C0997. PIERRE MONTEUX Cond. NBC S.O.: Symphony #7 in A, Live Performance, 15 Nov., 1953; Monteux Cond. NYPO, w.RUDOLF SERKIN: Emperor Concerto #5 in E-flat, Live Performance, 26 Feb., 1959 (both Beethoven). (Germany) Archipel 0532. Final copies. - 4035122405323
"Rudolf Serkin joined the international elite while still a teen-ager and by incessant, tireless practice held ranking for more than half a century as an artist of the highest type. He was an eminent 20th-century representative of a Viennese tradition that mingled the classical and romantic styles of pianism.
Among the dozens of recordings he made, those in which he teamed as a chamber-music partner with Adolf Busch, the German violinist, are especially prized by collectors. It was Mr. Busch who promoted the young pianist's European career, presenting him as a soloist in Bach's Brandenburg Concerto #5 at Mr. Serkin's Berlin debut in 1921. Mr. Serkin regarded Busch as one of the three musicians who most deeply influenced him. The others were his onetime composition teacher, Arnold Schonberg, and the conductor Arturo Toscanini. Mr. Serkin studied composition, first with Joseph Marx and later with Schonberg, and published a string quartet. He made his concert debut with the Vienna Symphony at 12, playing the Mendelssohn g minor Concerto. At 17, Mr. Serkin met Busch, who was looking for a pianist to accompany him in a concert. They struck up a friendship and Busch took the younger musician along with him to Berlin on tour. Busch was then 30 years old and internationally established as a violinist. Soon Mr. Serkin was appearing in the great cities of Europe both as accompanist and as chamber-music performer with the Busch Chamber Players.
In April 1933, with the Nazis in the ascendancy in Germany, Busch stirred a controversy by refusing to appear at a Brahms centennial celebration in Hamburg. Although not Jewish himself, he was offended because a young Jewish pianist had been denied permission to play. The pianist was Rudolf Serkin.
Mr. Serkin had moved with the Busch family to Darmstadt in 1922. In 1927 they all left Germany and settled near Basel, Switzerland. After Hitler's rise to power, they applied for Swiss citizenship, which they held until all became American citizens in 1950.
Mr. Serkin first played in the United States in 1933, with Busch at a Coolidge Festival concert in the Library of Congress in Washington. He did not perform here again until his formal debut in New York on 20 Feb., 1936, when he appeared as soloist with the New York Philharmonic under Toscanini. His recital debut came on 11 Jan., 1937, at Carnegie Hall. The next year Mr. Serkin and Busch performed the complete cycle of Beethoven sonatas at Town Hall. In 1939, Mr. Serkin joined the piano faculty of the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, where he taught for 36 years. From 1968 to 1975, he was director of the institute.
Great though Mr. Serkin's success was as a concert pianist, perhaps his most lasting impact on musical life was as a teacher and inspirational force. In 1949, he helped found the Marlboro Festival in Vermont. Living in the same area at the time were Adolf and Herman Busch, Blanche Honegger Moyse, Louis Moyse and Marcel Moyse, all renowned musicians who had also left Europe. They merged their talents and quickly turned Marlboro into an American chamber-music mecca and a magnet for talent. The word 'Marlboro' came to stand for musicianship of a special, ardent type. Each summer, Mr. Serkin and his circle were joined by like-minded artists, including Pablo Casals, Alexander Schneider, Felix Galimir, Mieczyslaw Horszowski, Jaime and Ruth Laredo, Eugene Istomin, Pina Carmirelli and Peter Serkin (Mr. Serkin's son, himself a world-class pianist). At Marlboro, Mr. Serkin made a point of being a musician among colleagues, as ready to turn pages for other players as to perform. Friends of Mr. Serkin - and he seemed to have no enemies - spoke with incredulity of his unfailing good humor, his shy and sweet-tempered manner with everyone, the unknown as well as the famous. A longtime colleague, after giving the phenomenon some thought, remarked: 'It's impossible to talk about anybody's being saintly in this age, but Serkin is'."
- Donal Henahan, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 10 May, 1991
"Pierre Monteux had one of the longest musical careers in memory, exceeded perhaps only by Pablo Casals and Leopold Stokowski. He retained a youthful appearance (and a full head of black hair!) well into old age, and he was well loved by colleagues and audiences alike.
He started violin studies at the age of six and then entered the Paris Conservatoire at the age of 9. He made his conducting début in Paris at the age of 12. He was a co-winner of the first prize for violin in 1896, with the great violinist Jacques Thibaud. He served as principal violist in the Opéra-Comique, and was also assistant conductor and concertmaster of the Concerts Colonne. In 1894 he joined the Quatuor Geloso as a violist and was privileged to participate in the performance of a Brahms quartet in the composer's presence. In 1908 he became conductor of the Orchestre du Casino in Dieppe and in 1911 founded a series called the Concerts Berlioz. In the same year, he began a historic association when he was hired by Diaghilev to conduct his Ballets Russes. He led the premieres of Ravel's DAPHNIS ET CHLOÉ, Debussy's JEUX, and Stravinsky's PETRUSHKA and RITE OF SPRING, the last of which caused a notorious audience riot.
In 1914, when war broke out, he was called to military service. He received a discharge in 1916 and travelled to the United States, where he obtained a conducting post at the Metropolitan Opera that lasted until 1919. At that point he was engaged to conduct the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Taking up the post in 1920, he walked into a labor dispute, with his musicians on strike; by the time the strike was settled, the concertmaster and 30 other musicians had left. Monteux had to rebuild the orchestra - a difficult task, but an opportunity for Monteux to mold the orchestra according to his own taste; ever since then, the Boston Symphony Orchestra has been known for its French sound and its expertise in French and Russian repertoire. He remained in Boston through 1924, gaining a reputation as a supporter of modern music. He brought to America not only Stravinsky and the French composers, but such others as Respighi, Vaughan Williams, and Honegger.
In 1924 he began a ten year association with the Amsterdam Concertgebouw. He was a good fit with the orchestra's other conductor, Willem Mengelberg, who had a Romantic-era style, and who specialized in traditional repertoire and Dutch composers. In addition, Monteux founded the Orchestre Symphonique de Paris in 1929, and the École Monteux, a coaching school for young conductors in 1932.
In 1936 he returned to the United States as conductor of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, staying in that position through the 1952 season. During World War II he obtained American citizenship and transferred his École Monteux to his new hometown of Hancock, Maine, where Erich Kunzel, Neville Marriner, and André Previn were among his students. He guest conducted and recorded extensively, and in 1961, at the age of eighty-six, accepted the musical directorship of the London Symphony Orchestra.
RCA Victor recorded him extensively in stereo, not only in Debussy, Ravel, Milhaud, Stravinsky, and the like, but also in Beethoven and Brahms; Monteux was especially noted for his performances of these composers' music, to which he brought an unusual charm and lyrical quality. He strove for transparency of sound, precision, light and springy rhythms, and that elegance that seems particularly associated with French music."
- Joseph Stevenson, allmusic.com