C1235. ARTUR RODZINSKI Cond. NYPO: Symphony #5 in B-flat (Prokofiev), Live Performance, 20 Oct., 1946; w.ARTHUR RUBINSTEIN: Symphonie concertante (Szymanowski), Live Performance, 12 Dec., 1943. (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL 78-174, (from Rodzinski collection). Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
“Rubinstein believed that a foremost danger for young pianists is to practice too much. Rubinstein regularly advised that young pianists should practice no more than three hours a day. ‘I was born very, very lazy and I don't always practice very long’, he said, ‘but I must say, in my defense, that it is not so good, in a musical way, to overpractice. When you do, the music seems to come out of your pocket. If you play with a feeling of 'Oh, I know this,' you play without that little drop of fresh blood that is necessary – and the audience feels it’. Of his own practice methods, he said, ‘At every concert I leave a lot to the moment. I must have the unexpected, the unforeseen. I want to risk, to dare. I want to be surprised by what comes out. I want to enjoy it more than the audience. That way the music can bloom anew. It's like making love. The act is always the same, but each time it's different’.
Warm, lyrical, and aristocratic in his interpretations, Arthur Rubinstein performed impressively into extremely old age, and he was a keyboard prodigy almost from the time he could climb onto a piano bench. He came from a mercantile rather than a musical family, but fixated on the piano as soon as he heard it. At age three he impressed Joseph Joachim, and by the age of seven he was playing Mozart, Schubert, and Mendelssohn at a charity concert in his hometown. In Warsaw, he had piano lessons with Alexander Róóycki; then in 1897 he was sent to Berlin to study piano with Heinrich Barth and theory with Robert Kahn and Max Bruch, all under Joachim's general supervision. In 1899 came his first notable concerto appearance in Potsdam. Soon thereafter, just barely a teenager, he began touring Germany and Poland.
After brief studies with Paderewski in Switzerland in 1903, Rubinstein moved to Paris, where he met Ravel, Dukas, and Jacques Thibaud, and played Saint-Saëns' g minor Concerto to the composer's approval. That work would remain a flashy Rubinstein vehicle for six decades, and it was the concerto he offered in his American début with the Philadelphia Orchestra in Carnegie Hall in 1906. His under-prepared American tour was not especially well-received, though, so he withdrew to Europe for further study. Rubinstein became an adept and sensitive chamber musician and accompanist; his 1912 London début was accompanying Pablo Casals, and during World War I he toured with Eugène Ysaÿe.
He gave several successful recitals in Spain during the 1916-1917 season, and soon toured Latin America. Along the way he developed a great flair for Hispanic music; Heitor Villa-Lobos went so far as to dedicate to Rubinstein his ‘Rudepoema’, one of the toughest works in the repertory. Although Rubinstein would later be somewhat typecast as a Chopin authority, his readings of de Falla, Granados and Albéniz would always be equally idiomatic.
Rubinstein's international reputation grew quickly, although he was by his own account a sloppy technician. In the mid-1930s he withdrew again and drilled himself in technique. By 1937 he reemerged as a musician of great discipline, poise, and polish - qualities he would mostly retain until his farewell recital in London in 1976, at the age of 89. Rubinstein's temperament had sufficient fire for Beethoven but enough poetry for Chopin; his tempi and dynamics were always flexible, but never distorted. His 1960s recordings for RCA of nearly all Chopin's solo piano music have been considered basic to any record collection since their release, and his version of Falla's NIGHTS IN THE GARDENS OF SPAIN is another classic, as are his various late collaborations with the Guarneri Quartet.
Rubinstein became a naturalized American citizen in 1946, but he maintained residences in California, New York, Paris, and Geneva; two of his children were born in the United States, one in Warsaw, and one in Buenos Aires. He had married Aniela Mlynarska in 1932, but womanizing remained integral to his reputation as an irrepressible bon vivant. He maintained that the slogan ‘wine, women, and song’ as applied to him meant 80 percent women and only 20 percent wine and song. Still, there was a serious side to his life. After World War II, he refused ever again to perform in Germany, in response to the Nazi extermination of his Polish family. Rubinstein became a strong supporter of Israel; in gratitude, an international piano competition in his name was instituted in Jerusalem in 1974. His honors included the Gold Medal of the Royal Philharmonic Society of London, the U.S. Medal of Freedom (1976), and membership in the French Legion of Honor.”
- James Reel, allmusic.com
"In works such as the First Violin Concerto and the Third Symphony, Szymanowski forged a musical idiom that drew together the legacy of a full-blooded, post-Wagnerian romanticism and the impressionistic soundscape of modern French music (if we seek reference points, they would be Debussy, Ravel and late Skryabin). Themes from Greek and oriental antiquities were added to the mix, creating for the composer an interior landscape of exotic imagery, material for dream and fantasy, by means of which he could distance the immediacy of life. This music is heady stuff. His younger compatriot Lutoslawski once remarked that he 'felt quite dizzy for a number of weeks' after hearing the Third Symphony, and it is easy to see why. It is one of several works to evoke the cultures of the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East."
- Jim Samson, The Guardian, 15 April, 2010
"Artur Rodzinski was born in Split, the capital of Dalmatia on 1 January, 1892. In Vienna, his teachers included Josef Marx and Franz Schreker (composition), Franz Schalk (conducting), and Emil von Sauer and Jerzy Lalewicz (piano). He returned to Lwow where he was engaged as chorus master at the Opera House, making his debut as a conductor in 1920 with Verdi's ERNANI. The following year saw him conducting the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra and at the Warsaw Opera House. While visiting Poland, Leopold Stokowski heard Rodzinski leading a performance of Wagner's DIE MEISTERSINGER VON NURNBERG and exclaimed 'I have found that rare thing, a born conductor!' and invited him to conduct the Philadelphia Orchestra.
Between 1925 and 1929 he served as Stokowski's assistant, conducted for the Philadelphia Grand Opera and directed the opera and orchestral departments at the Curtis Institute of Music. From 1929 to 1933, Rodzinski became the music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, garnering praise not only for his interpretations but for his innovative programming. From 1933 to 1943, he was music director of the Cleveland Orchestra, developing it into one of the foremost orchestras in America. He engaged new musicians and raised the playing standards to a very high level. His programs were innovative, offering works such as the first performance in America of Shostakovich's opera LADY MACBETH OF THE MTSENSK DISTRICT, which gained the orchestra national attention. Between December 1939 and February 1942, Rodzinski and the Cleveland Orchestra made an extensive series of recordings for the Columbia Records label. During this time he appeared with the New York Philharmonic in 1934 and 1937, when his concert performance of Richard Strauss' ELEKTRA aroused great enthusiasm. Rodzinski was also active in Europe, becoming the first naturalized American citizen to conduct the Vienna Philharmonic at the Salzburg Festival in 1936 and 1937. At Arturo Toscanini's recommendation, Rodzinski was engaged by NBC to select the musicians for the new NBC Symphony Orchestra. He rigorously trained the orchestra and conducted its first concerts in 1937, before the arrival of Toscanini.
Rodzinski was appointed music director of the New York Philharmonic in 1943. Though his four-year tenure was marked by considerable acrimony with Arthur Judson, the powerful manager of the orchestra, Rodzinski achieved high standards of performance. The renowned music critic and composer Virgil Thomson wrote about Rodzinski's tenure at the Philharmonic: 'We now have an orchestra that is a joy to hear...and we owe it all to Artur Rodzinski'. During Rodzinski's time on the podium the Philharmonic recorded extensively, again for Columbia, performed weekly live broadcasts on CBS Radio, and appeared in the feature film CARNEGIE HALL.
Despite, however, the quality of the orchestra's performances, numerous artistic matters such as the prerogative of the music director to dismiss musicians, select soloists and determine repertoire were persistent grounds of contention. Not willing to compromise on these matters, Rodzinski resigned in 1947. His reputation as a conductor was so prominent at this time that his resignation was the subject of a cover story in TIME MAGAZINE in February 1947. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra had been wooing Rodzinski for some time and now he decided to immediately accept the leadership of that orchestra starting with the 1947-1948 season. Here again, an inability to work with the board resulted in his swift departure after only one season. His short tenure still had a significant impact upon the orchestra and local audiences through performances such as a legendary account of Wagner's TRISTAN UND ISOLDE with Kirsten Flagstad.
After his departure from Chicago, Rodzinski's health began to deteriorate. There was little recording activity available to him in the U.S. and he settled in Europe once more. Here, his status as a major musician was recognized and he was invited to lead significant productions, such as the 1953 first performance of Prokofiev's WAR AND PEACE at the Maggio Musicale in Florence, as well as traditional repertoire works. He conducted at La Scala and also worked extensively for Italian radio, conducting well received readings of Wagner's TANNHÃ„USER and TRISTAN, and Mussorgsky's BORIS GODUNOV and KHOVANSHCHINA. He re-established his presence as a recording artist through a contract with Westminster Records, for whom he recorded extensively with Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London from 1955. His final recordings were for EMI in 1958. By this time Rodzinski's health was fragile. He was warned by his Italian doctor that further conducting activity would put his life at risk. However, he returned to Chicago in 1958 to conduct TRISTAN once again, this time with the Chicago Lyric Opera and soprano Birgit Nilsson. His return was a triumph, but these were his last performances and he died shortly afterwards."
- Ned Ludd
"Each of these disks, from Canadian engineer Yves St Laurent [feature] St Laurent's natural transfer - made without filtering, like all his dubbings - it is easy to listen to, despite the surface noise."
- Tully Potter, CLASSICAL RECORD QUARTERLY, Summer, 2011