“Hot Music on the Half-Shell For Two”: Anton Rubinstein’s Southern Fan

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“Hot Music on the Half-Shell For Two”: Anton Rubinstein’s Southern Fan

by Gavin James Campbell
Southern Cultures, Vol. 5, No. 1: Spring 1999

"The South has long suffered under the perception that it could not appreciate music."

In 1913 a stalwart group of music lovers in Atlanta braved a January evening and made their way downtown to Taft Hall. They had no trouble finding their seats. Only weeks before, their evening’s entertainment had unceremoniously evaporated when lackluster ticket sales convinced the featured soprano to cancel her performance. The city’s embarassment momentarily subsided, however, on this winter night. The work of Smetana and Chopin soothed the enraptured, if somewhat sparse, audience, and generally drowned out the dull thuds of men exercising on the gym floor directly above the recital hall. Having effectively rendered the touching “Bedouin Love Song,” the featured basso, Myron W. Whitney, began “Ah, Love But a Day.” Only a few short measures into the piece, however, a resounding crash on the upper floor sent a large chunk of ceiling plaster plummeting onto the stage, barely missing the soloist. Whitney manfully continued, but the spell was broken. After a few minutes, the concert’s organizers called a halt to the remaining program before additional plaster missiles caused greater harm than merely crushing the audience’s dignity.