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An occasional series by Christopher Howell
2. DEAN DIXON (1915-1976)  

I have been “Dixon-aware” since my early teens. A captive to the spell of Dvořák, I must have spent many hours in the school music room listening to his cello concerto over and again. The record in the school library was a World Record Club pressing of the Janigro/Dixon recording. Encouraged by my elders and supposedly betters to be snooty over performers “nobody’s ever heard of”, I badgered my parents into getting me the Rostropovich/Boult, at that time THE recommendation - Rostropovich/Karajan was still some way into the future. Of course Rostropovich was terrific, but as the years went on and I heard numerous other interpretations of this work, Janigro/Dixon - inaccessible to me until many years later - remained in my memory as possessing a noble sincerity, a heartfelt grandeur, that no one else had quite recaptured. It has been a great pleasure to discover that I had not been looking back with rose-tinted spectacles. Or maybe the rose-tinted spectacles get in the way of critical listening, but more of that below.
All I could glean from that LP cover was that Dean Dixon was an American conductor. This in itself might have heartened the maestro. In so far as most people recall Dixon at all, it is for his remark that, at the beginning of his career, he was always referred to as the “black-American conductor Dean Dixon”. Later on, he was described as “the American conductor Dean Dixon”. Later still, to his pride and joy, he was “the conductor Dean Dixon”. He hoped that, at the end of the process, people would know him as simply “Dean Dixon” - the source for this quotation seems to be the sleeve-note for his recording of Tchaikovsky’s 6th Symphony. The World Record Club Dvořák LP evidently belonged to about the middle of this process, and it was only after many years that I learnt that Dixon was the first Afro-American to achieve success as a classical orchestral conductor. I became aware then of the brick wall he had encountered in his native country when he looked for more than one-off engagements, resulting in his removal to continental Europe, where he successfully held various posts. I have tried to collate the various information scattered around on Internet for the following account of his career. As always in this series on “Forgotten Artists”, it would be interesting to hear from anyone who knows more or better.
Left: Dean Dixon, 1935

Charles Rolston Dean Dixon
was born in New York City in 1915. His father was originally from Jamaica, his mother from Barbados. There was classical music in the family: Mrs. Dixon played the piano and encouraged her son’s musical education - despite being warned by a schoolteacher to “stop wasting her money”. Dixon had his first violin lessons at the age of four. He later studied the piano, cello, flute, clarinet, oboe, cor anglais, bassoon, French horn, trumpet, trombone, tuba, timpani, percussion and harp. In 1930 he founded the “Dean Dixon School of Music”, in 1932 the “Dean Dixon Symphony Orchestra and Choral Society” - the only way back then for a young Afro-American to prove his abilities was to create his own platform. His studies continued at the Julliard school and Columbia University. A Julliard Fellowship in conducting enabled him to study with Albert Stoessel from 1936 to 1939. His career was encouraged by Eleanor Roosevelt and he appeared with the NBC Symphony Orchestra in 1941 and the New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra in 1942.
Despite these and other successes, it became apparent after the war that a permanent conducting position in the United States would continue to elude Dixon. In 1949 he moved to Europe, where he held major posts with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra (1953-1960) and the Hessian Radio Symphony Orchestra (1961-1974). He was also Musical Director of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra from 1964 to 1967. In 1968 he conducted at the Mexico Olympic Games. William Glock engaged him to conduct Mahler’s First Symphony with the BBC Symphony Orchestra in 1963 (Royal Festival Hall, 20 March) and the Seventh in 1964 (RFH, 19 February), at a time when Mahler performances were still rare. The United Kingdom back then was probably no more a place for an Afro-American classical conductor than the United States itself. By a slip of the pen, the doyen of British musical critics, Neville Cardus, referred to him in print as “Dixie Dean”. And it grieves me to report that Sir Adrian Boult, having attended a concert in Paris conducted by Dixon in 1950, noted in his diary that “a coloured American named Dean Dixon was operating not very well on sundry classics (he seems to be a sort of Yankee Vic Oliver, and about as musical)” (Michael Kennedy: Adrian Boult, Hamish Hamilton 1987, p.229).
In 1970 Dixon conducted in America again after twenty-one years. He guest conducted thereafter with the major orchestras but still obtained no permanent post. Though he was hardly old, some accounts suggest that his health was now failing and his performances were not always representative of his best work. He died in Switzerland in 1976, aged 61.
Dixon’s not-very-prolific recording career can be broken down into distinct phases. Precious few of his discs have seen an official CD release so I must express my gratitude to the various blogs which have made his out-of-copyright records - post-1963 material is off-limits - available for download. Hoping I haven’t left anyone out, I wish to thank Rediscovery Classics, Random Classics, Damian’s 78s and René Gagnaux’s Mon Musée Musical. The Westminster LPs, in particular, are often available from one or more sources. However, the Internet being what it is, these downloads come and go. Readers are asked to consider this article as a general study of the records themselves, rather than specific downloads of them. For those able to play LPs, I see there is a certain trade in Dixon’s records on Amazon and E-Bay.
The American Recording Society
Dixon’s first batch of recording sessions took place in or around 1951 for the American Recording Society. A note on the discs explained that “These records are created and produced by the non-profit Ditson Musical Foundation established by a grant from the Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University”. The series covered the full range of American music, embracing jazz and popular music as well as “serious” composers. Dixon had earlier received the Alice M. Ditson Award from Columbia University “for being the outstanding American conductor of 1947-1948”, so was a natural choice for the lion’s share of the new recording project - Howard Hanson and Walter Hendl also contributed. It was thus, to every appearance, an all-American project, but it seems to have been established since then that the “American Recording Society Orchestra”, which played and was described on the sleeve as “One of the world’s great symphony orchestras”, was actually the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. Vienna was still emerging from its “Third Man” period and no doubt its second-best orchestra was a good deal cheaper than any home-grown band. The rough edges have been justly commented upon. Given that we are hearing sight-reading-plus by a middle-rank orchestra that had probably never played a note by any of these composers before, Dixon deserves all praise for ensuring that at least the spirit of each work was fully captured. The six symphonies I have been able to hear are not quite the complete series - he also set down Robert Ward’s First Symphony and works by MacDowell and Sowerby, for instance - but should amount to a fair sample.
The least interesting, for me, was Howard Swanson’s Second - “Short” - Symphony. Howard Swanson (1907-1978), like Dixon, was an Afro-American. A Boulanger pupil, he was admired for his songs, some of which were taken up by Marian Anderson. I’ll reserve judgement on Swanson in the round till I’ve heard some of these songs, but his “Short Symphony” of 1948 - about 13 minutes in this performance - is a somewhat drab offering at the shrine of Hindemith. The finale is more attractive than the rest. Dixon does his best with it (ARS 7).
Better remembered, at least in the United States, is Douglas Moore (1893-1969), composer of the once-successful opera “The Ballad of Baby Doe”. His Second Symphony (1945) was premièred in Paris in 1946. It was first heard in America the following year, in Los Angeles under Alfred Wallenstein. It is a cheerful, uncomplicated piece of vaguely American neo-romanticism. Its four movements total just under twenty minutes - quite enough, but not actually too much. It gets lively, colourful treatment from Dixon and the recording, though compressed in dynamic range, is remarkably good for c.1951 (ARS 5).
A possibly major figure was Henry Cowell (1897-1965), a bewilderingly prolific and, in his earlier years, unashamedly experimental composer. By the time of his Fifth Symphony (1948), Cowell had entered his post-imprisonment, neo-conservative phase. The first movement is by far the most attractive, alternating two catchy themes with conversational fluency. The remaining movements work brief motives in a pre-minimalist manner. This works better in the scherzo, placed third. The two slow movements become monotonous and the last is unremittingly loud. A spacious modern recording - this seems to be still the only one - would doubtless be easier on the ear than this venerable mono. It would not easily match the strong conviction Dixon brings to a score that was then very new (ARS 2).
I’m not sure that I’ll be returning to these latter three works, though the first movement of the Cowell might tempt me. The remaining three seem to me much more rewarding.
Howard Hanson (1896-1981) used to be considered, at least in the UK, more as a conductor than a composer. His cycle of neo-romantic symphonies has recently attracted considerable attention. His Fourth Symphony - “Requiem” - (1943) was premièred under the composer in Boston in 1943 and broadcast by the NBC SO under Stokowski the following year. Hanson considered it his finest work. It won him the Pulitzer Prize in 1944. The symphony combines Hanson’s admiration for Sibelius with a more American expression of wide open spaces. Sibelius himself has more mystery, more ambivalence. Hanson relies more on sequential repetition but it is nevertheless a strong utterance. Dixon gives it as much Sibelian grandeur as it will take (ARS 6).  
The Second Symphony by Walter Piston (1894-1976) is surely the major statement of these six American symphonies. It has a natural singing grandeur and an exceptionally beautiful slow movement. Dixon gives it his all though one can imagine Bernstein drawing out the slow movement far more - he chose it to pay tribute to the composer on his death. The recording struggles with the climaxes (ARS 1).
The Second Symphony (1931) by Randall Thompson (1899-1984) probably has less high seriousness and grand substance than Piston’s second, but it might prove the most loveable of the American symphonies Dixon set down. It alternates jagged syncopations with melodies that evoke spirituals and revivalist hymns. The second movement is, frankly, gorgeous. Dixon does it all proud (ARS 4). Indeed, while conviction, vitality and big-hearted grandeur are common to his conducting of all of these symphonies, it is notable how he grasps and conveys the different characters of the six composers.
Shortly after the American Recording Society venture, Dixon set down a number of discs for Westminster, another American enterprise that was making good use of cheaper conditions in Europe. Westminster also had ties with the British company Nixa, as a result of which two of these records were made with Beecham’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, described on the cover, for contractual reasons, as the “Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra of London”. The London sessions were dedicated to Schubert’s 4th and 5th Symphonies and a quartet of Liszt tone poems: Les Préludes, Orpheus, Mazeppa and Hunnenschlacht.
In Schubert’s 4th, Dixon takes the “Tragic” title at its word, conducting a very slow, numbed introduction. The Allegro is swift but not break-neck. It is made to sound faster than it is because Dixon adopts a tense, articulated style of phrasing - a very fast four-in-a-bar rather than a more relaxed two. The second subject actually flows beautifully without any slackening of tempo. The second movement is quite slow. Normally I find that early Schubert slow movements can’t take too much weight so this was a revelation. It is phrased so gravely and sincerely that I was held spellbound right through. A punchy third movement, but not so fast as to blur the syncopations, and a finale that is again superbly energized without having to go so very fast.

No. 5, too, is strongly done, energetic and serious with another broad but expressive slow movement. Apart from some overdone rubato in the trio to the third movement - somehow out of place in this kind of interpretation - the approach comes off well. It is a notch less remarkable than no. 4, but it is notable that Dixon persuaded the RPO of the 1950s to forget Beecham and play in a very different style (WL 5274, issued 1954).
If I say Dixon plays the Liszt tone poems for all they’re worth, I don’t mean he just goes at them hammer and tongs. There’s terrific excitement, yes, but there’s also tenderness, a range of colours, articulation and dynamics and, above all, clarity of structure. The closing section of Mazeppa is, perhaps, tawdry beyond all redemption, but for the rest, Dixon reveals these tone poems to be fine, inspiring music. There’s a great talent on the rostrum, beyond doubt (WL 5269).
The remainder of Dixon’s Westminster recordings were made with the company’s more habitual Vienna State Opera Orchestra. Among them were the first-ever complete recording of Schubert’s incidental music for Rosamunde. This seems to me even finer than the symphony coupling, perhaps because the music is greater. Eschewing the Viennese schmaltz that the orchestra could presumably have supplied on tap, Dixon gives a trenchantly articulated, brusquely dramatic and, where necessary, gravely poetic reading. Where some conductors find here a sequence of character pieces, Dixon elevates the work to a sort of orchestral song cycle. The last ballet music might, heard on its own, seem charmless. In context it is a sad, brave leave-taking. Symptomatic of Dixon’s approach is his choice of the dark-hued original overture in place of the more familiar “Magic Harp” piece. The Vienna Academy Chamber Choir sing in the choral movements, while the rich tones of the contralto Hilde Rössl-Majdan are to be heard in the “Romanze” (WL 5182, issued 1954).
A coupling of Schumann’s 3rd and 4th Symphonies, again with the Vienna State Opera Orchestra, was a famously invigorating disc. I’ve seen it claimed that Dixon was obliged to fit each symphony onto one LP side, hence the fast tempi. If this is true, I think it regards only the last movement of the “Rhenish”, which really does sound as if it has a train to catch. Yet even here I wonder, since the fourth movement is quite broad. An obvious ploy, if space was to be saved, would have been to take this faster. What I do find, in the outer movements of this symphony, is that Dixon’s combination of taut phrasing with strong accents comes close to tub-thumping at times. In the first movement Hans Swarowsky, for instance, took a similarly swift tempo but with more of a one-in-the-bar swing. However, Dixon’s urgency is certainly exciting and the middle movements are very attractively done.
In no.4, Dixon takes the repeats, which he surely wouldn’t have done if he had wanted the space to take slower tempi. There’s splendid urgency and fire, with some lovely phrasing in the “Romanze”. I can believe that Dixon’s way of breaking the music into small, detailed thematic cells - almost a preview of modern HIP performances - would have led him in later years to adopt the slowish tempi for which he was noted, since this kind of phrasing needs space in which to unfold. In this sense his Mendelssohn “Scottish” Symphony from the early 1970s makes a revealing comparison, and it would be interesting to hear him conducting Schumann a decade or so after these Vienna performances, if recordings exist in some radio archive. But I’m not convinced that the performances here are “falsified” by external pressures (WL 5285, issued 1954).
Some concerto collaborations complete Dixon’s “Westminster period”. As I said at the beginning, in the case of Dvo řák’s Cello Concerto with Antonio Janigro and the Vienna State Opera Orchestra, it’s difficult to comment objectively on a recording that meant so much to me in the years when I was discovering classical music. It still seems to me to have a truthfulness and sincerity, a depth and nobility that I sought in vain in most of the versions I’ve heard since. Janigro may not have the outsize personality or the range of colours available to Tortelier, let alone Rostropovich, but this sort of greatness can have its downside, distracting us from the music rather than leading us into it.

Many years after this recording was issued, a live performance came to light in which Janigro was partnered, in 1955, by Erich Kleiber. This has appeared in several transfers. If and when I dedicate an article in this series to Janigro - certainly a deserving cause - I shall try clarify with myself which I prefer. Kleiber goes in for a wider range of tempi, excitable one moment, languishing the next. Elsewhere on MusicWeb, Jonathan Woolf takes the view that “Janigro responds that much more vocally and intensely in the live recording with Kleiber”. While I agree that the differences are as Jonathan describes them, I should have to think long and hard whether they give me cause to prefer the Kleiber performance or whether the sheer naturalness of the version under Dixon is not - for me - preferable (WL 5225, 1953-4).
Big-hearted, passionate and exuberant - these words apply both to MacDowell’s two Piano Concertos and to the performances by Dixon and his then-wife Vivian Rifkin, once again with the Vienna State Opera Orchestra. In a previous article in this series I noted that Alexander Jenner and Henry Swoboda, in the second concerto, went all out to make the piece sound like a premonition of Rachmaninov - and pretty well succeeded. If Rifkin and Dixon find a touch more delicacy here and there, this doesn’t mean they’re underpowered - this is a thoroughly invigorating concerto disc. It seems to have been the first to offer the two MacDowell concertos as a pair (WL 5190).

Very little information emerges about Vivian Rifkin. New York-born, she was Dixon’s first wife. Their marriage was short and ended during Dixon’s period in Stockholm. She seems to have gone into teaching in later years. The Dixons also recorded a pair of Mozart concertos for Westminster and, on her own, Rifkin set down a sonata and some shorter pieces by MacDowell.
A European Kapellmeister
For the rest of the 1950s and during the 1960s, Dixon consolidated his position in Europe, and particularly in Sweden and Germany. Unfortunately, very little of his work appeared on disc. Apart from the two LPs discussed below, I’ve found references to recordings of Beethoven’s 4th Symphony, Dvořák’s “New World” and various shorter pieces.
In Tchaikovsky’s 6th Symphony, the “Pathétique”, set down with Dixon’s own Hessian Radio Symphony Orchestra, the conductor offers a performance totally free of egoism or self-indulgence. Tempi are steady and firmly maintained unless specifically authorized by the score. All this, however, is combined with eloquent phrasing and sheer gut commitment. The results are overwhelming, even in a recording with severely compressed dynamic range. If the conductor had been someone like Horenstein, this disc would have been acclaimed years ago as one of the great recordings of this symphony (Everest SDBR 3346, issued 1963).
In Brahms’s 2nd Piano Concerto Dixon, conducting the Vienna Volksoper Orchestra, partners the pianist Alexander Jenner. Jenner, a German pianist whose version of MacDowell’s 2nd Piano Concerto I have already admired in my article on Henry Swoboda, would be a good candidate for a future article if enough material can be found. He and Dixon solve the problems of this work by seeming unaware of them. For each movement they choose a tempo that, without metronomic rigidity, encompasses all the range of material. Jenner has a fluent technique and a rounded tone in the heaviest passages, the music is breathed and phrased naturally. You could say that, ultimately, all this excellence doesn’t quite amount to greatness. The pianist’s touch is warm and attractive but just short of magical, the orchestra plays with conviction and the right Brahmsian sound yet a Furtwängler would have brought that extra incandescence... Yet greatness often comes accompanied with problems, especially in this work. Jenner and Dixon give us pure Brahms, majestic but cholesterol-free. For the brief period this record was available in the UK, first on Oriole then on World Record Club, the EMG Art of Record Buying gave it two stars and their top recommendation, above Arrau/Giulini, Katchen/Ferencsik and Bachauer/Skrowaczewski. So I’m not the only one to have been mightily impressed by it (Oriole RM 161, reviewed in the EMG Monthly Letter of 2/64).  
Also from this period, and available at René Gagnaux’s site “Mon Musée Musical”, is a 1959 broadcast performance, with the Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra, of Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker” Suite - the usual eight numbers. Dixon sets a spanking pace in the Overture - the orchestra only just keep up at the beginning. The following dances are marginally slower than the norm - enough to bring out their melancholy elegance. Tempi are very steady, while phrasing and balance are scrupulously attended to. Particularly interesting are the menacing tread of the “Danse des Mirlitons” and the final “Valse des Fleurs” which may seem on the sober side till one appreciates the passionate treatment of the central section. An interesting discovery, though one supposes the various continental archives must contain more important material than this. Quite recently, indeed, Audite have issued Hessian Radio performances of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony and Stravinsky’s “Perséphone”. These resurrections were inspired by the presence of Fritz Wunderlich as the tenor in both performances. Elsewhere Dixon has appeared as a concerto partner for Clara Haskil. Perhaps attention will now concentrate on Dixon himself.
The Prague Recordings
In the later 1960s and the earlier 1970s Dixon made a number of records in Prague, using either the Prague Chamber Orchestra or the Prague Symphony Orchestra. These were issued partly on Supraphon and partly by Bärenreiter, the music publisher which had a brief adventure in the world of recorded music. Works set down included a pair of symphonies each from Haydn (48 and 92) and Mozart (33 and 34), Beethoven’s 7th, the two Weber symphonies, Mendelssohn’s 3rd, Brahms’s 1st and various shorter pieces. All this material is still under copyright and, given the recent extension in Europe of sound recording copyright from 50 to 70 years, I can only hope that Supraphon and Bärenreiter can be persuaded to reissue it, since I personally will be nearer 90 than 80 by the time it reaches the public domain. Or, alternatively, that it may be licensed without excessive cost to some smaller operator. As it is, I am able to comment on only one of these later discs.
In Mendelssohn’s 3rd Symphony - the “Scottish”, Dixon’s tempi are practically identical to those of Klemperer. In addition, he makes the first movement repeat, which Klemperer doesn’t. At just under 44 minutes, this may be the longest Mendelssohn 3 on disc. Dixon’s textures are more transparent than Klemperer’s, though, and his tempi are more evenly maintained - Klemperer, especially in the first movement, makes spurts into faster tempi, alternating with passages where he claws back. He is more obviously interventionist. Dixon, though working at slower tempi than in the 1950s, is nevertheless the same man as before. Rhythms are tautly enunciated, energizing the music from within. An impression of tense involvement emerges which holds the attention and focuses on the music, which tells its own tale. Provided, that is, that you agree that this is Mendelssohn’s tale. The EMG Monthly Letter (8/73; no review seems to have appeared in Gramophone) felt that the “rather sludgy recording”, combined with “Dixon’s rather pedestrian tempi”, were “reminiscent of Scotch porridge as much as anything else Mendelssohn may have experienced on his trip”. If you expect Mendelssohn to be vivacious and oh-so-delightful, if a bit superficial, then you won’t find the first two qualities here. I hope you’ll note that it doesn’t sound superficial either. As with the “Pathétique”, one is bound to say that, if a similar performance had been directed by, say, Horenstein, the message would not have been lost so easily. However, one does wonder if Dixon might have notched up a spot more tension in a live performance (Supraphon S.110 1124, issued in the UK in 1973).
Left: Dean Dixon, press photo 1970

The Dixon conundrum seems to be that he developed an interpretative style based on fidelity to the text, broad tempi and a certain big-hearted, rugged grandeur that set him firmly in the line of central European interpreters. Parallels might be drawn with Kurt Sanderling and Günter Wand, both of whom were three years older than Dixon yet lived long enough to see their mature wisdom achieve cult status. But age and wisdom are only part of the problem. Even if Dixon had been granted another 25 years of life, he would still have been the stern upholder of a great tradition to which he was, logically, extraneous. Paradoxically, if he had been just a brilliant, colourful interpreter of the lighter classics, his success would have been greater. It was still difficult, back then, for the Europeans to accept even a white American as the upholder of “European” traditions. Leonard Bernstein’s initial success was basically due to the fact that he fitted the European concept of what an American conductor ought to look and sound like. Dixon clearly didn’t. He thereby challenged the whole issue of what musical traditions really mean. The message we get from Dixon is that, if the talent is a first-class one, the scores are an open book and can be understood and interpreted by any man, whatever his origin or upbringing. Being steeped in the environment may, on the other hand, enable a second-class talent to impersonate a first-class one, which he or she could not if they came from a completely extraneous background.
Still, if the international musical establishment never quite accepted Dixon as “one of their own” and, I fear, might not have done even if his career had outlasted those of Sanderling and Wand, there were clearly many in Scandinavia and Germany - and Australia too - who did. He could yet become a cult figure. Since so much of his work was done for European radio orchestras, an enormous amount of material must exist. I’m not sure that the Italian radio archives are the best place to look, but I’ll throw down the gauntlet by discussing a couple of recordings I happen
to know.
In a performance of Bruckner’s 3rd Symphony (Turin, 15.11.1968), no admiration can be too great for the majestic inevitability with which Dixon unfolds a rock-solid edifice, and this in the symphony where Bruckner’s structure is, by general consent, at its most ramshackle. But there is also care over detail, with widely ranging dynamics, eloquent phrasing and a proper rhythmic trajectory for the Austrian dances. The scherzo has a daemonic fury. The orchestra performs remarkably well considering that it is not a natural Bruckner orchestra and must have played very little of his music at that time. Unfortunately the acoustics are terribly dry. Bruckner’s sudden pauses are cut off like a knife. Anyone in the business of creating a Dixon revival should consider this carefully, but should also investigate any other surviving versions of this symphony with more natural orchestras and above all in a more suitable acoustic. The concert began, by the way, with Leonid Kogan playing a Vivaldi concerto and the Berg.
In Sibelius’s 5th Symphony (Rome 3.1.1959), Dixon got the Rome orchestra to sound as if they played Sibelius every day - which Italian orchestras didn’t and don’t. The louring brass, the scurrying strings and the screaming wind are the real thing. He has a tight control over the structure and builds the symphony thrillingly to an overwhelming conclusion. If the original tapes could be made to sound better than my off-air version, this would be well worth issuing. I’m not sure it isn’t a great performance.
So there we are. I came to these recordings expecting to find a big-hearted, solidly professional conductor, and of this there can be no doubt. I get the idea, though, that he could at least sometimes approach real greatness. Unfortunately, the material available at the moment isn’t enough to judge.
Christopher Howell 

A reader, Richard Pennycuick, writes:
As the article mentions, Dean Dixon was the conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in the mid-60s.  I remember a short film called Concerto for Orchestra, made in 1965.  It used the Bartok work as the music for the film which showed various members of the orchestra playing, rehearsing, and engaged in various leisure activities.  For a reason I forget, Dixon had one arm in a sling which naturally limited the range of his conducting movements.  The film was made by the Australian Commonwealth Film Unit.  I can find no mention of its being released on DVD, but the Australian National Film and Sound Archive holds 16mm copies: