C1566. ROBERT SHAW Cond. Cleveland Orchestra: ‘La Reine’ Symphony #85 in B-flat; Symphony #87 in A (both Haydn); Symphony #3 in D (Schubert). (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL T-456, Live Performances, 1966-69. [This little jewel is among the most delightful and satisfying orchestral concerts offered on this website; the Haydn Symphonies in particular are delicate treasures!] Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
“When Robert Shaw, the extraordinary choral and orchestral conductor who occupied a central place in American musical life for more than half a century was on the podium, he came across as somebody who had discovered exactly what he was put on the planet to do and was doing exactly that. With a motion of his hand, he could take a chorus of 15 or 500 from the tiniest of whispers to the most jubilant of shouts. His performances were remarkable for their energy, articulation and sheer sonic grandeur.”
- Tim Page, THE WASHINGTON POST, 26 Jan., 1999
“Arturo Toscanini had a reputation of being an extremely difficult conductor to please. But, when he heard Shaw at rehearsal, his comment was simple: ‘At last I have found the maestro I have been looking for’, and he invited Shaw and his Chorale to sing in a performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony with the NBC Symphony Orchestra.”
- THE INDEPENDENT, 27 Jan., 1999
“Robert Shaw, the renowned choral conductor and the elder statesman and great spirit of American musical performance, was music director of the Atlanta Symphony for 21 years [but] was always most respected for his work with choruses. His lasting monuments include the Atlanta Symphony choruses and the Collegiate Chorale in New York.
For Mr. Shaw, music was always more than a luxury or entertainment. As a form of communication, it was spirit itself, a moral force. In 1945 Mr. Shaw prepared choruses for performances by Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Symphony Orchestra, including famous accounts of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. In 1948, he founded the Robert Shaw Chorale, a professional group of 40, which toured and recorded and made his name synonymous with excellent choral performance. Mr. Shaw conducted the San Diego Symphony from 1953 to 1958. He left the Collegiate Chorale in 1954 and became associate conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra under George Szell from 1956 to 1967. He raised the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus to new heights. In 1967, Mr. Shaw disbanded his chorale and moved to Atlanta, where he served as music director of the Atlanta Symphony until 1988. He oversaw the orchestra's transition from a part-time group of 60 players to a full-time, year-round ensemble of 93. He conducted the Atlanta Symphony in its Carnegie Hall debut, in 1971, and at the inauguration of President Carter in Washington, in 1977. He led its first European tour, in 1988.
In 1967, Mr. Shaw founded the Atlanta Symphony Chamber Chorus, and three years later he added the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus. He retained close ties to both until his death.
Already in 1943, the National Association of Composers and Conductors ‘named Mr. Shaw 'America's greatest choral conductor’. That reputation grew and was certified in 1990, when Carnegie Hall established an annual series of professional workshops under his direction. Mr. Shaw's rehearsal techniques, isolating rhythm, pitch or enunciation, were calculated for maximum effect and efficiency, and could seem mechanistic at times. He carried a similar pragmatism into his treatment of scores. He might reseat singers, mixing voices to achieve a homogeneous overall sound, or shift voices to another line if it suited his concept of the desired sonority or the way that sonority was best projected.
It was possible to admire Mr. Shaw's craftsmanship and respect his achievement without invariably swooning at the results. Often enough, all those spiritual elements that went into the making of a performance shone through nobly, but at times a performance could seem merely ‘perfect’ - meticulous, wondrously refined, even powerful - without piercing to the heart. Still, his achievement is likely to remain the standard for many decades, largely in the hands of the disciples he cultivated. As for Mr. Shaw himself, he is undoubtedly already appraising the heavenly choirs with a critical ear, wondering how best to go about shaping them up. He will probably not be diplomatic about the need to do so.”
- James R. Oestreich, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 26 Jan., 1999