C1491. ERICH LEINSDORF Cond. Boston Symphony Orch.: 'Vetrate di Chiesa' (Respighi); Romeo and Juliet - Excerpts (Prokofiev); w.GINA BACHAUER: Piano Concerto #2 in c (Rachmaninoff); w.BEVERLY SILLS: DAPHNE - Final Scene (Strauss). [A most rewarding program comprising two different BSO concerts, in the magnificence of the glorious Symphony Hall acoustic!] (Canada) 2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-412, Live Performances, 1964 & 1967, Symphony Hall, Boston. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
“Daughter of an Austrian father and Italian mother, Gina Bachauer was born in Greece where her family had settled in the 1870s. She studied at the Athens Conservatory with Woldemar Freeman, but only part-time as her father believed success in the music world impossible for a woman. She studied law at Athens University for two years, but her progress at the piano was such that her father allowed her, as a teenager, to go to Paris to study at the École Normale de Musique with Alfred Cortot. After making her Paris début in 1929 she had some lessons with Sergei Rachmaninov (a friend of Freeman) with whom she studied intermittently during the early 1930s. A year after her 1932 début in London she won a medal at the International Competition in Vienna and went on to make her orchestral début in Athens in 1935, playing Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto #1 in b flat minor under Dimitri Mitropoulos. Bachauer toured Europe and played in Egypt, where she met and married John Christodoulou in 1936, living in Alexandria. Her career was interrupted by World War II, though she gave more than six hundred concerts for the troops in Northern Africa during this time.
After the war Christodoulou died, leaving little support for his young wife as all their money had been invested in Greek government bonds. Bachauer was fortunate in being taken to London by movie producer Gabriel Pascal as a consultant on his film CAESAR AND CLEOPATRA, and there she had the opportunity of auditioning for conductor Alec Sherman, who engaged her to play with his New London Orchestra. She made her orchestral début in London in 1946 at the Royal Albert Hall with Grieg’s Piano Concerto in a minor. After her successful début in the USA, where she gave a recital at New York’s Town Hall, she received wonderful reviews, the NEW YORK HERALD TRIBUNE referring to her as ‘…a truly phenomenal pianist having few peers among pianists of either sex’. Successful tours of Europe, the Americas, New Zealand, Australia and the Orient followed, and in 1951 Bachauer married Alec Sherman, who then gave up his own career as a conductor to manage his wife’s career. They lived in London but Bachauer toured most of the time, visiting the USA regularly. She was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Utah and, after her death, an international piano competition bearing her name was founded in Salt Lake City.
Bachauer was a strong, powerful player with a formidable technique. She was often compared to Teresa Carreño (1853–1917), and a 1955 description of her shows the attitude of the time. ‘Her technique shows a decidedly masculine approach, and unlike other famous woman pianists she is very much at home with works usually regarded as the prerogative of the ‘stronger’ sex’. Rachmaninov instilled into Bachauer his idea that music was ‘sound and colour’ and it is her range of both that makes her playing so distinctive. Extremely self-critical, Bachauer was always working, listening and improving her interpretations.
Bachauer’s repertoire covered practically everything from Couperin to Stravinsky. Her own favourites were virtuoso works, including Ravel’s ‘Gaspard de la nuit’, Brahms’ ‘Variations on a theme of Paganini’, and Stravinsky’s Three Movements from PETRUSHKA. Her concerto repertoire included Brahms’ #2, both of Chopin’s, Saint-Saëns’ #2, Rachmaninov’s Nos. 2 and 3, and Beethoven’s Nos. 4 and 5. In 1960 she played the Piano Concerto by Arthur Bliss with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and Dimitri Mitropoulos at Carnegie Hall.
At the end of the 78rpm era HMV had recorded her in Mozart’s ‘Coronation’ Concerto K. 537 and Busoni’s arrangement of Liszt’s ‘Rhapsodie Espagnole’ with Sherman and the New London Orchestra. These works and Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody #12 in a revision by Saint-Saëns appeared. Other HMV LP issues include two more Mozart concertos, Liszt’s Piano Sonata in b minor, a classic performance of Ravel’s ‘Gaspard de la nuit’ made in 1954, and Bachauer’s recording of Saint-Saëns’ Piano Concerto #2 in g minor made the following year with her husband Sherman and the New London Orchestra.
During the early 1960s Bachauer recorded for Mercury, and the 1964 recording of her ‘Gaspard de la nuit’, with Mercury’s superlative sound, includes a reading by John Gielgud of the Bertrand poems that inspired the compositions. On the same compact disc is some Debussy and Bachauer’s recording of Stravinsky’s Three Movements from PETRUSHKA, which is brimming with energy, especially in the last movement. Other highlights from the Mercury catalogue include Brahms’ Piano Concerto #2 in B flat and Beethoven’s Piano Concerto #4 in G major with the London Symphony Orchestra and Antal Dorati. In the early 1970s Bachauer recorded the Piano Concerto #2 in c minor by her mentor Rachmaninov with the Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra and Alain Lombard for Erato. This is a big, fine, virile performance and it is complemented by three of the composer’s préludes.”
— Jonathan Summers, Naxos' A–Z of Pianists
"Beverly Sills was the acclaimed Brooklyn-born coloratura soprano who was more popular with the American public than any opera singer since Enrico Caruso.
Sills won the greatest reviews of her career [as Cleopatra in Handel’s GIULIO CESARE, 1966, New York City Opera]. Critics praised her adroit handling of the music’s florid fioratura, her perfect trills, her exquisite pianissimo singing and her rich sound….Suddenly she was an opera super-star. In 1968 she had another enormous success in the title role of Massenet’s MANON. When the production was revived the next year, the NEW YORKER critic Winthrop Sargent wrote: ‘If I were recommending the wonders of New York City to a tourist, I should place Beverly Sills as Manon at the top of the list…".
- Anthony Tommasini, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 4 July, 2007
“With her vibrant, cheery personality, soprano Beverly Sills always was a favorite of the general public, among the most effective spokespersons the arts have had in America. The child of immigrant parents, Sills (born Belle Miriam Silverman) discovered singing at an early age; at four she was on a morning radio program as ‘Bubbles’ Silverman, and by age seven she had sung in a movie. At 16 she joined a touring Gilbert and Sullivan company. Her most important vocal studies were with Estelle Liebling, who had been a favored soprano of John Philip Sousa. In 1947, she made her operatic début as Frasquita in CARMEN at Philadelphia. She toured North America during the 1951-1952 season with the Charles Wagner Opera Company, singing Violetta in LA TRAVIATA and Micaëla (CARMEN). After singing in Baltimore and San Francisco, she made her début at the New York City Opera, which was to become her artistic home for over two decades. She once again sang Violetta in that début, but soon expanded her repertoire to include a wide range of roles. Among the twentieth century operas in which she performed were Moore's THE BALLAD OF BABY DOE, Nono's INTOLLERANZA, and Weisgall's SIX CHARACTERS IN THREE ACTS. In 1966, she reached international fame with performances as Cleopatra in Handel's GIULIO CESARE. Her performances of Donizetti's ‘Tudor triology’ - ROBERTO DEVEREUX, MARIA STUARDA and ANNA BOLENA, solidified her stature on the international scene. She made her La Scala début as Pamira in Rossini's THE SIEGE OF CORINTH in an edition prepared by conductor Thomas Schippers. In 1975, she made her début at the Metropolitan Opera in the same role; she had already sung Donna Anna in a concert performance there in 1966. Her Vienna début in 1967 as the Queen of the Night in Mozart's DIE ZAUBERFLÖTE was one of her few performances of this role. She regularly sang many other important roles in both Italian opera and in works from other countries.
She retired from performing at the age of 50, with an appearance in Menotti's LA LOCA, and accepted the position of General Manager of the New York City Opera. In 1991, she joined the board of the Metropolitan Opera, and four years later became head of New York's Lincoln Center. Sills sang regularly in concerts and recitals containing the arias from her famous roles. Her concert performance of the first version of Richard Strauss' ARIADNE AUF NAXOS is justly famous, since Zerbinetta's aria in this version is much more difficult than in the revised version.
Her basic voice was a light, high soprano with excellent technique and breath control. She was best heard in roles where fragility of character was paramount, such as Marie in Donizetti's LA FILLE DU RÉGIMENT, Puccini's MANON LESCAUT, and Violetta. By sheer power of character she held her own in operas normally best served by larger voices as well.
Her autobiography was published in 1976 with the title ‘Bubbles: A Self-Portrait’ and was revised in 1981 as ‘Bubbles: An Encore’; another autobiography, ‘Beverly’, followed in 1987.”
- Richard LeSueur, allmusic.com
"Erich Leinsdorf, a conductor whose abrasive intelligence and deep musical learning served as a conscience for two generations of conductors, had a utilitarian stage manner and his disdain of dramatic effects for their own sake stood out as a not-so-silent rebuke to his colleagues in this most glamorous of all musical jobs. In addition, Mr. Leinsdorf - in rehearsal, in the press and in his valuable book on conducting, THE COMPOSER'S ADVOCATE - never tired of pointing out gaps in culture among musicians, faulty editing among music publishers and errors in judgment or acts of ignorance among his fellow conductors. He rarely named his victims, but his messages and their targets were often clear. Moreover, he usually had the solid grasp of facts to support his contentions.
Mr. Leinsdorf moved to this country from Vienna in 1937. Helped by the recommendation of Arturo Toscanini, whom he had been assisting at the Salzburg Festival, Mr. Leinsdorf made his conducting début at the Metropolitan Opera a year later with DIE WALKÜRE. He was 25 years old at the time . A year later he was made overseer of the Met's German repertory, and his contentious style - in particular an insistence on textual accuracy and more rehearsal - won him no friends among singers like Lauritz Melchior and Kirsten Flagstad. Backed by management, he remained at the Met until 1943. At the New York City Opera, where he became music director in 1956, Mr. Leinsdorf's demanding policies in matters of repertory and preparation made him further enemies, and he left a year later. His searches for permanent employment turned mostly to orchestras. After the briefest of tenures at the Cleveland Orchestra during World War II, Mr. Leinsdorf took over the Rochester Philharmonic and stayed for nine years.
Mr. Leinsdorf's last and most prestigious music directorship was at the Boston Symphony, where he replaced Charles Münch in 1962. No contrast in style could have been sharper: Münch had viewed conducting mystically, as a kind of priesthood; Mr. Leinsdorf's policy was to make performances work in the clearest and most rational way. Observers both in and out of the orchestra could not deny the benefits of Mr. Leinsdorf's discipline, but there were some who were hostile to what they perceived as an objectivity that could hardly be called heartwarming.
One American orchestra manager a few years ago responded to musicians' grumblings over Mr. Leinsdorf's rehearsal manner by saying that he was ‘good for my orchestra’. And so he probably was.”
- Bernard Holland, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 12 Sept., 1993