Fricsay in the USA
Ferenc Fricsay came to United States for the first time in 1953 as a guest conductor. The musicians of the Houston Symphony Orchestra where I was then the principal oboist were rather sceptical when they heard how young he was. But after ten minutes of his first rehearsal we recognized that here was someone far above the average whose standards were of the highest order. With a few telling words supported by clearly descriptive gestures, he portrayed his concepts of the music to the orchestra; diffucult phrases he would sing with perfect intonation in his fine tenor voice. We felt that with Fricsay, Tchaikovsky´s "5th Symphony" or Dvorak´s "New World Symphony", both were works that became completly new and fresh when played with him.
Along with my orchestra colleagues, I was sorry each time a concert came to the end. We would leave the hall as happy as if we were floating on air. It seemed almost too good to be true. We learned what playing in an orchestra could be and we wanted to hold on to this experience.
As a result of the success of his 1953 concert, Fricsay was engaged by the Symphony Board for the 1954 - 55 season as music director and principal conductor. His goal was to make the orchestra one of the finest in America and to bring the length of its season and the musicians salaries in line with those of Chicago and Cleveland. He felt that the orchestra musicians should receive a salary for the whole year and not be obliged to work in other professions in the summer. The Symphony Board promised him a free hand.
In October 1954 when Fricsay came to fulfill his engagement with vision and enthusiasm, he soon realized that the promises were empty words. Numerous misunderstandings with the management made reaching an agreement impossible and led to Fricsay not returning for the second half of the season.
To a friend he wrote: "I attempted, at least in a small way, to improve the living standard of the orchestra musicians. ... It is possible
that this was not my affair, but my nature rebelled against the situation I found there. You know the outcome. During my lifetime I shall always consider it as my duty to have happy and satisfied colleagues about me, who should be valued at least somewhere near their expertize, human value, and talent."