On Music Matters this week Tom Service speaks to American composer, conductor, writer, publisher, record producer and horn player Gunther Schuller, as he publishes the first volume of his memoirs.The first volume of Gunther Schuller's memoirs is available now.
Born in New York in 1925 Gunther Schuller has had a varied career. By the age of 16 he was already a French horn player of a professional level and his first concert was the American premiere of Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony with Arturo Toscanini and the New York Philharmonic. Before he was 21 he had been principal horn of both the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and the Orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera in New York, playing with conductors such as Fritz Reiner and Leopold Stokowski. But it wasn’t just the classical scene that Schuller catalysed. He also became enraptured with jazz. After playing at the Met, he and his wife Marjorie would stay up till 4 in the morning going to hear the best that New York’s clubs had to offer. He befriended the great jazz musicians, like Duke Ellington, and was a horn player on Miles Davis’s legendary Birth of the Cool sessions. He went on to make his love for jazz, for Ellington, Charlie Parker, and Bill Evans and many others, part of his creative universe, composing jazz pieces as well as works for classical musicians. Schuller invented a whole new genre of music: Third Stream, a fusion of these two genres.
Gunther Schuller talks to Tom Service about the challenges of trying to harness the best of both the jazz and classical worlds, about the legacy of the Third Stream, about how conductors couldn’t play his music properly, how the famous maestros desecrate and dishonour the great composers, and how his love for music just goes on and on.
Photos: All courtesy of Gunther Schuller. Gunther Schuller aged 17 as the new principal horn of the Cincinnati Symphony; Gunther Schuller; Gunther Schuller composing.