OSSIP GABRILOWITSCH

1878-1936

Mr. Ford sold all those Model T’s and doubtless some of the proceeds went into the salary of that high-collared and soulful looking pianist/conductor Ossip Gabrilowitsch. Gabrilowitsch gave him his money’s worth at the helm of the Detroit Symphony 1918-36, casting, to judge by a few recorded snippets, amazing spells of orchestral felicity. The delicately shuddering midsection of the minuet from Brahms’ Serenade in D is one example, a richly nostalgic Dance of the Blessed Spirits from Gluck’s Orfeo – it seems to exist outside of time – another.

Gabrilowitsch, who was by the way Mark Twain’s son-in-law, was a musician of impeccable refinement and unimpeachable authority as well, with a sensibility that strikes me as Mendelssohnian. If only there were some major symphonic works in his recorded legacy! But the history books say it, he gave the Motown orchestra a golden age, the likes of which would not be seen again until Paul Paray took over in the 1950s.

Also, he was not so refined as not to be amused when a telescope he kept in his office happened to catch the daytime lovemaking of a couple in a neighboring building. He sent them a message that God was watching.