This concert was given as a memorial to the British publisher, liberal humanitarian and music-lover Sir Victor Gollancz (1893-1967). The founder of the influential Left Book Club, Gollancz started his own publishing company in 1927 which came to specialise in left-wing and American books. He was also a prolific writer on political and humanitarian subjects and, eventually, on music. His life was informed by his unconventional religious beliefs – a combination of the Judaism into which he was born, his individual version of Christianity and readings into other faiths. This motivated a life-long activity in human rights issues. It was typical of Gollancz to have been a campaigner both for rescuing Jewish victims of Nazi persecution (and the first to predict a six million death toll) during the Second World War and for giving increased aid to German civilians once the war was over, contesting Field Marshal Montgomery’s plan to allow the population only a little more than concentration-camp rations.
The repertoire for the concert was chosen by Gollancz’s widow Ruth and his daughter Livia and represented all his favourite composers bar Verdi. The programme opened with an appreciation by his friend, The Observer music critic Peter Heyworth, and incorporated quotes from Gollancz’s own writings on the music being performed.
The Schubert, Beethoven and Mozart were old friends of Klemperer’s repertoire; he had first recorded the Unfinished and the Beethoven item with the Berlin Staatskapelle in the 1920s, re-recording them with the Philharmonia in the 1960s. The Love Scene from Roméo et Juliette harked back to Klemperer’s Strasbourg days under Pfitzner when, in 1910, he gave the complete symphony its local première.
The concert programme ended with Gollancz’s praise of music from his 1952 autobiographical sketch My Dear Timothy. ‘Why has no one ever included, among the various “proofs” of the existence of God, the musical? Music is as much mimesis, imitation, as any other of the arts: Beethoven doesn’t invent anything, he perceives something and tries to reproduce it. Then how does it happen, what Beethoven tries to reproduce in, say, the E flat quartet? Can anyone imagine that it happens accidentally?’