Thursday, December 15, 2016

On An Overgrown Path: Music industry cabal ended a black conductor's career [Rudolph Dunbar (1907-1988), born in Guyana]

Rudolph Dunbar (1907-1988)

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Bob Shingleton of On An Overgrown Path writes:

Guyanese-born Rudolph Dunbar wrote the definitive text book on the clarinet and had a burgeoning conducting career in the 1940s during which he conducted the BBC Symphony Orchestra and in 1945 became the first black conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic. But a 2007 Overgrown Path post profiling him explained how in the post-war period Dunbar's high profile career went into mysterious decline and how in 1988 he died in obscurity in London. Subsequent posts based on contributions from those who knew him suggested that intrigue inside the BBC ended his career. Now a remarkable video of Rudolph Dunbar talking in 1962 about his professional denouement has become available from RTBF/Belgium. The brief video from which the two still images are taken is in French, so a translation* is provided below. The video** can be viewed via this link. Please watch it even if you do not speak French; because it is an important and moving testament to the institutionalised discrimination that more than 50 years later still blights the classical music industry.
- I did my musical studies in Paris, Leipzig and Vienna.

- After these studies, where did you started your career as a conductor ?
- In London, in 1955.
- And since this date ?
- Since that, I did concerts in Paris, Berlin, Yugoslavia, Poland, everywhere on the continent.
- Your last concert ?
- It was in Havana a few weeks ago.
- So you are just back ?
- Yes
- How come you have not performed at say, the Festival Hall?
- Ah ah! I did not want - you understand - to be too well known. But at the time I was becoming very popular. Because of this, there was a campaign against me in London and against me everywhere... I was condemned as an alien. Because the English do not like competition.

* My thanks go to readers Antoine Leboyer and Edith Guilbaud for help with the transcription and translation. 
** The video is erroneously titled 'Jamaicans or second class citizens (Rudolph Dunbar)'. He was in fact Guyanese and was born in what was then British Guiana in 1907. 

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Comment by email:
Dear Bob, This is just marvelous! Dunbar is brought to visceral life. This can bring a tear to the eye. There are no sufficient thanks we can give for your exhumations and promulgation of Dunbar's story. You deserve a Pulitzer for this alone.  JMW  [John McLaughlin Williams]

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