1963 Telecast: Hindemith Leads the CSO in Music of Hindemith, Bruckner, Brahms

In 1963, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra was in transition. The French conductor, Jean Martinon, was beginning his five-year tenure as music director following the death of the legendary Fritz Reiner. Over the preceding ten years, the fierce and autocratic Reiner had turned the CSO into what Igor Stravinsky called, “the most precise and flexible orchestra in the world.” We hear the ensemble Reiner built in all of its glory in this April 7, …

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Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto: Oistrakh, Milstein, Heifetz

Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D Major has long held a cherished position in the musical canon. Yet, the value of this popular work was not always appreciated. Following the premiere on December 4, 1881, performed by the Russian violinist Adolph Brodsky with Hans Richter leading the Vienna Philharmonic, the influential critic Eduard Hanslick wrote savagely, “Tchaikovsky is surely no ordinary talent, but rather, an inflated one…lacking discrimination and taste.” He continued, “The same …

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1938 Recording: Manuel de Falla’s “Spanish Dance No. 1,” Fritz Kreisler

Manuel de Falla’s 1913 two act opera, La vida breve (“Life is Short”), is rarely performed today. Set in Granada, it tells the story of a young gypsy girl, Salud, who falls in love with the wealthy and seductive Paco. Despite their vow of eternal love, Paco abandons Salud to marry a woman of his own social class to whom he was already engaged. At the end of Paco’s wedding reception, he denies knowing Salud …

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The Artistry of Louis Persinger, Violinist and Teacher

In his newly published book, Have Violin, Will Travel: The Louis Persinger Story, Raymond Bruzan documents the life of an important twentieth century violinist and pedagogue. Born in the small town of Rochester, Illinois in 1887 and raised in Colorado, Louis Persinger rose to prominence as a gifted violinist and pianist. In 1900, he enrolled at the Leipzig Conservatory where the conductor Arthur Nikisch declared that he was “one of the most talented …

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Josef Hassid: Three Historic Recordings

A fiddler like Heifetz is born every 100 years; one like Hassid every 200 years. So said the great violinist, Fritz Kreisler, after attending an impromptu concert at the home of the noted Hungarian pedagogue, Carl Flesch. The “fiddler” was the Polish teenage virtuoso, Josef Hassid (1923-1950). Kreisler was so impressed with Hassid’s playing that he lent him a fine instrument made in 1860 by the French luthier, Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume. Yet, Josef Hassid’s …

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1941 Recording: Korngold’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” Toscha Seidel

In 1918, the 21-year-old Erich Wolfgang Korngold received a commission to write incidental music for a Vienna production of Shakespeare’s comedy, Much Ado About Nothing. Wartime restrictions, along with the intimacy of the theater, with its small orchestra pit, necessitated that the work be scored for a chamber ensemble. As Brendan Carrol writes in a recent article, the project went through a series of incarnations. When the original theater company went bankrupt, the …

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Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies”: Fritz Kreisler’s 1927 Recording

Irving Berlin’s timeless 1926 song, Blue Skies, was a last-minute addition to a Rodgers and Hart musical called Betsy, produced by Florenz Ziegfeld. The vaudeville singer and actress, Belle Baker, called up Berlin complaining that the show’s score didn’t contain a “Belle Baker song.” According to Philip Furia and Michael Lasser, Berlin resented the interpolation of songs by other composers into the score of his shows, but he must have been delighted at the …

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