Artur Rodzinski, Vol. XXXVIII;  Eugene Istomin   (St Laurent Studio YSL 78-576)
Item# C1593
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Artur Rodzinski, Vol. XXXVIII;  Eugene Istomin   (St Laurent Studio YSL 78-576)
C1593. ARTUR RODZINSKI Cond. NYPO: Symphony #4 in a (Sibelius), Live Performance, 3 March, 1946, Carnegie Hall; Egmont Overture; w. Eugene Istomin: Piano Concerto #4 in G (both Beethoven) - Live Performance, 10 Dec., 1944, Carnegie Hall; [the latter two preceded by Francis Scott Keyes' 'The Star Spangled Banner', as was the custom during the War Years]. (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL 78-576. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.


"Eugene Istomin, the American pianist who was as renowned for his chamber music performances as he was for his individualistic, deeply considered solo playing, was best known for his performances of the German and Viennese Classical and Romantic repertory, and his recordings of Beethoven - the piano sonatas, the violin sonatas with Isaac Stern and the piano trios with Stern and the cellist Leonard Rose - have remained highly prized for their graceful, fluid phrasing. Over the last 15 years, he was more likely to appear in New York as a soloist in Mozart than in Beethoven, and there too he played in an expansive, full-bodied style, often contributing his own cadenzas.

But if the Viennese repertory commanded most of his attention, Mr. Istomin was also a superb Chopin pianist and an enthusiastic interpreter of Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky. Contemporary music was part of his repertory as well: Ned Rorem, Roger Sessions and Henri Dutilleux wrote music for him, and he made a recording of some of Mr. Rorem's songs with the baritone Donald Gramm.

Mr. Istomin maintained an active solo career, and he did so with a flourish. In 1988, for example, when preparing for a tour of 30 cities, he decided that, instead of taking his chances with the pianos he encountered, he would take his own - two of them - as well as a trusted piano technician. He continued touring in this style through the mid-1990s.

Mr. Istomin was on the piano faculty of the Manhattan School of Music and participated in Professional Training Workshops at Carnegie Hall. In 1975 he married Marta Casals, the widow of Pablo Casals.

Mr. Istomin's early training was a balance of Russian and German influences. He was born in New York on Nov. 26, 1925 to Russian immigrants, and when he showed an affinity for the piano at age 6 his parents took him to the Russian pianist Alexander Siloti, who had been a student of Liszt and was a cousin of Rachmaninoff. Siloti oversaw Mr. Istomin's studies from a slight remove: he had his daughter Kyriena provide most of his lessons. But Siloti frequently played duets with the young Mr. Istomin, and arranged for him to play for Rachmaninoff. Siloti also, however, advised Mr. Istomin's parents not to let him begin his performing career while he was still a child.

In addition to his lessons with the Silotis, Mr. Istomin studied at the Mannes College of Music. In 1939, when he was 13, his father decided that it was time for him to study with a teacher in the Germanic tradition so that his training could include the kind of discipline that the more overtly virtuosic Russian approach did not offer. That April, he was accepted at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia as a student of Rudolf Serkin. He also studied there with the Polish pianist Mieczyslaw Horszowski.

In 1943 Mr. Istomin won two competitions that led to important public debuts: the Philadelphia Orchestra Youth Award, which included a performance with that orchestra, and the Leventritt Award, which included an appearance with the New York Philharmonic. Mr. Istomin played both concerts the same week, performing the Chopin Concerto in f minor in Philadelphia and the Brahms Concerto in B-flat in New York. Those performances were the start of a career that by Mr. Istomin's calculation comprised more than 4,000 concerts around the world.

Mr. Istomin's involvement with chamber music began in the 1950s, when he spent his summers at Pablo Casals' Prades Festival. He made recordings of Beethoven and Schubert piano trios with Casals and the violinist Alexander Schneider in Prades that are now considered classics.

But it was as a member of the Istomin-Stern-Rose Trio that he made his most lasting mark on the chamber music world. The three musicians began their association informally, reading through the piano trio repertory privately in the 1950s, for their own amusement. In 1960 they decided to tour together. Recordings followed, including their traversals of the Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn and Brahms trios, as well as one of the Mozart piano quartets with the violist Milton Katims. They continued performing together, and touring annually, into the 1970s."

- Allan Kozinn, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 11 Oct., 2003

"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 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."

- 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