C1149. HANS ROSBAUD Cond. NYPO: Concerto for Orchestra (Hindemith); w.Rudolf Firkusny: Concerto #1 in d (Brahms). (Germany) Archipel 0553, Live Performance, 4 Dec., 1960. - 4035122405538
“GRAMOPHONE recently remarked that Rosbaud ‘was one of the unsung heroes of mid-20th-century music, who ... gave thoroughly rehearsed and assimilated performances and premieres of the widest possible range of music’. Prominent in his legacy are recordings of the music of Bruckner, Mahler, Stravinsky and Boulez.
Hans Rosbaud was one of the best known conductors in Europe, particularly for his pioneering performances of twentieth century music.
In 1928 he took the position of Musical Director of Frankfurt Radio, a position he held until 1938; simultaneously he was First Kapellmeister of Frankfurt's Museumgesellschaft concerts. In both positions he made Frankfurt one of the most exciting venues for new music. He frequently scheduled music of Schönberg, Berg, Webern, Bartók, Stravinsky and others. He presented the premiere performances of Schönberg's ‘Four Songs with Orchestra’, Op. 22 (1932),and Bartók's Second Piano Concerto with the composer as soloist (1932). Nazi rule forced him to curtail performances of Jewish composers and those labeled as ‘cultural Bolsheviks’ after 1933. He also shifted to less prominent positions as Generalmusikdirektor in Münster (1937-1941) and in Strasbourg (1941-1944). After the war, he again returned to conducting in a major city, as Principal Conductor of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra (1945-1948).
But his preference was for radio, where he could schedule more innovative concerts and reach a wide audience with modern music. Therefore in 1948 he accepted the position as Chief Conductor of the South-West German Radio Orchestra in Baden-Baden. German radio was based on strong regional companies whose programs were also carried elsewhere in the country. Baden-Baden, with a history as one of the most liberal corners of German and a strong interest in arts, was ideal for Rosbaud's purposes. Furthermore, the identification by the Nazis of their opposition to certain kinds of music gave that music a strong prestige and support particularly among the younger audience. These factors, and a sense of a need to learn about music currents that had passed Germany by when Hitler and Goebbels transformed the country into a cultural backwater, combined to create a strong audience for Rosbaud's programming.
He made the provincial orchestra into a strong and precise ensemble, with a lean, anti-Romantic sound. Success on radio led immediately to demand for phonograph recordings. He participated in the first Aix-en-Provence Festival in 1948 and remained associated with it, often appeared in the Donaueschingen Festival, Europe's primary avant-garde music festival (where he supported the music of Boulez, Stockhausen, and their circle), and performed regularly at the annual festivals of the International Society for Contemporary Music. He gave the first performances (concert and staged) of Schönberg's MOSES UND ARON. In 1957 he added the position of Music Director of the Zürich Tönhalle Orchestra.”
- Joseph Stevenson, allmusic.com
"Rudolf Firkusny was a connoisseur’s pianist, his audiences invariably starred with musical celebrities."
- Bryce Morrison, GRAMOPHONE, Awards Issue, 2006
“Rudolf Firkusny, a Czech-born pianist was known for his elegant performing style and his warm, patrician manner. During a long career, Mr. Firkusny was a favorite of audiences, piano connoisseurs and Czech-music specialists alike. He achieved still wider recognition in his late years in unexpected ways. In 1990, at 78, he appeared on a basketball court in concert dress, as a foil to David Robinson of the San Antonio Spurs in a popular television commercial for Nike sneakers. ‘Music needs all kinds of encouragement’, Mr. Firkusny said at the time. Shortly afterward, he made a triumphant return to Czechoslovakia, as the country was then still called. Although he had not performed there for 44 years because of his staunch opposition to Communist control, he was recognized for his lifelong contributions to Czech music and was awarded an honorary doctorate from Charles University in Prague.”
- James R. Oestreich, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 20 July, 1994