C1492. SERGE KOUSSEVITZKY Cond. Boston S.O.: Symphony in d (Franck), Live Performance, 16 Feb., 1946. Hunter College, New York; w.Georges Mager (Trumpet) & Louis Speyer (English Horn): Quiet City (Copland), Live Performance, 10 March, 1945, Symphony Hall, Boston. (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL 78-410. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
“QUIET CITY…recorded in March 1945…receives a finely paced and atmospheric reading, lucid and expressive, graced by a rich string wash of sound, its fervent lyricism revealing the Russian conductor’s strong identification with the music. Louis Speyer is the named cor anglais player, and he is both more secure and more technically adroit on this occasion than trumpeter Georges Mager, whose fluty vibrato and bugle-like tone are certainly characterful, if not wholly persuasive.”
- Jonathan Woolf
“Georges Mager, one of the great trumpeters of all time, was Principal of the Boston Symphony from 1919 (after playing viola in the BSO for a year, sharing a stand with Arthur Fiedler!) until his death in 1950. In the 30s and 40s there were 3 big names in American trumpeters: Harry Glantz in the NYPO and later in the NBC, Saul Caston in Philly, and Mager in Boston. Although many of the recordings featuring Mr. Mager are available on CD, many players have never heard his beautiful, singing sound and unique vibrato. Serge Koussevitzky, Music Director of the BSO form 1924 until 1949, and one of the ‘old school’ conductors who rarely gave praise to anyone, described Mager as ‘covering the orchestra with gold’.
First recordings are always interesting because a ‘performance tradition’ had yet to be established. This is no exception and the BSO plays in top form. Very exciting!”
“During the 1910s, Mager played with the Paris Opera Orchestra, the Concerts Lamoureux, and the l'Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire. After World War I, Georges Mager was part of a U.S. good-will tour of the Garde Républicaine Band. With the Band, Mager was flügelhorn soloist (a sort of wide bore trumpet). Three musicians from the Garde Républicaine Band were hired into the Boston Symphony by Henri Rabaud for the 1918-1919 season: Louis Speyer English horn, Georges Laurent flute, and Georges Mager trumpet. However, since there was not a trumpet chair open, for this first season, Mager was hired as a violist (!).
Interestingly, Mager shared a viola stand with with Arthur Fiedler in this 1918-1919 season. The next season, 1919-1920 under Pierre Monteux, Georges Mager was then moved to the third trumpet chair, sitting behind Gustav Heim and Joseph F. Mann. After the disastrous 1920 musician's strike, Gustav Heim left for the Detroit Symphony. Heim was, along with Concertmaster Freddy Fradkin, the only Principal musician to leave following the strike. The next season in 1920-1921, Georges Mager became Principal trumpet until the conclusion of the 1949-1950 season. This service was for a total of 50 seasons as Principal trumpet, and 52 seasons with the Orchestra.
Georges Mager was an important teacher, including at the New England Conservatory. Among his trumpet students were Adolph Herseth (later Principal trumpet of the Chicago Symphony), Roger Voisin (Mager's successor), and Bernard Adelstein (later Principal trumpet of the Cleveland Orchestra). Mager was one of the early advocates of the C trumpet for the orchestra, with its slightly more brilliant tone.
Speyer became an extra oboist for the Orchestre Colonne, which accompanied the Ballets Russes in France, and in that way participated in several premieres of works by Ravel and Stravinsky. In early 1913 he joined the newly formed Orchestre du Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, conducted by Pierre Monteux, which gave its first performance on 2 April 1913. Two months later, he played in this orchestra in one of the most famous concerts of all time: the program included LES SYLPHIDES, LE SPECTRE DE LA ROSE AND THE POLOVTSIAN DANCES, but is remembered for the raucous premiere of Stravinsky's RITE OF SPRING.
Speyer came to America in the summer of 1918 with a French military band [note above] for a three-week good-will tour, but stayed, as he had been invited to join the Boston Symphony Orchestra, for which he was hired by Henri Rabaud. During his exceptionally long career, he played under the conductors Pierre Monteux, Serge Koussevitzky, Charles Münch and Erich Leinsdorf.”
- Musicians of the Boston Symphony Orchestra
“Sergey Aleksandrovich Kusevitskii (known in the West by the French spelling of his name, Serge Koussevitzky) one of the great conductors of the twentieth century American orchestral scene and a champion of newer music, closely studied the great conductors he encountered as an orchestra player and at concerts, particularly Arthur Nikisch.
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