Swans Commentary »
June 30, 2008
Shooting Szell In Cleveland
by Art Shay
February 22, 1963, Time
Courtesy of Art Shay
(Swans - June 30, 2008)
George Szell wanted to orchestrate his February 22, 1963, Time cover at Severance Hall.
At the podium he traded his baton for my zoom-heavy Nikon, looking through the finder.
"You veel seet viz ze wiolins und I veel conduct you ven eet ees ze best peecture. I myself make many peectures all over ze vorld. I know ze best moment. Nikon ees too heavy and noisy. Leica ees best. German, of course." His wife's nod assured me Szell was telling ze truth on all counts.
"Protect me," George Bernard Shaw muttered, "from the gifted amateur."
Szell raised his glasses, fitting my minus three finder to his God-knows-what eye.
He zoomed away the violins, pulled in the timpani, then playfully oscillated the self-swallowing trombones. He painfully scanned the English horns. A flat untimely F in their Til Eulenspiegel warm up.
I noticed the baton had been made in a German city I had bombed during my war. Could this gentle stick have been a splinter honed and sanded from a surviving railroad tie? A tie supporting tracks that switched people like Szell and me east to death camps in Poland?
We traded back our instruments and he sat me, "but only for ze Brahms," behind a dozen fiddlers, sending me off with his left hand, said by my reporter to be the finest in all of modern music.
"I veel vave so, yes?" he said, "ven ze peecture is perfect." He arced his Ruhr baton.
My eye stalked and nailed him amongst the fluttering bows that sawed a hundred Feininger geometrics around his head, equilateral sails, elastic hexagons, instant Mondrians through my bulky old Sports Illustrated 85 to 250. He hated my noisy shutter.
My first cue came as the bows subsided two beats after he had awakened four French Horns from their stable. His baton twitched twice for me as he showed his large teeth. I missed the first twitch then faked receiving the second, finishing my shoot during the flashy finale. "Vas I not right?" he said. "Ja wohl," I lied.
Next day, in his home, against my black backdrop, he patiently conducted a Tchaikovsky march for me, my tiny flashlight taped to his baton as with my quiet wartime Leica I transmogrified his spirited waving into streaks of light.
As I opened my shutter with my famous right hand, directing him to begin, he twice missed my cues or clowned that he did for the fawning Clevelanders around us. My copycat Time cover artist also ignored his teeth.
· · · · · ·
If you find our work valuable, please consider helping us financially.
· · · · · ·
Tracking Art Shay...
The Democratic Convention -- Chicago 1968 - Art Shay, June 2, 2008
Art Shay's Traces Of A Bygone America - Karen Moller, June 2, 2008
Arts & Culture
About the Author
Art Shay is the author-photographer of more than fifty books, the former staff
Washington correspondent for Time-Life and Life Bureau Chief in San
Francisco. Shay has had 25,000 published pictures including 1,050 covers of
magazines, books, and annual reports for such clients as Ford, 3M, National
Can, Motorola and ABC-TV. His pictures hang in the National Portrait
Gallery (Heffner, Durocher, Robert Crumb) in the Chicago Art Institute. His work is currently exhibited at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art
(through June 29, 2008) following an exhibition at the Gallerie Albert Loeb in Paris, France. The April 2008 issue of North Shore magazine (Chicago) says that "his
pictures have the psychology of Dostoevsky, the realism of Hemingway, and the
metaphor of Melville... He's in the Pantheon of great photographers such as
Cartier-Bresson, Brassai, Strand, and Stieglitz." The Daily Herald (Chicago
suburban) of May 5, 2008, called him "the pre-eminent photojournalist of the 20th
Please, feel free to insert a link to this work on your Web site or to disseminate its URL on your favorite lists, quoting the first paragraph or providing a summary. However, please DO NOT steal, scavenge, or repost this work on the Web or any electronic media. Inlining, mirroring, and framing are expressly prohibited. This material is copyrighted, © Art Shay 2008. All rights reserved. The pictures (reformatted to a smaller size) is published courtesy of the author. It is copyrighted, © Art Shay 1963. All rights reserved. Please, do not steal it -- put a link to the article on your Web site.
Have your say
Do you wish to share your opinion? We invite your comments. E-mail the Editor. Please include your full name, address and phone number (the city, state/country where you reside is paramount information). When/if we publish your opinion we will only include your name, city, state, and country.
· · · · · ·
This Edition's Internal Links
George Carlin: 1937-2008 - Charles Marowitz
Theft: Our National Pastime - Carol Warner Christen
Forgive Us Our Debts - Charles Pearson
The Insatiable Quest For "Cheap" Energy - Michael Pravica
My Bailout - Michael Doliner
Sharp Reflection Warranted: Nonviolence in the Service of Imperialism - Michael Barker
Want To Waste Your Vote? - Gilles d'Aymery
PR Man For The Black Kings - Book Review by Peter Byrne
High & Low Comedy On Broadway - Theatre Review by Charles Marowitz
Ramo d'Oro - Poem by Guido Monte
Letters to the Editor
· · · · · ·