31 JULY 1936, Page 29


By Paul Stefan This book (Heinemann, 7s. 6d.) is not a success. It is sentimental, superficial, pretentious, full of spurious Viennese charm and frequently lapsing into a very unconvincing rimed oflyrical meditation. The facts of Toscanini's life could have been told in half the space occupied by Dr. Stefan, who surrounds them with nostalgic reminiscences which add nothing and detract a great deal. And yet his adoration is sincere, and his musical knowledge genuine; the opportunity of writing something really valuable was there, and was missed. If Dr. Stefan is not, or does not think himself, competent to attempt a detailed, scientific analysis of Toscanini's development as a man and as a musician, or even salely as a conductor, a work which one would have given a very great deal to possess, he might at least have recognised his own liMitationa and have turned himself into an Eckermann, into a Ludirig even, and so provided first-hand material for some future musicologist. Toscarrini, it is known, is not unwilling, in the presence of genuinely interested listeners, to speak about music, and in particular about opera and about Verdi, whom in his old age he knew intimately and admired beyond measure. Perhaps Dr. Stefan's emotional vulgarity would have embarrassed so austere and sensitive a man too much : but at least he might have tried. Finally, if this book is modelled on Stendhal's musical biographies and is intended to be openly journalistic, the anecdotes might have been better and more numerous. The book fails at all levels, and is only slightly redeemed by the photographs, which are quite interesting, but without com- mentary, no more than that. It is unfortunate that this ineptitude should have been offered as an act of homage to the greatest musician and noblest human figure of our time.