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
"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