It may safely be said that personal striving—vulgarly called ambition—is the hallmark of modernity. To be satisfied with one’s lot, we are told, is to default on our duty to self and world alike; to be all that one can be, and perhaps even a bit more, seems the only success we can have fully within our grasp.

Pierre Monteux does not fit well into our contemporary world of push and shove, get up and go. Those who were privileged to know him as a teacher remember a musician pur sang, a man of simple pleasures and worldly interests but always a man of the most total devotion to a Platonic ideal of music and its performance. For example, his students inevitably have graven on their minds his conception of the tempo juste: the speed neither too fast nor too slow at which a piece of music is not just plausible but right. Indeed, the truth is that for this sometimes jolly, sometimes irascible...


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