MONTEUX The First NBC SO Concerts, Vol. 1: Bach, Debussy, Franck, Mozart, R. Strauss (1937) - PASC640

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MONTEUX The First NBC SO Concerts, Vol. 1: Bach, Debussy, Franck, Mozart, R. Strauss (1937) - PASC640

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Overview

BACH-RESPIGHI Passacaglia and Fugue
MOZART Symphony No. 35 'Haffner'
FRANCK Psyché et Eros
DEBUSSY Ibéria
R. STRAUSS Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche

Live concert broadcast, 1937
Total duration:  76:11

NBC Symphony Orchestra
conducted by Pierre Monteux

This set contains the following albums:

"The new symphony orchestra which the National Broadcasting Company has developed made its debut last night under the leadership of Pierre Monteux in the Radio City studios. This orchestra had been introduced to the public at a rehearsal conducted. earlier in the season by Artur Rodzinski, principally responsible for the choice of the players and the assembling of the band.

The decision of the NBC to develop this orchestra followed its engagement for a special series of concerts of Arturo Toscanini and other distinguished conductors. Mr. Monteux had the distinction of opening officially the series of performances.

The concert served immediate notice of the presence of a new symphony orchestra of very high rank, as it also revealed Mr. Monteux at the height of his powers. With the admirable cooperation of the men under him he added to his international reputation on this occasion and made his listeners, realize that it has been too long a time since Mr. Monteux has been heard in this city."

Olin Downes, The New York Times, 14 November 1937


This was a rare moment indeed. The emergence in public of a fully fledged, top quality symphony orchestra for the first time is in itself a highly unusual occurrence, but to have it captured in all its glory for future generations to hear is even more remarkable, especially when the debut takes place in the 1930s and it sounds as good as it does here.

The orchestra had been heard before: a short rehearsal broadcast from 2 November 1937 under the baton of Rodzinski had given radio audiences a taste of what might be to come - a Weber overture and Richard Strauss's Ein Heldenleben - but this was the official debut concert, broadcast live across the USA, Canada and further afield, the first of six under the batons of first Monteux, then Rodzinksi, before the Christmas Day debut with Toscanini, for whom the orchestra had been founded and would go on to create a truly historic body of work.

Already here there is great orchestral music-making to witness - described on the opening night as "a particularly good one, exceptionally accurate and well trained" - and I'm happy to report that it sounds pretty great too. I've been able to retain the full opening and closing announcements within the confines of the length of a single CD - alas the other introductions had to be cut.

Andrew Rose

MONTEUX The First NBC SO Concerts, Vol. 1

1. RADIO Introduction  (3:35)
2. BACH-RESPIGHI Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, BWV.582  (12:25)

MOZART Symphony No. 35 in D major, K.385, 'Haffner'
3. 1st mvt. - Allegro con spirito  (4:51)
4. 2nd mvt. - Andante  (4:33)
5. 3rd mvt. - Menuetto  (3:12)
6. 4th mvt. - Presto  (3:50)

7. FRANCK Psyché - IV. Psyché et Eros  (9:03)

DEBUSSY Images: 2. Ibéria
8. I. Par les rues et les chemins  (6:27)
9. II. Les parfums de la nuit  (6:56)
10. III. Le matin d'un jour de fête  (4:19)

11. R. STRAUSS Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche, Op.28  (14:01)
12. RADIO Closing announcements  (2:59)

NBC Symphony Orchestra
conducted by Pierre Monteux

Live broadcast from Studio 8H, Radio City, New York City: 10pm, 13 November 1937

XR Remastered by  Andrew Rose
Cover artwork based on a photograph of Pierre Monteux

Total duration:  76:11 

RADIO ORCHESTRA MAKES DEBUT HERE

NBC’s New Symphonic Group, Led by Monteux, Is Heard at Radio City Studios

FIRST OF SPECIAL SERIES

Leader’s Brilliant Readings and Technical Excellence. Distinguish the Event

By OLIN DOWNES

The new symphony orchestra which the National Broadcasting Company has developed made its debut last night under the leadership of Pierre Monteux in the Radio City studios. This orchestra had been introduced to the public at a rehearsal conducted. earlier in the season by Artur Rodzinski, principally responsible for the choice of the players and the assembling of the band.

The decision of the NBC to develop this orchestra followed its engagement for a special series of concerts of Arturo Toscanini and other distinguished conductors. Mr. Monteux had the distinction of opening officially the series of performances.

The concert served immediate notice of the presence of a new symphony orchestra of very high rank, as it also revealed Mr. Monteux at the height of his powers. With the admirable cooperation of the men under him he added to his international reputation on this occasion and made his listeners, realize that it has been too long a time since Mr. Monteux has been heard in this city.

Occupied listening Room

The writer listened to the new orchestra from two different places. He wished to hear it, and he did hear it, in the performance of the Bach-Respighi transcription of the C minor organ passacaglia and the Mozart “Haffner" symphony, from a listening room where he could watch conductors and players, and hear the music as it was heard, presumably, by radio listeners in different parts of the country and the world. Afterward he heard the orchestra from a place in the concert hall, in the performance of a movement from Cesar Franck’s “Psyché,” the three movements of Debussy’s “Iberia” and Richard Strauss’s “Till Eulenspiegel.”

The sound of the music over the radio – no doubt with one of the best kind of receiving apparatus – was remarkable for the sonority and the resonance of the tone, and the clearness with which, for the greater part of the time, all the inner parts as well as the main effects of the orchestra were revealed. Sometimes there was a slight preponderance of strings; a chord or two of wind instruments not perfectly balanced, or at least edged, so that the upper voice was entirely distinct. Sometimes there was a trifle too much of brass. But these things were in all probability the result of the particular way in which that performances was transmitted.

After making all deductions and reservations it is to be said that to hear the orchestra under circumstances not of the concert room was to be astonished at the remarkable qualities of the band itself as was conveyed by radio mechanism.

Had Orchestral Effect

It had the complete and characteristic orchestral effect and many more sonorities and tone colors than were audible over the radio even a few years ago. In the Mozart performance the virtuosity of the strings, the precision and finish of rapid-scale passages and the like and the variety of nuance obtainable from the instruments were impressive.

Then came the opportunity for closer acquaintance with this orchestra in its concert hall or, as it is known in the NBC Building, its studio. This studio, which seats 1,200 and some odd listeners, is made for broadcasting and it has not the resonance of a concert hall especially designed for public performance. The result of this was that the orchestra was put to a very severe test. The strings, which were so vibrant heard from the outside, are dryer in color in the studio. The same thing applies to the brass and in a lesser degree to the woodwind instrument.

So that one heard this orchestra, with the lessened resonance, as if you listened to each instrument under a microscope. If a person who is a little near-sighted and sees all things rather soft-edged and unclear, puts on a pair of good glasses, he gets something of the impression through the eyes that listening to the NBC Orchestra in the studio gives the ears. The orchestra must be a particularly good one, exceptionally accurate and well trained , to meet successfully these conditions.

Orchestra Meets Test

The orchestra met the test triumphantly. With a less glamorous tone than it would have under other circumstances, it played with a finish, clarity and subtlety of tonal values, particularly in the Debussy composition, that were wholly exceptional. We have not heard such a performance of the “Iberia" in a long time. This was due to the qualities of the band and also due to Mr. Monteux’s masterly reading.

In the preceding piece, the Franck, the splendid strings and some of the best of the brass instruments had opportunity for particular display. In Debussy's music the wind instruments exhibited the exemplary tone color, technical precision and brilliancy. Strauss’s tone poem finished the evening very brilliantly, although, as it happened, there were some slight blemishes in the brass choir. These things can happen without proving the precise abilities of one or another player at an opening concert.

The performance of “Till Eulenspiegel" as a whole was another victory for the leader and the men alike. Perhaps we have advanced in understanding of Mr. Monteux and of orchestral performances in general since he was last in this city. But it is very probably true that he also has ripened and grown as a great musician continually does with the years and experience.

Readings Are Superb

As soon as he settled to his work last night, which was perhaps after the Respighi performance, he was remarkable, not only in his authority and control' of the orchestra but in the freedom and musical imagination with which he utilized his power. The Franck, the Debussy, the Strauss were superb performances of modern music.

There will be later occasion to estimate this orchestra in more detail than can be done now, but it is clear at the beginning that the NBC has notably achieved its primary purpose, which was the establishment of an orchestra which in its own right should develop standards of symphonic performance over the air.

Another word should be spoken, for the behavior of the audience. Think of it: an audience, on time; no noise of late-comers; not a sound or a rustle in the hall while the orchestra was playing. That is a new standard for listeners, and we would that it could be applied rigorously in other places than radio studios.

Published: November 14, 1937 Copyright © The New York Times