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
"Although Rodzinski conducted most of the Country's major orchestras, his tenure often ended in a huff. In 1947 he had quit the coveted job of boss of the New York Philharmonic because, he said, he felt hemmed in and hampered by the Philharmonic's businesslike manager.
Rodzinski was known as a great builder of orchestras. Time and again he took over run-down orchestras and in a few years, by cajolery, psychology and almost ruthless dedication, built them into the finest of artistic groups."
- LOS ANGELES TIMES, 28 Nov., 1958
“Artur Rodzinski, a conductor of incandescent talent and an equally brilliant gift for self-destruction, cut a scandalous path through American music a generation ago. A long with Toscanini and Stokowski, the bushyhaired Polish musician summed up in the public's eyes all that a real maestro was supposed to be: preening, arbitrary, dictatorial, unpredictable, driven by ambition. Rodzinski was all these, as his widow Halina freely documents in her fascinating memoirs. And more: Rodzinski during significant portions of his career was mentally ill, dependent on drugs and in thrall to all sorts of spiritual fads and fancies. That a man as disturbed as Rodzinski could operate, often dazzlingly well, during his relatively untroubled moments is perhaps a tribute to the stability of the domestic life he had built around himself. Mrs. Rodzinski, in the way wives of great men once were expected to act, put her life entirely at the disposal of her master.
Both Rodzinski and his wife came from a culture and a time (Poland before World War II) when such an arrangement was accepted as normal. 'I come before everything and everyone else', Rodzinski told Halina before their wedding, and he left her in no doubt of it by thereupon spending his wedding night without her, on the town. His wife, with less outward resentment than one would expect, depicts herself as hardly more than a servant. She sharpened his pencils, changed his shirts and brushed his hair at intermissions. Oh, yes, and it was her duty, too, to lay out the loaded revolver along with the maestro's tails before a concert. This bizarre story, which has long been talked about in disbelief In the orchestra world, can now be certified as true. Rodzinski carried the weapon - loaded - in a hip pocket whenever he faced an orchestra, even during rehearsals. Learning of this later, many a player who had displeased Rodzinski at one time or another must have experienced a slight frisson.”
- Donal Henahan, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 23 May, 1976
"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