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Playing Under Toscanini

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An Alumnus Remembers

Fred Fox (’34, French horn), wrote us this reminiscence not long before his 100th birthday, on July 14. 

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I am probably the last living musician who played with the New York Philharmonic in Carnegie Hall conducted by Arturo Toscanini. My French horn teacher was Bruno Jaenicke—he was the solo horn player [1921-43] and got me the job to play extra horn with the orchestra.

I was 18 years old at the time. Over the years I have played under and heard just about every important conductor, [but] Toscanini’s music emerged as if coming from a volcano’s depth. 

Normally musicians relax during intermissions. I noticed that with Toscanini intermissions, the players walked around with bated breath. No smiles, no jocularity, no jokes, no bantering conversations.

Fred Fox (’35, French horn), Sherman Oaks, Calif.

While the Philharmonic Archives couldn’t confirm that Fox was the only musician still living to have played under Toscanini, who was the orchestra’s music director from 1928 to 1936, he certainly could be. If you have more information or Toscanini memories, let us know at journal@juilliard.edu or (212) 799-5000, ext. 340.

Fox went on to fill us in on a bit of what he’s being doing over the last century. A Brooklyn native, he studied horn with, in addition to Jaenicke, Robert Schulze, Lorenzo Sansone, and Joseph Franzl, all of whom taught at Juilliard, although not necessarily when he was studying with them. He was enrolled first in the Institute for Musical Art (Juilliard’s predecessor institution) and then the Juilliard Graduate School until withdrawing in late 1934 to take a job as first horn with the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra. In the 1930s and ’40s, he was also first horn with the National and Los Angeles symphonies and Paramount and RKO movie studios. He also played with the Chautauqua Symphony, and toured with big band-era greats Xavier Cugat, Stan Kenton, and the Roger Wagner Chorale. 

Fox retired from performing in 1969, whereupon he and his wife traveled extensively, he taught at numerous colleges and conservatories, and he wrote several key horn textbooks including the seminal Essentials of Brass Playing. He’s also written many articles and a 1998 book of poetry, Kaleidoscope: The Many Facets of an Octogenarian. In 2011, Fox was giving a major award at the International Horn Symposium, at which he gave a session on the new “hanging lip” (or sure shot) principle of playing accurately. If you go on YouTube, you can find a video of him promoting his son Alan Fox’s bestselling 2014 book People Tools: 54 Strategies for Building Relationships, Creating Joy, and Embracing Prosperity.

Fred Fox reports that each night he looks up and says, “If anyone is listening, thank you for another nice day!” 

Happy birthday!

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