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Monday, October 27, 2008


Conductor David Tidboald releases book of “candid memoirs”. (Review by Michael Green)

David Tidboald is well remembered in KwaZulu/Natal as the resident conductor for many years of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra. Before that he held similar posts in Cape Town. He is now living in retirement at Simon’s Town - an appropriate place, considering that he was born in another naval port, Plymouth in south-western England.

He has recently released a book titled People I Made Music With. As its title suggests, this book of “candid memoirs” (the author’s description) is more about other people than about himself. In his long career, going back to the 1940’s, he met a wide variety of musical celebrities. Among those discussed in his book are the pianists Moura Lympany, Benno Moiseiwsitsch, Alicia de Laroccha and Gina Bachauer; the conductors Wilhelm Furtwangler, John Barbirolli and Adrian Boult; the singers Kathleen Ferrier, Birgit Nillson, Victoria de los Angeles and Mimi Coertse; the ballerinas Alicia Markova and Margot Fonteyn; and many others.

David Tidboald’s writing is a reflection of his personality: quiet, with a well-developed sense of humour and with a deep experience of music. His book is terse; it runs to only 125 pages, plus a dozen pages of photographs.

It is sometimes a little frustrating; the reader would, I think, like to have more information on some of the subjects. For example, the Wagnerian soprano Cecilia Wessels is described as “a complete extrovert and the inspiration of many tales, some apocryphal and some not, but all of them too robust for the sensitive reader of this volume”. The sensitive reader would, I think, have liked the author to be a little more gossipy and a little less discreet.

On the other hand, these brief glimpses of famous people are a refreshing change from the long-winded gravitas of some books published in South Africa.

In addition to the photographs, the book is adorned with deft and amusing drawings by Hannah Morris of Cape Town. It should give pleasure to anyone with an intelligent interest in classical music.

People I Made Music With by David Tidboald is published in paperback by Umuzi and retails at R150. - Michael Green