Real 1950s rarities from Fritz Reiner
In superb new transfers by Mark Obert-Thorn
MENDELSSOHN: A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Incidental Music [notes/score]
Robin Hood Dell Orchestra of Philadelphia
Recorded 30th June, 1951 in the Academy of Music, Philadelphia
First issued on RCA Victor LM-141
GLUCK: Orfeo ed Euridice – Dance of the Blessed Spirits [notes/score]
Julius Baker, solo flute
RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra
Recorded 16th June, 1953 in Manhattan Center, New York City
First issued on RCA Victor ERA-215
Valse: Allegro moderato (from Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Op. 64) [notes/score]
Waltz from Eugene Onegin [notes/score]
Waltz from Swan Lake* [notes/score]
Waltz from Sleeping Beauty* [notes/score]
Waltz of the Flowers from The Nutcracker* [notes/score]
RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra
Recorded 21st and *22 September, 1950 in Manhattan Center, New York City
First issued on RCA Victor LM-103
conductor Fritz Reiner
Producer and Audio Restoration Engineer: Mark Obert-Thorn
Special thanks to Don Tait for providing source material
Review of this release: Audiophile Audition
Notes on the recording:
This collection features rarities in more than one sense. First, these are Fritz Reiner’s only commercial recordings of the works, save Totentanz and the “Waltz of the Flowers.” In addition, none of them have received an “official” reissue from RCA, on LP or CD, in over half a century.
The Mendelssohn comes from a week in June, 1951 in which Reiner conducted a series of concerts at the Robin Hood Dell in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park. RCA made three recordings with him at this time: the Brahms Double Concerto with Milstein and Piatigorsky; Rachmaninoff’s Paganini Rhapsody with Kapell; and the present work. The orchestra was composed primarily of members of the Philadelphia Orchestra, but its name was not a contractual nom du disque. The ensemble performed under this name in their summer home well into the 1960s, and recorded under it for both RCA and Columbia.
The remaining items were made with RCA’s pickup orchestra, composed mainly of members of the New York Philharmonic and the NBC Symphony with the addition of some freelance players. (Essentially, it was the same ensemble heard in the recordings of “Leopold Stokowski and His Symphony Orchestra.”) The Gluck has an interesting history. Originally, it was released on a 45 rpm disc, coupled with the Air from Bach’s Suite No. 3, from Reiner’s complete set of Bach Suites. It was later reissued on a compilation album called “Enter the Ballet” (LM-2141), which was the source of the present transfer. The soloist, not identified on the LP, is most likely Julius Baker, who was also featured on Reiner’s recording of the Bach Second Suite that same year.
The Liszt features the Russian-American pianist, Alexander Brailowsky, who was a frequent visitor to the RCA studios during the 1940s and 1950s. The work would later be re-recorded by Reiner in Chicago with Byron Janis. The Tchaikovsky waltzes were begun the day after Reiner recorded the Fledermaus highlights album (Pristine Audio PACO 037), which was his first session for RCA after leaving Columbia. These have been transferred from 45 rpm originals (set WDM-1539), while the remaining items have come from LPs: the Mendelssohn from its 12-inch reissue on LM-1724 (with some patches from the 45 rpm set to fix problems in RCA’s LP master tape), and the Liszt and Gluck from their only LP appearances.
notes from Wikipedia
Reiner was born in Budapest, Hungary to a secular Jewish family that resided in the Pest area of the city. After preliminary studies in law at his father’s urging, Reiner pursued the study of piano, piano pedagogy, and composition at the Franz Liszt Academy. During his last two years there his piano teacher was the young Béla Bartók. After early engagements at opera houses in Budapest and Dresden where he worked closely with Richard Strauss, he moved to the United States of America in 1922 to take the post of Principal Conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. He remained until 1931, having become a naturalized citizen in 1928, then began to teach at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where his pupils included Leonard Bernstein and Lukas Foss. He conducted the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra from 1938 to 1948 and made a few recordings with them for Columbia Records, then spent several years at the Metropolitan Opera, where he conducted a historic production of Strauss's Salome in 1949, with the Bulgarian soprano Ljuba Welitsch in the title role, and the American premiere of Igor Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress in 1951. He also conducted and made a recording of the famous 1952 Metropolitan Opera production of Bizet's Carmen, starring Rise Stevens. The production was telecast on closed circuit television that year. At the time of his death he was preparing the Met's new production of Wagner’s Götterdämmerung.
In 1947, Reiner appeared on camera in the film Carnegie Hall, in which he conducted the New York Philharmonic Orchestra as they accompanied violinist Jascha Heifetz in an abbreviated version of the first movement of Tchaikovsky's violin concerto. Years later, Heifetz and Reiner recorded the full Tchaikovsky concerto for RCA Victor in Chicago.
Even though his music-making had been American-focused since his arrival in Cincinnati, Reiner became active in Europe after the Second World War. When he became music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1953 he had a completely international reputation. By common consent, the ten years that he spent in Chicago mark the pinnacle of his career, and are best-remembered today through the many landmark, stereophonic recordings he made in Chicago's Orchestra Hall for RCA Victor from 1954 to 1962. His last concerts in Chicago were in the spring of 1963.
His last recording, released in a special Reader's Digest boxed set, was a performance of Brahms' fourth symphony, recorded with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London's Kingsway Hall. This recording was later reissued on LP by Quintessence and on CD by Chesky.
He also appeared with members of the Chicago Symphony in a series of telecasts on Chicago's WGN-TV in 1953-54, and a later series of nationally-syndicated programs called Music from Chicago. Some of these performances have been issued on DVD.
He was a National Patron of Delta Omicron, an international professional music fraternity.
Reiner was married three times (one of them was a daughter of Etelka Gerster) and fathered three daughters, a third daughter out of wedlock. In his last years Reiner's health deteriorated as a result of a major heart attack he suffered in October 1960. He died in New York City at the age of 74.
Repertoire and Style
Reiner was especially noted as an interpreter of Strauss and Bartók and was often seen as a modernist in his musical taste; he and his compatriot Joseph Szigeti convinced Serge Koussevitzky to commission the Concerto for Orchestra from Bartók. In reality, he had a very wide repertory and was known to admire Mozart's music above all else.
Reiner’s conducting technique was defined by its precision and economy, in the manner of Arthur Nikisch and Arturo Toscanini. It typically employed quite small gestures - it has been said that the beat indicated by the tip of his baton could be contained in the area of a postage stamp - although from the perspective of the players it was extremely expressive. The response he drew from orchestras was one of astonishing richness, brilliance, and clarity of texture. Igor Stravinsky called the Chicago Symphony under Reiner "the most precise and flexible orchestra in the world"; it was more often than not achieved with tactics that bordered on the personally abusive. Chicago musicians have spoken of Reiner's autocratic methods; trumpeter Adolph Herseth told National Public Radio that Reiner often tested him and other musicians.
Notes from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fritz_Reiner
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