C1284. ARTUR RODZINSKI Cond. NYPO, w.Kenneth Spencer (Narrator): A Lincoln Portrait (Copland), recorded 15 March, 1946; ARTUR RODZINSKI Cond. Cleveland Orch.: Show Boat - Scenario for Orchestra (Jerome Kern), recorded 29 Dec., 1941; w.Boris Goldovsky (Pf.): Under the Spreading Chestnut Tree (Weinberger), recorded 13 Dec., 1939. (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL 78-186. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
“If Aaron Copland were simply one of the ablest composers America has produced, which he is, that would be sufficient to fix his place securely in the cultural accomplishments of our time. But he has done much more than write notable music. He has taught innumerable composers, he has done missionary work for many more, he has written and lectured and even gone on goodwill tours for our Government to other countries. He has been, in short, one of the most influential musicians on the American scene.
His compositions have taken many forms and have had different styles, from the severe unrelenting idiom of his early pieces to the more popular scores which have had an almost folklike quality, including his music for the ballets, BILLY THE KID, RODEO and APPALACHIAN SPRING. Of all his work, it may be that A LINCOLN PORTRAIT has had the most frequent performances.
In relation to Mr. Copland's total output, it is certainly true that A LINCOLN PORTRAIT represents the composer's effort to express his profound admiration of a great American. He wrote the piece in 1942 at the commission of André Kostelanetz, who sought, shortly after we entered the war, ‘to mirror the magnificent spirit of our country’ in music.
Realizing that it would be difficult to find musical expression for so eminent and beloved a figure as Lincoln, Mr. Copland decided to do ‘a portrait in which the sitter himself might speak. With the voice of Lincoln to help me when I was ready to risk the impossible’. Writing for the program book of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1943, Mr. Copland explained his procedure:
‘The letters and speeches of Lincoln supplied the text. It was comparatively a simple matter to choose a few excerpts that seemed particularly apposite to our own situation today. I avoided the temptation to use only well-known passages, permitting myself the luxury of quoting only once from a world-famous speech....The composition is roughly divided into three sections. In the opening section I wanted to suggest something of the mysterious sense of fatality that surrounds Lincoln's personality. Also, near the end of that section, something of his gentleness and simplicity of spirit. The quick middle section briefly sketches in the background of the times he lived in. This merges into the concluding section where my sole purpose was to draw a simple but impressive frame about the words of Lincoln himself’.
Here, beyond question, is a work with patriotic feeling. A LINCOLN PORTRAIT has been performed in this country in many places and on many occasions as an affirmation of Americanism. It has been presented abroad as an expression of the American spirit, and foreigners have responded to this content. And Lincoln's words in A LINCOLN PORTRAIT would grace any American festivity -- as would Copland's music.”
- Howard Taubman, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 1 Feb., 1953
“Jerome Kern’s ‘Scenario for Orchestra on the Themes from SHOW BOAT’, a composition Kern wrote at Artur’s suggestion….was successfully premiered in Cleveland. In New York it was a smash. Olin Downes was so impressed with the notion of taking American light music seriously that he devoted an entire TIMES Sunday column to the subject.”
- Halina Rodzinski, OUR TWO LIVES, p.211
“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 Lwów where he was engaged as chorus master at the Opera House, making his début 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 NÜRNBERG 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 TANNHÄUSER 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.”
“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