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My first experience as an independent conductor......

....   I made in April 1925, when I was 11 years old: In the first class of grammar school, we had a Latin professor, whom we had all become very fond of during the first few months and whom we wanted to surprise with a present on his birthday. As presents were forbidden and our knowledge of Latin not sufficient to give a theatrical performance, we had the idea to offer him a collective immaterial present in form of a birthday serenade performed by our own orchestra.

We got together to practise and found six violinists in our class, a cellist and two boys who were able to play the piano. But there were some big problems that had to be solved:

The technical abilities of the “orchestra members” were very modest indeed. Some couldn’t cope with more than one sharp or flat. So the score had to be re-arranged and written in C-Major or A-minor. But where could we get a score written for such an orchestra formation? Besides the piece should have a suitable character for a birthday.

The problem of finding something suitable I was able to solve myself. I chose the “Courting Dance” from the “Zigeunerbaron.” I don’t know today, why I found this idea so convincing at the time, but my proposal was accepted unanimously and with great enthusiasm.

After six weeks of rehearsals in utter secrecy, on the morning of the birthday we posted ourselves next to the "flower decorated" desk and waited for the professor to appear. At 8 o’clock the moment had come. The opening of the door was the sign for our entry, and my first, nine- man orchestra played with enormous zest. Our teacher stood with his mouth agape, full of surprise and joy.

It must have been heart warming to see small boys of 11 playing music with such enthusiasm on their own accord. Nobody had forced them. Very different from adults who have to play to earn a living although they often don’t really feel like it.

Our teacher was overwhelmed and showed his gratitude by cancelling our first class. This was my first fee. 

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