Chim (David Seymour), Arturo Toscanini, master conductor and pianist, at the age of 87. In the library case are the death masks of Beethoven, Wagner, and Verdi, Milan, 1954
In a letter proposing a new series to Newsweek magazine, the photographer Chim wrote that “the conception of good-doers is lately ill considered. I feel it would be important to glamorize them.” He took as his first subject the conductor Arturo Toscanini, who had recently retired from his post at the NBC Symphony Orchestra. The article that Chim’s picture accompanied highlights Toscanini’s firm anti-Fascist stance during World War II. An outspoken opponent of Mussolini, he avoided Germany and Italy during the war, and traveled at his own expense in 1936 to Palestine to conduct an ensemble of Jewish refugees musicians that would later become the Israel Philharmonic.
Chim’s portrait quietly rebuts the popular perception of Toscanini as a musical and managerial tyrant. Himself a former pianist, he photographs the conductor leaning in close to the music, focused intently on the score, a servant of the musical gods arrayed neatly behind him, rather than one himself.