Among other ’69 events, this happened

Among other ’69 events, this happened


norman lebrecht

October 15, 2019

Fifty years ago, at London’s newly opened Queen Elizabeth Hall, and on newly mobile cameras, Christopher Nupen filmed Jacqueline du Pre, Daniel Barenboim, Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman and Zubin Mehta plays Schubert’s Trout Quintet.

It was the end of August ’69 and the future looked bright. Television was ravenous for behind-the-scenes music programmes. The artists seemed to represent a breath of fresh air in a fusty field.

What happened since. Du Pre died young of multiple sclerosis. Mehta is about to retire. Zukerman’s then-wife is living with Alzheimers. The QEH is a semi-programmed venue that nobody films or reviews any more. And TV is off classical music altogether.

But the music plays on.



  • V.Lind says:

    Pinchas Zukerman has been divorced from Eugenia Zukerman for 33 years. (He has been married twice since — to the actress Tuesday Weld and, since 2004, to the cellist Amanda Forsyth). As his current marriage is almost as long as the first one, it seems spurious to mention the first Mrs. Zukerman and her health issues in this context. Why not mention Perlman’s polio? It’s distasteful. Aside from Ms. Du Pre, all of them are alive and kicking. And the music does go on. Ask the man in the front screen photograph.

  • Brian says:

    “TV is off classical music altogether.” This means 0%.

    Depends on which country you are referring to, but I would venture that for most, or indeed all, European countries this is simply not true.

    In Germany, even the mainstream channels, ARD and ZDF, show classical music sometimes.

    Might I suggest you watch more ARTE?

    • Petros Linardos says:

      In many ways, TV is obsolete due to the internet.

      Classical music videos have never been as easily acceessible, thanks to the internet. While their sound quality can range from substandard to very good, it can mostly beat that of 1969 TV.

  • Esther Cavett says:

    ==TV is off classical music altogether.

    This is the saddest thing. For a while BBC4 had a bit on Friday evenings, but more.

  • Bill says:

    How strange that I’ve been watching a weekly TV show about classical music when apparently that simply isn’t done!

  • mary says:

    That circle, that generation in general, definitely came in with a bang but is going out with a whimper.

    It is age, but not only.

    The flair, the swagger, the arrogance is dated, of another era, somehow, this generation that bloomed in the 1980s seems more antiquated than even prior generations.

    The generation of Furtwangler and Toscanini seems more fresh and cutting edge than this one.

  • Michael Turner says:

    Really good programming like this seemed to stop when Rattle ceased to be seen as the young, edgy conductor that he once was.

    It’d be great to have programmes commissioned about young artists being thrust into the limelight. I’m sure that Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla’s work with the CBSO would make an excellent programme or two. How about a documentary following Tasmin Little during her last concerts before retirement?

    I could go on.

    If new commissioning is off the cards, then let’s look back through the archives. As a Brummy, I remember Rattle-based programmes on Porgy and Bess, Eastern-influenced music, Beethoven’s Eroica and Messiaen’s Turangalila, Elgar (which I sang in), the music of 1911 and much more besides. Then there was a series on Tanglewood, Mehta leading conducting masterclasses and loads of recordings of concerts by the various BBC orchestras and many others besides.

    I know that rights-clearance etc will always be an issue but surely, if broadcasters can afford to commission overpaid music pundits to judge “your average Joe’s” cover of a Motown hit, then we should be able to deliver something more than the lowest common denominator in the classical world.

  • pageturner says:

    I always loved reviewing concerts in QEH – a great venue for recitals, chamber music or even intimate orchestral concerts.The Purcell Room is the overlooked space on London’s South Bank, but I have heard some fab musicians make a tentative debut there.

  • La Roche says:

    No doomsday news about Zukerman himself? I’m disappointed.

  • SemiSaltyDoc says:

    What a treasure! Oh, the exuberance, the insouciance of youth! And what a poignant reminder of TV of another era.

  • BillOxford says:

    Unfortunately, this YouTube video is blocked and is not available (at least, not in the UK).

    • Kendo says:

      Working fine for me in the UK.

    • J says:

      It is available in the UK (I’m in London and I can watch it), but you have to click ‘Watch on YouTube’.

      More seriously though, I remember watching classical music TV programmes like this when I was growing up (not that long ago!) and as a young musician found many of them incredibly inspiring. Christopher Nupen’s films were particularly excellent. It’s such a shame that such programmes (and concert/opera broadcasts, for that matter) are no longer made or shown anywhere near as regularly as they used to be – isn’t this supposed to be one of the things that TV is for in the first place?

    • ChiLynne says:

      Message was that the video wasn’t available for viewing in my country – i.e., the U.S.

      • Bill says:

        Go to youtube and search for “schubert trout nupen” and you will get as one of the first hits a video which is playable in the US. Enjoy!

  • George says:

    But then again, much less seems to have changed between 1969 – 2019 as compared to 1919 – 1969. Which is the same timespan.

  • Adrian says:

    Not often mentioned that the other half of that famous Trout concert was Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire. Same line up (Barenboim, du Pre, Zukerman, Mehta) plus Richard Adeney, Gervase de Peter, Stephen Trier and the legendary Jane Manning. No cameras or mics present for that half – big shame!

  • Edgar Self says:

    It’s a marvelous performance of the “trout” — I’ve never heard a bad one, although Maria Yudina’s is a bit on the fast side, like. .

    On the film after the performance, the players stood back-stage and teased Mehta about an opening in the double-bass section of the New York Phil.

  • Jack says:

    “And TV is off classical music altogether.”

    Sounds a bit pessimistic in light of the fact that Mezzo Live HD and Stingray Classica have come to the small screen.

  • Vaquero357 says:

    First performance of the Trout I ever heard – on a PBS “Great Performances” re-run ca.1981. And still the *best*. As soon as it came out on DVD, I got a copy and still treasure it. My “go-to” performance of the Quintet.

    And yes, Norman’s correct: there has been a precipitous decline of classical music on TV here in the U.S. An occasional concert or two on Great Performances (and what happened to “Live from Lincoln Center”?) and, depending on your local station, MET HD telecasts.

    I think back to when I was getting seriously interested in music (about the time of that Trout re-run), and while even then it did not seem as if we were swimming in classical music on TV, there was FAR more than now. Of course, now we have the catch-as-catch-can world of YouTube. If you know what you’re looking for, there’s a lot of streaming music to be found on the Web. But how do you figure out what you want to look for in the first place??