RODZIŃSKI at the NBC Vol. 1: Beethoven, Debussy, Handel, Sibelius (1937) - PASC633

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RODZIŃSKI at the NBC Vol. 1: Beethoven, Debussy, Handel, Sibelius (1937) - PASC633

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HANDEL-HARTY Water Music Suite
SIBELIUS Pohjola's Daughter
DEBUSSY Nocturnes: Nuages, Fêtes
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 5

Live broadcast recording, 1937
Total duration: 79:29

NBC Symphony Orchestra
conducted by Artur Rodziński

This set contains the following albums:

Rodziński at the NBC - an Introduction

After initially refusing to accept any American engagement, Toscanini changed his mind and took an offer from the National Broadcasting Company of a new specially-created orchestra for a series of radio concerts. Toscanini, who was enraged at the New York Philharmonic's board for not following his advice and engaging Barbirolli to succeed him at the Philharmonic instead of Rodziński, insisted that David Sarnoff, president of RCA, hire Rodziński to recruit and train the new NBC orchestra. Toscanini was a great admirer of Rodziński, speaking of him on several occasions as his successor. Furthermore, he recognized that Rodziński had already acquired a reputation as an outstanding orchestra builder with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra and later with the New York Philharmonic. A long article in the Herald Tribune under the title "Tuning up the Band" described Artur's five weeks of training the new NBC orchestra:

Eagerly awaiting the arrival of Maestro Arturo Toscanini, 92 musicians have turned the largest studio in Radio City into a beehive of activity as they rehearse under the baton of drill master Artur Rodziński. The assignment to organize the orchestra… is to Mr. Rodziński "the answer to a conductors dream… to me this commission brought nothing but pleasure. It is the answer to a lifelong dream." During the five weeks’ intensive rehearsal Mr. Rodziński will put the musicians through their musical paces, molding the distinguished individual talent into a unit he hopes will become recognized as one of the finest symphonic bodies of its kind. The orchestra is unique in this respect, the conductor added, insofar as it came into being in full bloom rather than through the process of various stages of growth that usually mark the development of many other symphonic groups. "I am more than elated with the progress up to now. When I heard the strings after the first rehearsal I wept for pure joy"

On November 2, 1937 Rodziński conducted the debut broadcast which had been tagged a "dress rehearsal" followed by 10 concerts during the first two seasons, sharing the podium with Pierre Monteux and Arturo Toscanini. This release is drawn entirely from the first full concert given by Rodziński and the orchestra on 4 December 1937. It was the orchestra's fifth broadcast, following the short Rodziński 'dress rehearsal' of 2 November and three full concerts given under Monteux. Toscanini's first NBC concert took place on 25 December 1937.

Richard Rodzinski (with additional material from Halina Rodziński, Our Two Lives, 1976)

RODZIŃSKI at the NBC Vol. 1

1. RADIO Introduction  (1:24)

HANDEL-HARTY Water Music Suite
2. I. Allegro  (2:30)
3. II. Air  (5:32)
4. III. Bourée  (0:42)
5. IV. Hornpipe  (0:57)
6. V. Andante espressivo  (3:57)
7. VI. Allegero deciso  (3:11)

8. SIBELIUS Pohjola's Daughter, Op. 49  (16:00)

DEBUSSY Nocturnes
9. I. Nuages  (9:31)
10. II. Fêtes  (6:04)

BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67
11. 1st mvt. - Allegro con brio  (6:02)
12. 2nd mvt. - Andante con moto  (10:12)
13. 3rd mvt. - Scherzo. Allegro - Trio  (5:06)
14. 4th mvt. - Allegro  (8:21)

NBC Symphony Orchestra    
conducted by Artur Rodziński

XR Remastered in Ambient Stereo by Andrew Rose
Cover artwork based on a photograph of Artur Rodziński and Arturo Toscanini
Broadcast of 4 December, 1937

Special thanks to Richard Rodzinski

Total duration:  79:29 

Artur Rodziński: My Father Recalled

Our relationship could not have been closer and more loving but beyond that, given the choice of going out to play with my friends or remaining with my father to go for a stroll I always chose to remain with him to enjoy that energy which, despite his being very ill after having suffered multiple heart attacks, still created an excitement that drew you in.

It was that same excitement that audiences, critics, and orchestra musicians alike so frequently spoke of. Members of the orchestra said that during recording sessions as the studio red light would go on and when generally players and conductors would concentrate on cautiously getting everything right, my father instead would opt for making the recording with all the intensity of a live performance.

Even rehearsals were highly charged and though often quite stressful they remained exhilarating. My father was well-known for rehearsing with lightning speed, efficiently, using limited precise words, and could accomplish more and in fewer rehearsals than most of his colleagues.

Although occasionally referred to as a martinet he was profoundly human and respectful in his relationship with the players. I remember once during a rehearsal he repeatedly demanded that the horn section play a very long phrase in one breath. A young fourth horn player, unable to execute the phrase finally broke down in tears. My father called a break, went up to sit with the young man, and calmly spent time going over and over the passage until the player, now beaming, found that he was able to do it.

My father was an uncompromising perfectionist and suffered for it. He restlessly was looking for better be it in musical matters or even in human relations. He was invariably unsatisfied with his performances. This inability to compromise spilled over into his conflicts with management concerning his demand for artistic conditions that allowed him the freedom to achieve the highest standards be it in terms of the choice of repertoire and soloists, rehearsals, the number of string players and so forth. His unflinching integrity, for instance, prevented Westminster Records which was pioneering stereo recordings from releasing some of his discs.

During a playback session the producer tried to convince my father to accept the technology. He adamantly refused saying he could hear the sound coming from left and right but there was no depth and refused to lend his name to these records if they were issued in stereo. He then turned to me and said "you see, we could have  sold more records if I had agreed to release them but I've always insisted on what I feel is right and honest. This ‘stereo’ is still an artifice."

I will best remember what my father was all about for what he said on his deathbed. Following his triumphant and now legendary performances of Tristan that he conducted in Chicago and which he knew his ailing health would not allow him to survive, among his final words were ""perhaps there are others who might conduct Tristan better than I but I can promise you that nobody could love it more."

Richard Rodzinski, 2021

Brilliant Performance Given by New Organization in the NBC Studios
Is Performed in Honor of His 72d Birthday—Other Scores by Classics and Moderns

To hear the NBC Symphony Orchestra last night in the great studio in Radio City, one month after its public debut as a new symphonic organization, was to realize what has been accomplished in an amazingly short space of time by this magnificent body of players, and also what has been achieved, in the same interval, in improving acoustical conditions in the concert room and radio transmission of the performances.

Last night the man who selected the personnel of the orchestra and directed its preliminary rehearsals, Dr. Artur Rodzinski, was on the conductor's podium. He had been heard at a public rehearsal, so-called, of this orchestra, before Pierre Monteux came to direct the first three Saturday night performances. The results of Mr. Monteux's first concert were significant enough. The concert last night was still more remarkable.

This orchestra is already a virtuoso body of musicians which performs with astonishing sensitiveness, brilliancy and precision. It is already—or would be already, if that were its purpose—a formidable rival of the most celebrated organizations. It is axiomatic that a symphony orchestra, however accomplished the players, does not become a really perfected instrument, with blended tone and unanimity of impulse until the men have played together for years.

A Feast to the Ear
In view of what has been done at Radio City, one is disposed to question this venerable dictum. No doubt an orchestra with players of various grades of proficiency and experience does need seasons to become unified, but when an orchestra of the best players obtainable, and these men of symphonic experience, is assembled, you have something to work with. Today the playing of this orchestra is a feast to the ear and a delight to the understanding.
This also is noticeable: the men who play in Radio City are not only experts of a very high degree of efficiency in their artistic task, but they are also on the qui vive when they play, to do the very best of which they are capable. So far, at least, there has been no suggestion of players sinking lazily or indifferently into routine, or a few leading players of the body carrying less competent and less conscientious performers on their shoulders. The players in the symphony orchestra of the National Broadcasting Company face a very special test. They know it, and appear to glory in meeting it as they do.
The studio, which now gives the orchestra more resonance by a good deal than the tone had at the initial concert, is still by no means as vibrant as a big concert hall. The slightest inaccuracy of intonation or execution shows as in a magnifying glass, or a microscope, if you will.

The Audience Is Critical
These mistakes, also, can be carried, very clearly and conscientiously, over the air. In responding to these conditions the players of the NBC orchestra have geared their own standards the higher. Orchestra and conductor, heard by a few hundred listeners in the concert room—very critical and informed listeners for the major part—and by the world outside, dare only to give of their very best. This tension is beneficial.

Mr. Rodzinski's program of last night consisted of the Hamilton Harty's suite from the Handel "Water-Music," “Pohjola’s Daughter," the symphonic poem of Sibelius, played in honor of the Finnish composer’s approaching seventy-second birthday; Debussy's two Nocturnes, “Fetes" and “Nuages"; Albeniz’s “Triana" and Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. The Water Music and the first movement of the symphony were heard as transmitted from the listening room glassed off from the concert studio. In the studio were heard the pieces of Debussy and Albeniz.  

The interpretations of Handel, Debussy, Albeniz were remarkable for their finish, poetry, and brilliancy; in the fire and the subtlelty brought to play in the music of Debussy and Albeniz, and in the glorious tone qualities evoked from the orchestra. In that studio some of the most beautiful pianissimi heard by the writer in seasons were achieved, and without loss of precision and definiteness of contour. The men responded to the slightest wish of the leader and he was absolute master of the situation.

Height of Interpretation
Instabilities of temperament and style which used to accompany the performances of a singularly gifted and temperamental musician were last night under the strictest control. Fire, poetry, these were intensified by strength held in reserve, and balanced thinking. These things were reflected in the manner of the conductor on the platform and they were responsible for the profound attention and interest that the audience showed in the performances.

Only the first movement of Beethoven's symphony was heard by this deponent. That much of it was given a straight and dignified reading. It was in the earlier compositions that Mr. Rodzinski reached his height as an interpreter. The countless audience which listened over the radio had its pleasures.

Those who sat and listened in the presence of the leader and the men had another sort of experience, and a memorable one. We miss our guess if nearly ideal conditions for hearing an orchestra, one which plays as cleanly and sensitively as a string quartet, but adds to this the imposing sonorities of the many instruments, will not attract more and more of the select, and lucky, of the musicians of the city who can obtain admission to the occasions.

Published: December 5, 1937 Copyright © The New York Times