. Judson, who was present, listened with interest.
When Rodzinski stopped, flushed and spent, there was half a minute of pregnant, almost audibly gestating silence. When the Philharmonic's board chairman finally spoke, it was as if a thin sheet of ice had been carefully cracked. And what, said he, had Mr. Rodzinski decided? "Give me 24 hours to think it over," said Rodzinski, and left for home.
There he discussed matters with Halina, his attractive wifeand with his conscience. (Conductor Rodzinski is a Buch-manite, and believes that he gets "guidance" in all his decisions.) Two hours later, he sent a telegram to the board chairmanand tipped off the press too. He had quit.
Babushka, We Go! Next morning, the story was on Manhattan front pages. (Not the tabloids, of course: there was no sex angle.) Waves of friends and reporters eddied through the Rodzinskis' Park Avenue apartment. They found the household as gaily confused as a Polish wedding party: the telephone and doorbell jingled merrily, Artur poured wine, vivacious Halina sliced Polish pastries.
From here & there over the country telegrams cried bravo. In the midst of all these exclamation points came a lone period: a terse message from the Philharmonic board, releasing Rodzinski not at the end of the season, as he had asked, but at once. His spirits only soared higher. Elatedly, he jounced his two-year-old son's big clown doll on his knee and told it the news; he grabbed his 75-year-old mother around the waist, waltzed her around the room and cried exultantly: "Babushka, now we are going to Chicago!"