C1481. SERGE KOUSSEVITZKY Cond. Boston S.O., w. ALEXANDER BRAILOWSKY: Piano Concerto #2 in c (Rachmaninoff), Live Performance, 27 Oct., 1945; w.ROBERT CASADESUS: 'Coronation' Concerto #26 in D, K.537 (Mozart), Live Performance, 3 March, 1945 (both Symphony Hall). (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL 78-395. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
“Critic Virgil Thomson once referred to Russian pianist Alexander Brailowsky (1896-1976) as ‘an honest virtuoso’. Alexander Brailowsky, at the age of eight, became a student in the Conservatory of Kiev. Later, in 1911, he went to Vienna to study with Leschetizky, but the beginning of World War I caused him to reside in Switzerland. After the war, Brailowsky made his Paris début in 1924, playing a complete cycle of the works of Chopin. This series included two sonatas, eleven polonaises, four scherzi, three impromptus, nineteen nocturnes, twenty-five preludes, twenty-seven etudes, and fifty-one mazurkas. This performance was repeated three times in Brussels, Zürich, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, and other principal cities. A successful tour of all the principal cities of the world was then made.
On 19 November, 1924, he made his American début in Aeolian Hall, New York. Brailowsky received an excellent review by the noted Olin Downes, music critic of The New York Times. On 31 October, 1938, he was soloist with the Pasdeloup Orchestra of Paris where he played the Chopin e minor Concerto and the Mendelssohn g minor Concerto, and he received a stupendous applause for his interpretation of the two concerti.
Appearances as soloist were made with major symphony orchestras and his interpretations of the works of Chopin brought him world-wide acclaim. Brailowsky was noted for his large repertory and he recorded for Victor the works of Chopin, Beethoven, Mendlessohn, Scarlatti, Schumann, and others. His recordings for Victor were numerous and used by students as examples of performances of the Chopin works. During a series of nineteen recitals in Buenos Aires, he never repeated a single work."
—Gary Lemco, Audiophile Audition, 30 July, 2014
“Robert Casadesus was the quintessential French musician, a passionate perfectionist who carried the Gallic virtues of precision, clarity, and elegance into the mid-twentieth century as an embodiment of the living spirit of classicism - precision animated by passion, clarity attained through sensuous scintillance, and elegance as the expression of the most lucidly aware animation. Born in Paris to a distinguished family of musicians - his father and three uncles enjoyed careers as performers and composers - Robert took first prize for piano at the Paris Conservatoire at age 14. Studies with Louis Diémer - early enthusiast of the French clavicenistes, premiere soloist and dedicatée of Franck's ‘Variations symphoniques for piano and orchestra’ - graced Casadesus with the mantle of the inheritor. In 1921 he married fellow Diémer pupil Gabrielle (Gaby) L'Hôte. The following year he earned Ravel's friendship with his performance of ‘Gaspard de la nuit’, which led to European tours with the composer and legendary soprano Madeleine Grey. ‘You are a composer’, Ravel wrote, ‘because you have the courage to play 'Gibet' as I imagined it, that is, as a slow piece...And virtuoso pianists do not want to play it like that. They double the tempo and make it much faster. That is why I think you are a composer’. Indeed, Casadesus' catalogue eventually embraced some 68 works, including seven symphonies, concerti for two and three pianos and orchestra, 27 chamber works, and 20 works for piano. It is music for connoisseurs, music of formal concision not devoid of passionate expression, but highly wrought, suggestive, and understated in, typically, lyrically attenuated slow movements, tender and strange, and conclusions of fastidious tumult. It is the antithesis of Mahler's confessional expansiveness, while Stravinsky's neo-Classical manner seems gimmicky and carnivalesque by comparison. Casadesus was a distinguished teacher, beginning his career as professor of piano at the American Conservatory in Fontainebleau in 1921, and replacing Isidor Philipp as its head in 1935. But it is primarily as a touring pianist and recording artist that Casadesus is remembered, appearing throughout Europe and the United States over 2,000 times in a career spanning half a century, often in duo-piano recitals with his wife. His authoritative, exhilarating recordings of the Mozart piano concerti with George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra, the Beethoven violin sonatas and the Franck Sonata with Zino Francescatti, Franck's ‘Variations symphoniques’’ and d'Indy's ‘Symphonie cévenole’ (Symphonie sur un chant montagnard français) with Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the piano works of Ravel - to name but the most prominent - are among the very greatest.”
- Adrian Corleonis, allmusic.com
“Sergey Aleksandrovich Kusevitskii (known in the West by the French spelling of his name, Serge Koussevitzky) was one of the great conductors of the twentieth century American orchestral scene and a champion of newer music. Born into a rural Russian-Jewish family of amateur musicians, young Sergei made a little money playing trumpet at weddings and fairs in a small wind ensemble. He moved to Moscow at the age of 14, accepting Christian baptism because Jews were otherwise barred from having careers. Choosing to study double bass, he won a scholarship to the Moscow Philharmonic Society's school and became one of history's great virtuoso double-bassists. He joined the Bolshoi Theater Orchestra in 1894 and began touring as a double bass soloist in 1896. He wrote some compositions to enlarge the small repertoire of solo pieces for the instrument, even enlisting the assistance of Reinhold Glière to write a concerto for him. Meanwhile, he closely studied the great conductors he encountered as an orchestra player and at concerts, particularly Arthur Nikisch.
On 8 September, 1905, Koussevitsky married Natalya Ushkova, daughter of a wealthy tea merchant. Soon thereafter, he gave up the regular grind of theatrical orchestral playing and toured full time. In 1907, he had his first experience in conducting with a student orchestra. He was satisfied enough with his skill that he hired the Berlin Philharmonic to let him conduct at a public concert on 23 January, 1908. The appearance was so successful it led to his engagement as guest conductor.
In 1909, Koussevitzky went into music publishing, establishing the firm known in the West as Editions Russe de Musique, and organized his own symphony orchestra. In 1910, he took the orchestra up and down the Volga River on a chartered steamboat, bringing symphonic music to places where it had scarcely been heard of before, repeating the tours in 1912 and 1914. As a publisher and conductor, he championed the works of Scriabin, Stravinsky, Medtner, Rachmaninov, and Prokofiev.
During the difficult years after the 1917 Bolshevik coup and the subsequent civil war, he continued to conduct in Moscow through 1920, when he permanently left for the West. He presented a series of concerts called Concerts Koussevitzky in Paris, again featuring new music: Ravel, Honegger, Stravinsky, and Prokofiev. These concerts included the world premiere of the Ravel orchestration of Mussorgsky's PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION; it soon became a concert staple in both Europe and America.
In 1924, Koussevitsky was chosen as music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. With the BSO, he continued his tradition of championing the new music he found around him, thus giving vital exposure to great American composers, such as Copland, Barber, Bernstein, Carter, Hanson, Harris, and a host of others over the years. During the 1931 season, he commissioned a series of commemorative works for the orchestra's fiftieth anniversary, yielding a treasury that included Stravinsky's SYMPHONY OF PSALMS and Ravel's Piano Concerto in G. Beginning in 1935, he annually brought the orchestra to the summer Berkshire Festival, organized by Henry Hadley in 1934, becoming its music director and making it part of the BSO's operation. Koussevitzky established the Berkshire Music Center (now Tanglewood Music Center) in conjunction with the festival in 1940, making it into one of the premier American educational institutions where young musicians could polish their craft and network. After his wife died in 1941, Koussevitsky set up a foundation to commission works in her memory. Britten's opera PETER GRIMES was one of the first works that resulted.
Until his death in 1951, he continued to direct both the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Berkshire Festival, recording frequently.
- Joseph Stevenson, allmusic.com