C1773. FRITZ REINER Cond. Chicago Orch.: Manfred Overture (Schumann); Symphony #4 in f (Tschaikowsky); w. JOSEPH FUCHS: Violin Concerto (Hindemith). (Canada) 2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-878, Broadcast Performance, 21 Nov., 1957, Orchestra Hall, Chicago. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
“Here is a complete Reiner/Chicago Symphony concert, including two composers without strong representation in the conductor’s official discography. Reiner recorded the Schumann Piano Concerto twice in the studio and a live Symphony #2 has been issued. For Hindemith there is only a live performance of the Cello Concerto with János Starker. And, while Reiner recorded several works of Tchaikovsky, this symphony was not among them. Hence this set will be a ‘must-have’ for fans of the conductor. What of the rest of us mere mortals?
The performance of the Manfred Overture is without doubt the most unusual I’ve ever heard. Reiner takes it at an unusually slow tempo and renders the opening three-note phrase as an indistinct blur. Clearly, his intention is to project a Manfred who is brooding in despair, as opposed to tumultuously wrestling with fate. It’s an intriguing concept, but I personally am not convinced he fully pulls it off. The Hindemith Violin Concerto, on the other hand, is a brilliant success. I consider the work to be a masterpiece, and am frustrated and baffled that it is not part of the standard repertoire. Although Oistrakh’s recording with the composer necessarily remains a reference benchmark, Fuchs (who made a first-rate studio recording of the work with Eugene Goosens for Everest in 1959) is amazingly at least the Russian virtuoso’s equal. Reiner proves to be a Hindemith interpreter to the manner born. In short, this performance is a major ‘find’ and justifies this release all on its own.
The Tchaikovsky Fourth was released 20 years ago, in a 10-CD set of historic performances issued by the Chicago Symphony in 2000, enthusiastically reviewed by Lawrence A. Johnson (24:1, ‘After a notably bold and brassy opening, this performance is rather slow to get off the ground; yet there are wonderful things to be heard here. . . . As in the best Reiner readings, one notices a myriad of details, here given full attention, that merely flit by in most performances’) and James Miller (24:2, ‘a brilliant, whiplashed effort . . . poised and well calculated’). For my part, while it is a fine performance, I am a bit less taken with it. The opening fanfare sounds oddly clipped and a bit mannered to me, and fails to set the right mood at the start, but my major caveat is the very dry recorded sound, which is less suited to Tchaikovsky than perhaps any other composer one could name. (By contrast it suits the Hindemith just fine.) But if that doesn’t bother you, you’ll get your money’s worth here, and it’s good to have this in circulation again in a far less expensive form. The recorded sound is virtually identical to that in the CSO box set. As usual St. Laurent provides a tray card with photos and track timings but no notes.”
- James A. Altena, FANFARE
“Joseph Fuchs, an American violinist long acclaimed for his vigorous, intelligent and technically assured performances of old and new music and for the quality of his teaching, was one of those select musicians admired as much by his peers as by audiences. He played not only the standard repertory but also works by such contemporaries as Stravinsky, Thomson and Hindemith. He pioneered in the performance of music by Ben Weber, Nikolai Lopatnikoff and Walter Piston. [A Ford Foundation grant in 1960 enabled him to commission Walter Piston’s Violin Concerto, the premiere of which he gave that year in Pittsburgh. Fuchs also gave the first performances of concertos by Lopatnikoff (1944–5), Ben Weber (1954) and Mario Peragallo (1955); of Martin’s Madrigal for violin and viola, dedicated to Fuchs and his sister Lillian (1947); of the revised version of Vaughan Williams’ Violin Sonata, with Artur Balsam (1969), and of the posthumous American première of Martin’s Sonata for two violins and piano (1974).]
‘Joseph Fuchs is the kind of violinist who makes you listen not to himself but to the music, and there is no higher compliment you can pay an artist’, Raymond Ericson wrote in THE NEW YORK TIMES after a 1960 recital at Town Hall.
Joseph Fuchs studied with the noted Franz Kneisel at the Institute of Musical Art, now the Juilliard School, and graduated in 1918. He gave his New York début recital in 1920 at Aeolian Hall. In 1926 Mr. Fuchs was appointed concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra, a post he held until 1940. After Cleveland, he resumed his solo career. He gave his last recital, at Carnegie Hall, in 1992 and his last public performance, at the Juilliard School, in 1995 [at age 95].
He often appeared in concert with his sister, Lillian Fuchs, a violist. Mr. Fuchs also collaborated regularly with the pianist Artur Balsam and the cellist Leonard Rose. Mr. Fuchs was a founding member of the Musicians Guild, a chamber music organization that presented many concerts during the 1940s and ‘50s. A true upholder of the Kneisel tradition, he called chamber music his 'true love’. He became a professor of violin at the Juilliard School in 1946 and held the position until his death. He was a founder of the Blue Hill Music School in Maine in 1953, a summer program that evolved into the Summer Chamber Music Institute at Alfred University in Alfred, N.Y.
Mr. Fuchs made many recordings, including one of the first complete sets of the Beethoven violin sonatas, with Balsam in 1952. He also recorded Mozart's works for violin and viola, the duos and the Sinfonia Concertante, with his sister…vivid testimonials to his artistry. [He played the ‘Cadiz Stradivarius’ violin of 1722].”
- THE NEW YORK TIMES, 17 March, 1997
“Fritz Reiner was a legend among conductors. Universally admired for his music-making, widely disliked for his aggressive and exacting temperament, and survived by a legacy of definitive recorded performances, he was largely responsible for the artistic ascendancy of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and exerted considerable influence on generations of musicians.
Born in Budapest in 1888, he studied piano with his mother and, at the age of 15, entered the Franz Liszt Academy -- an institution that also boasts Bela Bartók, Zoltan Kodály, Ernst von Dohnányi, George Szell, Eugene Ormandy, Georg Solti and Antal Dorati as graduates. Reiner gained conducting experience at a number of regional opera houses before eventually returning to Budapest in 1911 to serve at the city's Volksoper, where his reputation as a conductor of special abilities finally emerged. In 1914 Reiner accepted a position at the Dresden Court Opera, where he formed a fortuitous relationship with both the conductor Arthur Nikisch and the composer Richard Strauss; Reiner would eventually give the German premier of Strauss' DIE FRAU OHNE SCHATTEN, and would remain a devoted interpreter of the composer's works throughout his career. The economic chaos and emergent anti-Semitism that followed the First World War made Reiner anxious to leave Europe, and an invitation (in 1921) to become the music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra provided just the right opportunity. From that point onward, Reiner's career was firmly rooted in the United States, where he became a citizen in 1928.
After resigning his post at Cincinnati Reiner became a professor of conducting at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where his students included both the young Leonard Bernstein and Lukas Foss; Bernstein, in particular, credited Reiner with a great deal of influence in his development. In 1938 he became the director of the Pittsburgh Symphony -- one of several positions that established Reiner as a fine builder of orchestras, with a talent for steering ensembles toward new levels of quality and success. A number of Reiner's well-known recordings stem from his tenure there. Guest appearances during his Pittsburgh years include those at Covent Garden and the San Francisco Symphony. From Pittsburgh he moved to the Metropolitan opera, where he remained on the conductor roster until 1953. His advocacy of Strauss' operas was especially strong there, and his performances of SALOME and ELEKTRA number among the most memorable evenings in the Met's history.
1953 was a watershed year for Reiner, since it was then that he assumed the directorship of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. This was to become his signature partnership, and the position that would establish his lasting legacy. His relationship with the orchestra was never a smooth one -- he was known for hostility and impatience in rehearsal, and for firing musicians for mistakes in concerts -- but he undeniably raised the ensemble from its status as a good American orchestra to that of one of the finest in the world. Unlike a number of other prominent conductors who excelled in narrow corners of the musical canon, Reiner maintained his excellent standards and clarifying precision throughout an especially broad repertory that crossed boundaries of nationality and style. He was as renowned for his performances of new works, such as Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra -- a piece that Reiner himself commissioned from the dying composer -- and Alan Hovhaness' MYSTERIOUS MOUNTAIN as he was for his Mahler, Strauss and Haydn. His tenure in Chicago also resulted in what was then an unprecedented volume of fine recordings, some of which still remain as favorites, despite the [purported] improved fidelity of modern competitors. Reiner resigned from Chicago in 1962 (after only nine seasons), and died the following year of heart failure.”
- Allen Schrott, allmusic.com