FORGOTTEN ARTISTS - An occasional series by Christopher Howell
14. VLADIMIR GOLSCHMANN (1893-1972)
All articles in this series
I get the idea the word “forgotten” needs redefining every time I write a new article in this series. Occasionally I’ve touched on figures known, even in their own times, to a very few. I’m quite sure the name of Vladimir Golschmann is still honoured in St. Louis, where he was Music Director to the city’s Symphony Orchestra from 1931 to 1958. This is the longest reign in the orchestra’s history and one of the longest anywhere in the United States. Another person who hasn’t forgotten Vladimir Golschmann is M. Nicolas Guillot, whose information-packed site, in French only, has made my task a lot easier. Outside St. Louis, Golschmann may seem a dimly remembered figure. True, he conducted concerto recordings for the likes of Rubinstein, Milstein, Kapell, Elman and Gould and he made some Barber recordings that stood alone in the catalogue for a couple of decades. The core of his discography, the discs of romantic and twentieth century repertoire set down with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, has remained little known in Europe. Non-specialist music lovers might be surprised to discover just how much of it there is.
I confess I had always supposed Golschmann to have been a Russian. I was vaguely aware that he had run an orchestra of his own in Paris in the 1920s, but Paris was full of Russian émigrés in those days. Well, I wasn’t entirely wrong. He was born in Paris, but his parents were Russian-Jewish émigrés. My mistake does point to the fact that, while many French conductors – Monteux, Munch, Paray and later Martinon – were identified, to their chagrin, with French composers, Golschmann managed to avoid that label.
Vladimir Golschmann was born on 16 December 1893 in Paris. His parents were medical students. His father was from Zinia (Siberia), his mother from Sebastopol. Vladimir was the third of four brothers. I’ll stop here to give a brief account of the youngest brother, whose truncated career may never yield up enough material to allow him an article in his own right.
Boris Golschmann – a promising pianist
Boris Golschmann was born on 25 November 1906. He studied piano at the Paris Conservatoire with Isidore Philipp and, at the age of 17, was awarded first prize in the Conservatoire class. He played in duo with the violinists Georges Enesco and Joseph Szigeti and formed a trio with the Tzipine brothers – Joseph, the cellist, and Georges, the violinist and later a conductor already discussed in this series. Sometimes brothers are hesitant about appearing together artistically but Vladimir had no such problems. He had Boris play a concerto in Glasgow in 1928 and conducted his American debut in Dallas, with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, in 1939. Other notable conductors with whom Boris appeared were Ansermet, Désormière, Paray and Barbirolli. His promising international career was cruelly cut short, however. Unable to leave Paris during the war, he and his wife were rounded up during the occupation in 1943 and put into a train for Auschwitz. They were never heard of again. Boris set down some piano rolls in 1926. A small number of 78s followed, including two songs by Hahn in which he accompanied Pierre Bernac.
Returning to Vladimir, information about his early years seems slender and at times contradictory. That being so, it is strange that one obvious source of information is not mentioned anywhere that I can find – Golschmann’s own autobiography. I distinctly remember skimming through this rather slender volume in the Reid Library during my Edinburgh University years – I don’t think I actually took it out and read it right through. I remember in particular that Golschmann was frank but defensive over an incident in a performance of a Stravinsky work – chronologically, it would have to be the Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments – which the composer played at the Concerts Golschmann in Paris. At one point the performance broke down and had to start again. There was even a reproduction of the playbill for that concert. I can’t have imagined all that, yet the book has slipped right under the radar. Normally an internet search even for very rare books shows a public or institutional library that holds a copy, or details of a second hand copy sold via Amazon or e-Bay. In this case nothing at all turned up. I’d be very glad to hear from a reader who knows anything about it.
Most accounts agree that Golschmann started playing the piano when he was four and the violin when he was eleven. At the age of fifteen he began to study the rudiments of conducting, but his ambitions in that direction dated from much earlier.
In his boyhood diary are the words, “I shall be an orchestral conductor”, written with the hand and heart of a ten-year-old lad.
“I always wanted to be a conductor”, he related. “I was pleased to find that diary recently and remember that I had bought my first score at that time. Of course I couldn’t read it, but I had a lot of fun waving a stick and fooling” (Plain Dealer, Cleveland, 24 March 1937).
Golschmann’s teachers seem not to be known. We find that, before the First World War, he was playing the violin regularly in André Caplet’s Concerts Rouges orchestra and as a deputy in the Pasdeloup, Lamoureux and Conservatoire orchestras. A competition put on by the Concerts Sechiari in 1913 was presumably his first appearance as a conductor.
In 1918 he married an opera singer, Marguerite Soyer (1891-1973: my source for these dates is the Epistolario Riccardo Zandonai). Soyer appeared regularly at La Monnaie, Brussels, and Golschmann conducted her there in 1923. The marriage was over some time between then and 1930. Soyer went in for Wagnerian roles and recorded Isolde’s Liebestod under Coppola in 1929.
By 1919 Golschmann had been noticed by Albert Verley (1867-1959). Verley was a mathematician and a chemist specializing in perfumes. In this latter role he set up companies on both sides of the Atlantic and seems to have been well able to act as patron for what he cared about most – music. A composer in a small way, in 1919 he set Golschmann up with an orchestra of 33 musicians – enlarged to 80 the following year. For an open-air performance by the ballerina Anna Pavlova in 1921, Golschmann had an orchestra of 180. This was no doubt exceptional, but the repertoire played suggests that he could regularly call upon a normal-sized symphony orchestra.
The essential business of the Concerts Golschmann was to promote Les Six and associated French composers such as Satie and Ibert, which it did with numerous premières. Other contemporaries were well catered for, from Stravinsky and Prokofief to the Italian Futurists and Malipiero. A particular favourite and friend was Tansman, whom Golschmann promoted fervently during his later American career. English music specialists might note that Golschmann played Eugene Goossens’s “By the Tarn” in 1921. The Concerts Golschmann ran, according to one source, for five seasons.
In 1920 Golschmann was called by Diaghilev to conduct at the Ballets Russes. According to the Golschmann biography on the Naxos site, he became the first to conduct “The Rite of Spring” since the notorious early performances under Monteux in 1913. Most sources, however, give Ansermet as the conductor. Golschmann and Ansermet certainly shared the conducting of the season. The article from “Le Ménestral” (17 December 1920), quoted on Guillot’s site, is more confusing than helpful. Golschmann is praised for his conducting, but it is not at all clear whether the critic is speaking of the Stravinsky or of Falla’s “Three-Cornered Hat”.
Paris in the 1920s was quite a place for small, experimental theatres. Golschmann was involved with at least two of them.
The Ballets Suédois operated from 1920 to 1925. Though mainly Swedish in personnel it was Paris-based. Golschmann conducted them on an American tour in 1923. This led to his first appearance with an American orchestra, the New York Symphony Orchestra, in 1924.
Another was the Théatre Bériza. This was created by Marguerite Bériza, a French mezzo-soprano, later soprano, who decided to break away from the standard repertoire of her earlier years. Golschmann conducted a number of small operas here by Florent Schmitt, Ibert, Milhaud and others. These, plus performances in 1921 of The Beggars’ Opera, in the F. Austin arrangement, appear to represent the sum of his operatic experience. Oddly enough, Golschmann’s most celebrated single recording, many years later, was of Barber’s brief opera “A Hand of Bridge”.
Golschmann’s work with the Ballets Russes and the Ballets Suédois has sometimes led to him being labelled as a ballet specialist. Quite a few of his most effective later recordings were of ballet music, but it seems that, after these early experiences, he never conducted ballet again in the theatre.
Golschmann’s sights were now set on more international horizons. He conducted the Bilbao Symphony Orchestra from 1923 to 1928 and the Scottish Orchestra from 1928 to 1930. Perhaps it needs to said at this stage that no recorded evidence exists, so far as I know, of Golschmann’s work in his earlier European years. No doubt a trawl though the archives of the Bilbao SO and the RSNO, plus the local press, could provide a picture of what he played and what the public and critics thought of it. But Golschmann’s recording career was still some time in the future.
As we have seen, Golschmann was a presence in the United States from 1924 onwards. In 1931 the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra was anxious to upgrade its image and standing. The choice fell upon Golschmann, who saw off fairly easily the other main contender, one George Szell. Just to add insult to injury, Szell became Golschmann’s next successor but one – after Barbirolli – with the Scottish Orchestra. The tables were turned in 1944 when Golschmann and Szell were the prime contenders to succeed Leinsdorf at the Cleveland Orchestra. We know what happened that time!
Just before this, in 1930, Golschmann had made his second marriage. His second wife, Odette, remained with him for the rest of his life. I should perhaps have pointed out before this that Golschmann himself was blessed with what have been called matinée-idol looks. Tall, slim and athletic-looking; even the 74-year-old gentleman we can see on a CBC film with Glenn Gould still retained a fair amount of “je ne sais quoi”. The only sour note I have seen was struck by a reporter who noted that he was “prematurely grey-haired” by the age of 48 (Adele Kaplan, The Daily Illini, 3 December 1941). Maybe grey hair appeals to some more than others – only eight months earlier another reporter had referred to him as a “glamour boy” (John Rosenfield, Dallas Morning News, 8 April 1941). Odette apparently made a photogenic companion, but no photograph seems to be available. Wikipedia has a photograph of Golschmann “and his wife” – but the lady in question is Marguerite Soyer.
No doubt the important thing for a conductor is to conduct well. Nevertheless, in a country where good looks and skilful socializing are the way to get subscriptions and backing for your concert season, the fact that the Golschmanns could make rapid inroads into high-living St. Louis society was a major success factor. Only once did Golschmann offend the St. Louis worthies. His posing in 1948 for an advertisement for Lord Calvert whisky was considered not quite comme il faut. Nonetheless, the orchestra did, by all accounts, raise its standards considerably. Golschmann’s arrival coincided with an increase in the instrumentalists to 86 and he obtained the services of a number of major players, notably the violinist Scipione Guidi. Not all went smoothly with Guidi, however, as The billboard of 23 May 1942 reported:
Longhair music lovers got the shock of their lives here this week with the announcement that Scipione Guidi, assistant conductor and concertmaster of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, has been abruptly dismissed. Few of the Symphony Society’s members, who angel the expensive season, were in the know, and there was much guesswork as to the whys and wherefores.
Generally accepted reason for Guidi not being offered a contract for the 1942-’43 trick was his constant bickering with Vladimir Golschmann, conductor. Tension was said to have begun as far back as 1931, when Guidi first took a post with the symphony. Final break came during recent recording date, when the symphony tried to cut 22 sides for Victor in four hours. In midst of Sibelius’s First, Golschmann shrieked that violins weren’t up to scratch and took it out on Guidi, who is in that section. Temperaments flared and, after recordings were completed, Golschmann went to Society complaining that 11 years with Guidi were 11 too many and that there couldn’t be another.
This story testifies to what we will see all through, namely that Golschmann recorded very quickly. The writer may be wrong about Sibelius’s First – it was the Seventh that was recorded on 6th April 1942. Or was there an unissued First as well?
From 1933 the St. Louis SO began to be heard on the radio. And in 1934 the orchestra – which had set down a few short pieces under its previous conductor, Rudolph Ganz, between 1923 and 1925 – returned to the recording studios. From this point onwards the story may be told through the discs – thanks in no small part to the discography by Quonten and Guillot on the site already mentioned. That is not to say that it would not be interesting to compare Golschmann’s recorded repertoire with his concert repertoire, or to examine his engagements with other orchestras – he was a welcome guest with all the major US orchestras and continued to appear in Paris till the war broke out. But the recordings are what remain, and they are numerous enough to provide a fairly full picture of the conductor’s work. Since the biographical part stops here, perhaps this is the place to recall that, while Golschmann was unable to save his brother Boris, he worked successfully with other Jewish artists in the USA to sponsor the exit from France of other members of his family. Golschmann became an American citizen in 1947 (not 1957 as stated in Wikipedia). A recorded interview from 1971 shows that he retained a fruity French accent to the end of his life.
According to Bill Anderson, whose excellent transfer can be downloaded as part of his Mid-West Tour, Tansman’s Triptyque for strings was Golschmann’s first recording, and he set down Haydn’s Symphony 103 the same day. The Quonten/Guillot discography states that he recorded the Haydn and Beethoven’s 7th Symphony on 18 March 1935 and the Tansman in April of the same year. Whatever, Golschmann immediately showed himself a quick worker, setting down two, even three, works where others set down one. In the event, however, the Beethoven was not issued and Golschmann belonged to the select band of conductors who never had a Beethoven symphony in the catalogues until, very recently, Forgotten Records issued an “Eroica”, broadcast with the Boston SO in 1944.
The Polish composer Alexandre Tansman (1897-1986) settled in Paris at an early age. Golschmann had known him well since his Paris years. Once a well-reputed name in contemporary music, Tansman has been rather forgotten. Attempts to revive interest in his work have not made much headway as yet. The present work mainly consists, in alternation, of energetic and mellifluous small-talk. However, the central part of the third section engages at a deeper level, so there may be at least some buried treasure in his output. It certainly makes a good calling card for the St. Louis strings, not just in their precise articulation but in the considerable dynamic shading Golschmann draws from them (Columbia M-213).
It comes as no great surprise to learn that the Tansman Triptyque was a first recording. Rather, we may be surprised that Tansman made big time enough back then for RCA to issue a second recording, by the Curtis Chamber Music Ensemble under Louis Bailly, only a few years later.
Much more surprising is the fact that Haydn’s Symphony no.103 was also receiving its first recording. At any rate, none earlier is listed in WERM. We are clearly in a pre-Robbins-Landon age - the opening drum-roll is piano, not forte. The allegro goes at a sizzling tempo, a bit breathless at times but with a wonderful lilt in second-subject territory. The repeat is played. The finale is a total success. It is brisk and bracing but not so much so as to exclude phrasing and dynamic shaping. This is big-band Haydn as good as it gets.
The middle movements are more of their times. The second, with abundant repeats, a broad tempo and some romantic rallentandos at the end of the various sections, lasts a full 12’ 10”. We can certainly admire Golschmann’s intention to give Haydn his full due. Moreover, though the tempo is slow, he gives the music a pawky, earthy strut that keeps it alive. It held my attention. The minuet seemed very slow and pompous. All this, I mused, was Haydn as he used to be. Listening to some LPs from the early 1950s under Munch, Scherchen and Swarowsky, in each case these middle movements were as slow or slower, and Golschmann got more lift to the playing than any of these.
But life is full of surprises. The second recording of the symphony, set down in 1941 by the Hallé Orchestra under Leslie Heward, has a similar pawky, earthy strut in the second movement to Golschmann’s, at a rather faster tempo. Heward’s minuet goes at a rollicking one-in-the-bar – maybe a correction that goes too far in the other direction. Of course, the early history of the “Drum-roll” is not all here. Obviously, there’s Beecham, the master of the pompous minuet – at least he could make them work. I have an idea, though, big-band apart, that the first recording of this symphony to sound like Haydn as we expect to hear him today was that under Mogens Wöldike (1959). And that Golschmann’s was not definitively surpassed until then.
Broadcast concert 27 March 1938
Golschmann did not record again until 1942. We do have, though, a complete broadcast concert with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra from 27 March 1938. This comes from the Gordon Skene Sound Collection and can be heard at his Past Daily site. The sound is reasonable for what it is.
The temptation is obviously to divide the recording into its single components. It’s not a bad idea to listen to it complete, including the blowsy “RCA All The Way” signature music and flowery, period-style announcements. You can get caught up in the event “as it happened”, you can share the ovation that met home-girl-made-good, St. Louis-born soprano Helen Traubel as she makes a return visit within a year of her first triumph at the Met. And you can grasp a communicative vitality in Golschmann’s conducting that doesn’t always come across so readily in his studio recordings.
Furthermore, while so many radio-archive retrievals just give us another slant on interpretations we already know, there’s not a single work here that Golschmann set down in the studio. The concert opens with a taut, dramatic account of Beethoven’s Coriolan overture. Next comes the first of Traubel’s offerings, Elsa’s Dream from Lohengrin, sung with gleaming security and passionate involvement. This is followed by Richard Strauss’s Don Juan. A fully fired-up Golschmann launches this with a searing vitality you can hear matched by Reiner but few others. Throughout, this is a prime example of Richard Strauss as he used to be, free-flowing, unbloated. What a pity this is the only example we have of Golschmann conducting this composer.
After a certain amount of interval chat extolling the great work done for music by RCA, we get a neat performance of the Scherzo from Mendelssohn’s Octet, in the composer’s orchestral version. In truth this is probably the most difficult piece on the programme, because it is so exposed – no security in numbers. The St. Louis band brings it off well but does not quite achieve the sort of dazzling magic that can be drawn from the piece.
Traubel’s second contribution is Du bist die Lenz from Die Walküre. I can only repeat my words from above. As an encore, she offers Grieg’s “Ich liebe dich”, in German. Here I am less convinced, though the vocal magnificence is not in doubt. By an almost Freudian lapse, the announcer, otherwise careful over his foreign words, calls it “Ich liebe Dick”. Miss Traubel sings it as if passionately in love with Dick Wagner. One thing we will discover during this survey is that Golschmann was an excellent accompanist, but one who, faced with downright bad taste on the part of his soloist, liked to abet it rather than temper it. The recording goes through a bad patch in the middle, but you will have realized that this is, for me, the one expendable item.
Much food for thought is provided by the following interview with one Professor Clark, an elderly lady who had dedicated her life to musical education through records ever since 1909. Her belief was that it was so much better for the children to hear really beautiful voices, with true intonation, rather than their own efforts. Some of us might feel that the substitution of recorded music for people’s own efforts has done infinite damage over the years, and it is interesting to find that the process began, at least in the USA, as early as 1909.
Never mind, Golschmann brings things to a conclusion with the overture to Die Meistersinger. He recorded no Wagner commercially, but his accompaniments to Traubel show that he knew his way around the composer. Wagner himself is alleged to have conducted this overture in just under eight minutes. Modern performances tend to prefer a stately tread of somewhere between ten and twelve minutes. Golschmann’s 8’ 36” is the nearest I’ve heard to Wagner’s own alleged timing. It has a surging vitality, verging on blatancy at times.
Broadcast retrievals from 1940 and 1944
This seems the best place to mention two other broadcast retrievals that have emerged. Probably there are many more gathering dust, but Golschmann is not a name aficionados of past performances make a dive for and the cobwebs are most likely to be set aside for a notable première or a famous soloist.
The notable première was that of Morton Gould’s Symphony no.2, “Symphony on Marching Tunes”, which Golschmann gave with the New York Philharmonic Symphony orchestra on 4 June 1940. This can be heard on YouTube complete with the announcer’s comments. These are much better recorded than the orchestra itself, which nevertheless comes across fairly well most of the time.
Morton Gould has hardly acquired a reputation for profundity of utterance and the initial impression is of a sort of Ives for kiddies, the jaunting marching tunes heard one at a time instead of two or three simultaneously. But the fairly lengthy slow finale suggests there might be a deeper point to it all. Golschmann sounds as if believes there is, as well as finding light and shade where possible in the brasher moments.
Also with the New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra, from 1944 but in less effectively preserved sound, is what appears to be the only existing performance of Erica Morini playing Beethoven’s Violin Concerto. The opening tutti takes a little time to settle down into a tempo, but this is straight compared with Bruno Walter’s conducting of it for Szigeti. By a couple of minutes in, Golschmann has established an ideally flowing tempo, which Morini promptly changes, going first slower, then dashing away. The initial, disconcerting, impression is that she has not decided what tempo, or how many tempos, she wants. Gradually I came to see a point to it. Morini’s solos are like long parentheses inserted in Golschmann’s steady, but warmly felt, orchestral episodes. In the slow movement, too, Golschmann keeps the music gently floating onwards while Morini essays her vocal rubatos and Bruch-like expressive freedom. The finale is light and joyful, though not particularly fast. It’s a performance that must have sounded old-fashioned even in 1944, but that, paradoxically, is its strength today. It tells us things about the music that we wouldn’t know from modern readings.
As remarked above, these retrievals have just recently been joined by a 1944 Boston “Eroica” from Forgotten Records.
RCA VICTOR 1942-1951
Golschmann and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra were back in the recording business in 1942 with three substantial offerings on RCA Victor. Milhaud’s “Suite Provençale” and Sibelius’s 7th Symphony were set down on, respectively, 5th and 6th April. The date of the Prokofief “Classical” Symphony is not known. It is believed to belong to the same year but its issue was delayed.
It was a truism at that time, particularly among American critics, that Koussevitzky’s recording of the latter had set unassailable standards. By any other measure, Golschmann is pretty good. Most notably, he does not treat the work as if it was really a classical symphony. The outer movements have an obsessive, driven quality that relates the music to other works by Prokofief.
Golschmann’s recording of Milhaud’s “Suite Provençale” was the second to be made – Roger Désormière had set it down in Paris in 1938. Golschmann gives it a joyous, full-throated reading. He cannot entirely avoid the feeling, apparently endemic to all but a tiny handful of Milhaud’s works, that that this sort of music, with its overload of exuberant contrapuntal invention, becomes wearing to the listener after five minutes or so.
Golschmann’s Sibelius 7 was the second recording to be issued of this work, too. Famously, the first recording was Koussevitzky’s 1933 live performance with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. The phrase “second recording to be issued” is important, because in 1994 a recording finally saw the light of day on Music and Arts which Stokowski had set down for Columbia with the All American Youth Orchestra back in 1940. Also for Columbia, Sir Thomas Beecham recorded his first version with the New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra in June 1942, just two months after Golschmann.
Golschmann stands up pretty well against these august Sibelius interpreters. He plays no tricks, neither dawdles nor hurries, and keeps his sights on the far-off mountain peaks. His tempi flow logically from one another – no easy matter in this symphony – and he makes the curious quotation from “Valse Triste” just before the end sound as if it belongs there.
Nothing in 1943 and just four sides in 1944. Dance no.1 from Falla’s “La Vida Breve” gets a gutsy, colourful reading, but Dvořák’s magic and humanity struggle to emerge from Golschmann’s punchy but hasty readings of the first and third of the Slavonic Dances op. 46. Best are the Polka and Russian Dance from Shostakovich’s “The Age of Gold”. A certain brashness is in place here, but Golschmann finds time to point the humour of the Polka. This batch also included Milhaud’s arrangement of the Overture and Allegro from Couperin’s “Le Sultane”.
1945 saw RCA Victor allowing Golschmann and his players rather more substantial fare in the form of Schoenberg’s “Verklärte Nacht”. This work, in its original string sextet form, was already 46 years old, yet there is a tendency even today to look on Schoenberg as “contemporary” and, above all “difficult”. Moreover, in 1943 Schoenberg had issued a revision of his string orchestra version, originally made in 1917. Assuming Golschmann used the revised version, would this have been the first recording of Schoenberg’s final thoughts?
Whatever, this is the sort of work that drew the very best from Golschmann. He has clearly done a lot of spadework with the orchestra over phrasing and dynamic shading, and then transmuted this into a real performance. Everything is here, from seething passion to sultry brooding, together with the gradual transmission to more light-filled, airy textures towards the end.
The last side of this set is a real oddity – the Adagio from Corelli’s Concerto Grosso op. 12 no.5 arranged by one Filippi. A filler in every sense, Golschmann seems to have been content to busk this. So generalized – if generous – is the phrasing, with the dynamics dropping below a fulsome mezzo forte only at the end of each section, you would hardly think the same orchestra and conductor were at work.
Also during 1945, Golschmann and the Saint Louis SO set down some extracts from Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake”.
1946 saw the first two of Golschmann’s several collaborations with notable soloists. Both of these were made in New York with Toscanini’s NBC Symphony Orchestra.
Much the most successful of the two was that of Beethoven’s Second Piano Concerto, which Golschmann set down with the tragically short-lived William Kapell on 24 June. Kapell had performed with Golschmann for the first time in 1942, in St. Louis. They performed the Beethoven together in Carnegie Hall the day before setting down the recording. In this, his only Beethoven concerto recording, Kapell is cool, clear and brisk, but also highly musical in his phrasing and inflections. The orchestral playing is punctual and lively, but the phrasing is rather generalized in the outer movements, while in the “Largo” Golschmann introduces an element of romantic passion which the soloist prefers to keep out.
Of Artur Rubinstein’s performance of Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto, made on 29 May, we can only be grateful that the pianist’s long life enable him to record it again, much more sympathetically. While accompanying the big tune at the beginning, Rubinstein thunders out the bass octaves to the complete exclusion of the rippling arpeggios. The result is crude beyond all belief. Occasionally a touch of Rubinstein’s patrician elegance comes to the surface, but it is all too soon brushed aside in an unseemly dash and, basically, the performance never recovers from its unpleasant beginning. There seems to have been an element of one-upmanship in Rubinstein’s work in those days. After all, Horowitz had shown he could play the Third Concerto faster than the composer and was even now engaged, with his father-in-law Toscanini’s connivance, in setting down popular concertos faster than anyone else could, and faster than any reasonable person would have thought desirable. So why not show that Rachmaninov Two can be played in less than half-an-hour?
It’s difficult to say whether the serener counsels that prevailed when Rubinstein re-recorded this work with Ormandy more than twenty years later resulted from the wisdom of old age, or whether Ormandy might have tactfully calmed him down even in 1946. It must be said that Golschmann’s way, when faced with a soloist fretting at the bit, was to aid and abet him, almost daring him to do his worst. This tendency was later to make him an ideal partner – from one point of view – for Glenn Gould.
Back in St. Louis, Golschmann set down his only recording of a Mozart Symphony – no. 38, the “Prague” – some time during May.
After a grand, spacious introduction, the first movement allegro – with repeat – has a quite enthralling vitality together with a passionate commitment. Space is found for relaxation, but not much. The close, reverberant recording abets the performance more than not here, but possibly contributes to making the second movement excessively beefy. The finale goes with explosive fire rather than opera buffa high spirits but it’s certainly exciting. Ultimately this performance is rather one-sided, lacking the humanity of, for example, Karel Sejna’s wonderful version. But it should be heard for the quite terrific first movement (RCA Victor 11-9372-4).
We may note in passing that the fourth movement, only, of a performance of Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony, which Golschmann gave with the NBC Symphony Orchestra on 23 June 1946, was issued on V-Disc 737. Golschmann recorded the complete symphony with the St. Louis SO in 1953.
Two further collaborations with Artur Rubinstein followed in 1949, this time with the St. Louis SO. On a single day, 14 November, they set down Falla’s “Nights in the Gardens of Spain” and Mozart’s A major concerto, K.488.
The Falla has roused plenty of hackles – those of Lionel Salter in “Gramophone” for example – for its daylight brilliance and hard-hitting aplomb. Rubinstein does turn a few inimitable phrases – as indeed he had in Rachmaninov Two – but too much is missing, and Golschmann backs him up devastatingly well. I turned with relief to a recording made under a conductor I discussed earlier in this series, Franz André. By the side of Rubinstein, Lélia Gousseau’s pianism seems merely well-turned. But maybe a “primus inter pares” approach works better here. Assisted by the invariably sympathetic André, this performance has all the mystery, poetry and romance that are so signally missing from Rubinstein’s and Golschmann’s rendition.
It would take more than Rubinstein and Golschmann to destroy Mozart, but this is in fact their most successful collaboration by far. The First movement is swift, but Rubinstein sounds cool and collected, achieving some memorable phrases and pausing to take his time here and there. It is harder for the orchestra to avoid a hint of frothiness at such a tempo, but the orchestral accompaniment is sprucely turned. In the finale the tables are turned. Rubinstein’s initial attack sounds like naked aggression to me. Golschmann, while not fighting against the fast tempo, manages to inject a modicum of Mozart elegance. Rubinstein slows down here and there to a more reasonable tempo, but his brusque, impetuous returns to the original tempo are quite horrible.
But there’s buried treasure here. The slow movement has all the Olympian calm for which Rubinstein was to become famous. The later stages approach sublimity. Golschmann backs the soloist very well. For this, the performance has to be heard.
A rather different slant on Mozart was heard in 1950 when, on 29 March, Golschmann accompanied Nathan Milstein in the Adagio K.261 and Rondo K.373. The RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra sound a bit big and beefy, but not many people in 1950 would have thought of scaling the strings down. The actual playing is poised and gracefully phrased. Tempi are unhurried, not only in the warmly drawn Adagio, but in the Rondo, too, where Milstein and Golschmann show that a calm tempo doesn’t exclude vitality. Milstein plays beautifully, of course, but there is a certain discrepancy between the relaxed expressive intentions and the inherent nervousness of Milstein’s quick vibrato and occasional romantic scooping. This latter is taken up by the orchestral strings here and there, too. All the same, these are very nice performances.
Slightly earlier, on 19 January, Milstein, Golschmann and the same orchestra set down Kreisler’s arrangement of Poldini’s “Poupée valsante”.
Golschmann’s RCA period finished both splendidly and unexpectedly, with Vaughan Williams’s 2-Piano Concerto. In 1949 the popular piano duo of Arthur Austin “Buck” Whittemore (1915-1984) and Jack Warren Lowe (1917-1996) had given the American première of Vaughan Williams’s 1946 reworking for two pianos of his 1933 Piano Concerto. With Golschmann and the Robin Hood Dell Orchestra of Philadelphia –Philadelphia Orchestra players contracted separately during the summer break – they made the first recording of the work in either version.
All this would give their recording a place in the Vaughan Williams annals whether it were good or not. It’s actually very good indeed and, frankly, it gripped my attention in a way the Vronsky & Babin/Boult version never has. The latter should have all the winning cards. Apart from Boult’s long friendship with the composer, he had conducted the première of the piano solo version in 1933 with Harriet Cohen. But perhaps this was one Vaughan Williams work to which Boult did not hold the secret. He had his doubts from the start and it was he who suggested that Vaughan Williams should rewrite it for two pianos.
I suppose you could say that the work sounds more like Vaughan Williams as Boult conducts it. However, since he makes it sounds like Vaughan Williams on an off-day, perhaps it was worth trying another way, as Whittemore, Lowe and Golschmann certainly did.
Whittemore and Lowe, as said above, were a popular team and a lot of their repertoire was of a popular nature. They also had the Poulenc 2-Piano Concerto in their repertoire and, aided and abetted by a conductor who was much associated with “Les Six”, they play the Vaughan Williams rather as though it were by Poulenc or Milhaud. The first movement scampers and dances with insouciant verve. In the “Romanza”, soloists and conductor have the themes more sharply etched, more intensely emotional than under Boult. The result is more communicative. Interestingly, while the American performance is swifter in the first two movements, it’s a little slower in the remaining two. Yet there’s more lift to the dance rhythms and the epilogue has a stronger profile. This performance brings Vaughan Williams into the international arena. I’m sorry to say it, since I admire Boult in a wide range of repertoire, but in this case his performance has a sadly provincial air.
After a year outside the studios, Golschmann and the St. Louis SO were recording again in 1953, this time for Capitol. True to form, in a single day – 23 February – they set down the Franck Symphony (P-8221) and a Tchaikovsky pairing of “Romeo and Juliet” with “Francesca da Rimini” (P-8225).
“Romeo and Juliet” is very much “I do it my way” Tchaikovsky. After a swift but impressive introduction the initial eruption of the street-fighting music is extremely arresting, and Golschmann drives this part hard. The winding down to introduce the love music gradually reduces the tempo to a crawl, though the control is masterly. The love music changes tempo continually, one might almost say it has no basic tempo at all. There is certainly never a dull moment and at a concert I should be inclined to cheer and leave it at that. I feel, though, that the excitement resides on the surface.
In “Francesca da Rimini”, Golschmann plays straighter and, to my ears, goes deeper. The swooning string portamenti when they take up the Francesca theme must have seemed old-fashioned even in 1953. Nevertheless, this is impressive. Golschmann again drives hard at times, and does not drool over the slower portions – though the clarinet launches the Francesca theme very beautifully indeed. Golschmann seems aware that this is a dodgier structure than “Romeo”, at risk of sprawling, and adjusts his aim accordingly.
Nevertheless, the truly memorable product of these sessions is the Franck. Assiduous readers who hunt up my comments on this Symphony on MusicWeb International will find that my preference is for a swiftish reading without too much indulgence – Boult is a longstanding favourite of mine. Theoretically, Golschmann does all the things I feel he shouldn’t, but his virtual re-creation of the music is enthralling. Gone is “Pater Seraphicus” with his single-minded Catholic faith. The symphony emerges dark, brooding, louring, violent, with an almost Mahlerian angst. There are some outrageous rallentandos into some shattering climaxes and even the middle movement is unsettling. On an orchestral level, Golschmann has clearly worked hard over dynamics and colour, and then brings it off with a blazing conviction, though the brass can be raw at times. I suppose my top versions remain as before, but Golschmann is a chapter apart. He explores aspects of the music I didn’t even know existed. Those who – in an age where Bruckner and Mahler have replaced Franck in our concert programmes – think that Franck’s answers come too pat, might find that Golschmann compels them to think again.
Later that same year, Golschmann visited New York and set down, over three days, 21-23 September 1953, two discs of, respectively, French and American twentieth century music. The orchestra was named as the “Concert Arts Orchestra”.
The real disappointment is Ravel’s “Le Tombeau de Couperin”, which gets a brash, unsympathetic reading. The oboe’s phrasing in the Prelude is prickly and that’s how it goes on. By contrast, the Satie “3 Gymnopèdies” are sluggish and bloated. The same lush approach comes off far better in Honegger’s “Pastoral d’été”, perhaps because Honegger’s chugging rhythms provide their own antidote. It would be difficult not to enjoy Milhaud’s “Le boeuf sur le toit”. Golschmann is brisk but unhurried and buoyant. I get the idea, though, that this is closer to Broadway than to the Folies Bergères. The Milhaud and Honegger pieces ought to have exceptional authority, since Golschmann had premièred them in Paris in 1920 and 1921 respectively. I am left wondering how closely these recordings resemble what the Parisians heard. Whereas a Monteux might have transported these New York musicians, metaphorically, to the boulevards of Paris, Golschmann maybe limited himself to shaping the performance his players gave him (Capitol P-8244).
According to this theory, when it came to the American disc the job was half done. And indeed, it is more satisfying and was set down in less time, the whole programme sharing the last of the three days with the Satie. The Barber Adagio gets a fulsome reading and Copland’s “Quiet City” has breadth and dignity though the trumpeter is only just adequate. However, while there are plenty of alternatives for these pieces, I’m not so sure about the Creston “Choric Dances” and Diamond’s “Rounds for String Orchestra”, which actually appealed to me far more. The Diamond is a masterly and stimulating piece for string orchestra, well worth knowing. Golschmann plays both these lesser known scores with immense conviction (Capitol P-8245).
Golschmann recorded with the St. Louis SO over the three days 13-15 December 1953. On the first day, with Leonard Pennario – another quick worker it seems – he set down the Third Piano Concertos of both Bartók and Prokofief.
The second day was taken up by a finely characterized selection – nine pieces out of twelve – from Prokofief’s “Chout” Ballet Suite. Golschmann knows exactly when to be tough and when to let a little lyricism bloom, his tempi are always convincing and he has clearly worked on the orchestral colours.
“Chout” was issued in a coupling with three dances from Falla’s “Three-Cornered Hat”, set down the next day. The “Neighbour’s Dance” makes no special impression, but the “Miller’s Dance” is a pungent, violent affair. The “General Dance” goes at hell-for-leather tempi with outrageous ritardandos into the main theme every time it comes. Candidly, it’s a shockingly vulgar display, but just once in a while it’s almighty exciting Capitol P-8257).
Recorded on the same day was Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony. If the Falla shows Golschmann content to busk lively, rowdy performances of popular fare, the Shostakovich reveals him at his very considerable best. I can’t quite claim he gets the manic tension or pinpoint precision of a Mravinsky performance, but it’s a taut and perceptive reading. From brooding intensity to sarcasm, from wistful lyricism to brash, hollow triumph, it’s difficult to feel he misses anything. The orchestra is a little challenged by his very fast tempo for the finale but in general play well. So many conductors have been this way since, but those who bought this back in 1953 when there were fewer versions around got a splendid introduction to the work. (Capitol P-8268).
Golschmann and his orchestra were still busy with Capitol in 1954. On January 18-19 they recorded Prokofief’s First Violin Concerto with Nathan Milstein. On the second of these two days, they completed the sessions with the Ballet Music from Gounod’s “Faust” and extracts from Bizet’s “Carmen”. On 12 December, Milstein was back again to record Lalo’s “Symphonie Espagnole”. The following day Leonard Pennario set down Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto.
1956 – BACK TO COLUMBIA
Golschmann and the St. Louis SO returned to Columbia in 1956 for three days of sessions, from 27 to 29 March.
On the first day they recorded Debussy’s “La Mer”, plus Ravel’s “La Valse” and “Valses Nobles et Sentimentales”. “La Mer” is notable for brooding, sometimes furious, power. It’s an expressionist more than an impressionist view, with some volatile flights and some wilful holding back. It may not be the most coherent account but it offers an insightful alternative view.
The Ravel are rather one-sided. While the Viennese inflections of “La Valse” are not wholly ignored, they are accommodated into a fast tempo that propels everything along towards the inevitable final crash. To my Cluytens-attuned ears it’s a bit like hearing a 33 rpm disc played at 45 rpm, but in its brash, heartless way it’s flashily effective. If you want to hear the demonic side of Ravel, with the dancers speeding recklessly, heedlessly, to their doom right from the start, then go here. The ”Valses nobles et sentimentales” are more elegantly turned out but, while one thanks Golschmann for not dragging, that special Ravelian quality that can bring a lump to one’s throat remains at arm’s length (Columbia ML-5155).
The second day produced recordings of Shostakovich’s First Symphony and Kabalevsky’s “Colas Breugnon” Overture (Columbia ML-5152).
On the third day they all relaxed, first of all with “Romantic Music of Chopin”, ten colourful, spirited, even lush transcriptions by Golschmann himself, played with affectionate verve alternating with generous romantic warmth. What more could you want? Well, if you’re going to arrange études, perhaps you should have them played by an orchestra that can manage the sort of pinpoint precision we expect of a pianist. And in a piece like the sublime F sharp major prelude, and in the slow pieces generally, we don’t get the often disturbing relationship between melody and ostinato countermelody that the best pianists give us. Since the notes are nevertheless played, it’s difficult to say whether this is the fault of the arrangement, the performance or the recording. It might be interesting to hear these transcriptions done by a conductor with an ear for the finest detail – maybe Rattle would find them amusing?
The suspicion that Golschmann’s arrangements may have their shortcomings is fuelled by that master-orchestrator Respighi’s “Rossiniana”. Not everything is immaculate here either, but his has to be one of my favourite Golschmann records. There’s such an easy lilt to the playing, such twinkling affection as well as romantic warmth in the “Lamento”. The final “Tarantella” is exuberant and pacey without being overdriven. All this is rather puzzling from the conductor who frog-marched Ravel’s “La Valse” down to the finishing post two days earlier. Golschmann had considerable contacts with Ravel in his Paris days. Perhaps he took too much to heart Ravel’s oft-expressed wish to have his music interpreted very literally (Columbia ML 5161).
1957-1958: CAPITOL, COLUMBIA, PHILIPS, ELOISE POLK AND GOODBYE TO ST. LOUIS
Over the next two years, Golschmann appeared on four labels with various orchestras. In the process, he accompanied three very different pianists.
For Capitol, and at the head of the “Concert Arts Orchestra”, he joined Leonard Pennario in Chopin’s Second Concerto and Liszt’s First. According to the Quonten/Guillot discography, these were public performances, recorded live in 1957. From here onwards, there are several records which Quonten and Guillot claim as live. I am perplexed by the total absence of any audience noise. I am inclined to think the discographers are misinformed, and I would be interested to hear from anyone who has definite information.
The best of the two is the Liszt. Pennario plays fluently and musically, with a certain Mendelssohnian conversational ease. This is a polite way of saying that the sort of blistering tension you get from Richter is lacking. Still, within its limits, this is a nicely turned affair, occasionally laboured when, in parts of the scherzo and finale, things really ought to be taking off. Golschmann provides the performance with the accompaniment it needs.
In the first movement of the Chopin, Pennario alternates between blatancy, mannered phrasing – in the second subject – and, it must be said, the same sort of attractively Mendelssohnian fluency noted in the Liszt. Golschmann gives the orchestral part a strong profile and indeed, a first-time listener might get the idea that Chopin was more expert at handling the orchestra than the piano. This is certainly an unusual slant on the music.
Pennario plays the second movement – which is beautifully launched by Golschmann – with restrained musicality and a pleasing sense of atmosphere. Taken on its own, this could be produced as evidence that Pennario’s poor latter-day reputation is not wholly fair. But you’d have to keep the finale under wraps. Pennario doesn’t get the point of the Polish dance rhythms and he footles around with the music pointlessly. Golschmann keeps with him – what more could he do? (Capitol P-8366).
A curious record – sold to patrons and donors of the St. Louis SO – is entitled “Eloise Polk in Concert”, though it consists principally of a live performance of Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto with Golschmann conducting. This can be downloaded from Bill Anderson, who also provides all the information he has and gives his reasons for dating the performance to 1 April 1958. Golschmann was by now “Conductor Emeritus” and this was his last concert but one before stepping down after 27 years.
Eloise Polk – in earlier years Eloise Wells Polk and Eloise Polk Spivy – was born in 1934. She was the stepdaughter of the St. Louis SO’s long-serving board president Oscar Johnson. The “Reading Eagle” of 9 January 1952 mentions that at the age of nine she played with the St. Louis SO at a children’s concert. In 1949 she won an audition with the Artist Presentation Society. The “Reading Eagle” notice was prompted by her appearance with the Reading Symphony Orchestra in 1952, performing Chopin’s First Piano Concerto. She was described as an “eighteen-year-old protégé of Rudolf Serkin”. She graduated from the Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia, in 1953. She was active in chamber music until at least the 1980s. She died in Chicago in 2001 – some of the above information was gleaned from the “Chicago Tribune” obituary notice of 16 October 2001. Four recordings by Polk were issued in semi-private form. They now command high prices on E-bay. On her own, she recorded Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” Sonata (Premier 15702) and a mixed recital consisting of Mozart’s Fantasie K.475, Beethoven’s Sonata op.10/2 and Brahms’s Handel Variations (Polk LP 1471). With the St. Louis SO under Walter Susskind, she set down the Schumann Concerto in 1959. The Beethoven Fourth also contained an Impromptu by Schubert and Bach’s “Jesu, joy” – her encore pieces from the same concert.
I’ve seen some notable claims for her “Hammerklavier”, but I cannot get very excited about this Concerto. The first movement goes decently enough, though she begins the cadenza in a strangely inconsequential manner. The slow movement lacks poetry, while the finale stretches her a bit – there are some snatched phrases. Golschmann doesn’t sound very interested in the proceedings. Of course, good intentions, unmannered musicality and a generally reliable technique are enough for Beethoven’s genius to proclaim itself. The St. Louis audience got a fair deal. Those buying a record could reasonably set their sights higher (Premier LP 12946).
An infinitely greater talent than either Pennario or Polk, like him or not, was Glenn Gould, with whom Golschmann collaborated in 1958 in Bach’s Keyboard Concerto no.5 BWV1056 (1 May) and Beethoven’s Piano Concerto no.1 (29-30 April). These recordings were made in New York for Columbia, with the Columbia Symphony Orchestra.
The Bach finds Gould in un-eccentric form. The outer movements are somewhat hearty, even aggressive in their measured clarity. The long, barely supported line of the middle movement is unfolded as only a master could. It is truly beautiful. Golschmann has little to do here except synchronize the pizzicato accompaniment. In the outer movements he provides a light touch to tempi that could easily have become heavy and slogging.
In the Beethoven, Golschmann is happily unrecognizable as the conductor who turned in a routine response to the unremarkable Eloise Polk in the Fourth Concerto barely a month earlier, or even as the conductor who provided alert but fairly generic support to Kapell in the Second in 1946. I have heard it suggested that Gould preferred working with Golschmann rather than a conductor like Bernstein, who had strong opposing ideas of his own and was inclined to argue the toss. The phrase “complaisant stooge” may already be forming on some readers’ lips, but this is to underestimate how completely Golschmann has made the spirit of Gould’s interpretation his own. Whether this is the Beethoven Golschmann had dreamed of all along is difficult to say, since we have precious little chance of hearing him conduct Beethoven on his own, but he makes it sound that way.
In the first movement, both he and Gould are agreed to provide a light, springy 2-in-a-bar. Gould’s playing is cool but lucid and beautifully shaped. His own cadenza is a romp. The second movement is very broad, relaxed and wonderfully “sung”. Although Gould retains his famously brittle touch, this does not seem to affect the long phrasing and the sound has a beauty all of its own, not unlike a fortepiano. The finale is almighty swift, but never sounds driven – a true “opera buffa” conclusion, with another wildly over-the-top cadenza by Gould himself.
To 1958 listeners, this performance may have sounded manic – but surely they were not deaf to the beauties of the slow movement? In 2015, it sounds like a blueprint for a HIP version, though whether you could find a HIP version that’s as good as this, I’m not sure.
This return to Columbia was preceded, on 25 November 1957, by what is presumably Golschmann’s last disc with the St. Louis SO, a selection of ballet music. Included were suites from Delibes’ “Coppélia” and “Sylvia”, and the Weber-Berlioz “Invitation to the Dance”. The collection was given a certain individuality by the presence of Brian Easdale’s “Red Shoes” ballet.
After leaving St. Louis, Golschmann conducted the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra from 1958 to 1961 and the Denver Symphony Orchestra from 1964 to 1970. No recordings were made with either of these orchestras. Nevertheless, the post-St. Louis years were actually Golschmann’s most productive in the studio. Most of the recordings were made in Europe. He started with a one-off – his only recording for Philips and his only recording in France. This was a programme of Ravel with the Lamoureux Orchestra: Pavane pur une infant défunte, Ma Mère l’Oye (Suite), Alborada del Gracioso and Boléro.
This is by far the most successful of Golschmann’s forays into Ravel. So much so that one can only regret that he was not engaged to conduct an extensive French series in France. The unmistakable colours of the French wind band were still strongly present in 1958, but Golschmann sees that they play with discipline and finesse too. His tempi for the “Pavane” and “Ma Mère l’Oye” are leisurely, though without dragging, and the performances breathe relaxed enjoyment. The Ravelian magic that was missing in New York and St. Louis is certainly present here. “Alborada” is quite brisk, but manages to be exuberant rather than driven. There is a controlled ardour to the central section. “Boléro” is not as slow as Ravel would have wished, if we are to give credence to the controversial recording he may or may not have conducted himself. But nor is it as fast as the Toscanini tempo that Ravel disliked so strongly. It’s a good performance at a well-held, effective tempo, the crescendo properly graded. All in all, a very fine Ravel disc. A pity it’s in mono. This is another disc that Quonten and Guillot claim as live, and again I’m doubtful. There’s not a trace of coughers and shufflers and there’s full reverberation at the end without any applause breaking in, even after Boléro.
For the remainder of his career, Golschmann recorded almost exclusively for Vanguard. Most of these recordings were made with the Vienna State Opera Orchestra. Quantitatively, the years 1959-1963 were his most productive years as a recording artist. Indeed, if the data in the Quonten/Guillot discography is correct, 1 May 1959 must have been one of the most productive days in recording history, for on this single day Golschmann set down Dvořák’s 9th Symphony, Tchaikovsky’s 6th, Enesco’s two Romanian Rhapsodies and suites from Khachaturian’s “Gayaneh” and Kabalevsky’s “The Comedians”. Curiously, there was a change of venue – from the Grossersaal of the Musikverein to the Brahmssaal – at halftime. Evidently halls get tired even if orchestras and conductors don’t. My first reaction on seeing this was one of disbelief. Perhaps, though, I am conditioned by the fact that this would have been literally impossible in a country like the UK, where Musicians’ Union regulations do not allow more than 20 minutes of music to be recorded per three-hour session. If no such restrictions exist, or existed in 1959, in Austria, then there was nothing to stop Vanguard from booking the orchestra for a day and milking as much music out of it as was humanly possible. In truth, this little lot, end to end, lasts barely more than two-and-a-half hours. Looked at from this point of view, Golschmann and his band could almost be accused of wasting time. They could have set down all this and more in the morning alone, leaving the afternoon free for a Mahler symphony or two.
Perhaps critical reaction was conditioned by how the recordings were made. Be that as it may, Golschmann’s Vienna recordings have invariably been trashed in magazines such as “Gramophone” as scrappy and hasty. Having assembled a fair selection of them, I approached these records with some trepidation. My fears were not borne out. Golschmann’s preference for busking it in the studio, with minimum patching, is evident at times, but I heard nothing to suggest inadequate preparation.
Of the two symphonies from this first session, I’ve heard the Dvořák. Whether or not spontaneous combustion was the cause, this has a coursing energy, and the orchestra play remarkably well. Like most old-manner conductors, Golschmann slows down considerably for the second theme in the first movement. Interestingly, he indulges the third theme – the one with a vague resemblance to “Swanee River” – much less. He is both natural and effective in moving in and out of his different tempi. The Scherzo is about as fast as I’ve ever heard, with the trio up to tempo and sounding entrancing. Where Dvořák actually marks “meno mosso”, Golschmann pulls right back to a steady waltz tempo. It seems to work. In the finale there are no tricks – the more lyrical theme is kept moving. This is a very fine piece of conducting.
Contrasting with all this, the second movement is very broad. Just to stay with versions I’ve discussed in this “Forgotten Artists” series, Golschmann takes 13:09 compared with Ackermann’s 10:32 and Rignold’s 11:35. It is difficult not to respond to such a heartfelt rendering – though some distinguished critics haven’t seen it that way. I must say I’m inclined to put it among my favourite “New Worlds”. The recording is quite good for the date but at the climaxes the balances are sometimes unusual. At the end of the third movement, for example, the “Swanee river” theme doesn’t ring out on the brass. It’s difficult to say if this was intended by the conductor, whether the engineers are at fault, or if this is a case where the speed of the sessions proved disadvantageous.
In the Romanian Rhapsodies, Golschmann keeps the dance rhythms constantly present. He has been accused of rigidity on this account, but I find this criticism incomprehensible when there is such a delightful lilt and such evident enjoyment by all concerned. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed the first Rhapsody more. In the second, Golschmann makes the most of the characteristic sound of the Vienna strings as they take up there big melody near the beginning. He had me wondering if this Rhapsody isn’t actually the better of the two. Of course, some may hanker after the expressive nudging of arch-manipulators like Silvestri and – in the first Rhapsody only – Scherchen. They should note that Golschmann is much closer in style and spirit than either of these to Enesco’s own interpretations, set down in Paris for Remington in 1951. I suppose you could say that Golschmann’s performances suggest Léhar more than any gypsy spirit, but oddly enough, so do Enesco’s.
Only five of the seven numbers from Golschmann’s “Gayaneh” selection overlap with the eleven on Fistoulari’s famous Everest disc, which I have discussed in my article on that conductor. Strangely, the “Adagio” is missing, but those were pre-Kubrick days. Where comparisons can be made, tempi are often identical – just one second’s difference between the two “Sabre Dances”, for instance. Despite this, Fistoulari’s conducting has a coiled-spring tension where Golschmann’s spells relaxed enjoyment. I actually found myself liking the “Sabre Dance” in his hands. On the other hand, Golschmann’s “Lezginka” perhaps sounds a little too easy-going alongside Fistoulari’s braying brass. Elsewhere, the differences do not seem to suggest any preference between the two. My own preference would be not to listen to this music at all ….
On the other hand, I’d lived my life thus far without meeting Kabalevsky’s “The Comedians” and I found these pieces – the selection is a short one – extremely charming, even enchanting in their childlike simplicity. Golschmann’s conducting is again based on lilting rhythms and relaxed bonhomie, and sounds to me ideal.
Not long after this came an important batch of recordings with the violinist Mischa Elman. In terms of maximum usage of session time, they Elman and Golschmann were evidently kindred souls. On 27 May 1959 they set down the Mendelssohn Concerto, the Lalo Symphonie Espagnole – omitting its middle movement, as older performers tended to do – and began the Saint-Saëns Introduction et Rondo Capriccioso. The latter was finished on 2 June, the rest of the session being spent on the Khachaturian Violin Concerto. On an unspecified date in 1960 they came together again for three baroque violin concertos: the Bach E major, Vivaldi’s op.12 no.3 and the Nardini E minor, in a version with doubtfully authentic wind parts added. This latter trio is another recording claimed as a public performance by Quonten and Guillet, but which does not appear to be so.
Once upon a time there were three pupils of Leopold Auer – I mean, of course, three in particular, since many, many Auer pupils had major careers. These three in particular were called Jascha, Mischa and Toscha. The first, Jascha Heifetz, is known to all and sundry, though he is also a “violinists’ violinist”, since there can be few if any violinists who would not envy his total security. Interpretatively, he is probably the first of the older school who seems to us a “modern” violinist.
Toscha Seidel was better known to older generations than most of them knew, since he succumbed early to the temptation of Hollywood, and is to be heard playing on the soundtracks to many old films. Apart from this, his recorded legacy is small.
Mischa Elman (1891-1967) is also, and more exclusively, a “violinists’ violinist”, in a quite different way from Heifetz. In his youth he was known as “the fastest violinist in the world”, though I doubt if people prized him principally for that even then. He made quite a few mono recordings for Decca in the early 1950s – I have commented on his Bruch Second Concerto in my article on the conductor, Anatole Fistoulari. By the time of these Vanguard recordings he was getting on for seventy, and no longer the fastest violinist in the world, though he could still be a pretty damn nimble one where necessary. But that is not the point, if it ever was. Uniquely, he makes the violin speak, he makes you listen to every note and he gets an individual colour and intensity into every one of those notes. In order to do this, he plays in a manner that we now associate with a much earlier generation. Even in swift passages, he does not hesitate to claw back the tempo and drift into a self-communing reverie. In slow melodies, he plays with a freedom that may remind us of blues more than anything else. He does not hesitate to pause on a single note. His use of portamento goes beyond the stylish slide. He makes generous application of slow glissandi, and often attacks the note itself from below, sliding into it as it develops, again like a blues singer. The result is utterly hypnotic. I won’t go so far as to say there’s nothing like it, because that would require a completer knowledge of the recorded violin than I have. What I can say is that we can hear, in fairly good stereo recordings – excellent as far as the violin itself is concerned – a style of playing that we would otherwise have to experience through the crackle of shellac.
To take a more sternly musicological view, the least controversial recordings must be the Lalo and the Saint-Saëns, since this is music written at a time when, if this was not the only style of playing around, it was one which the composers might reasonably have allowed for. I should think that anyone who got to know the Mendelssohn from this recording would thenceforth find every other version impossibly straitlaced, not an advisable situation to be in. Provided you listen to it just once in a while, its sheer speaking qualities can hardly fail to move.
The Khachaturian is an interesting case, since to all effects Elman is applying a style that belonged to the past even when the concerto was written. We have versions conducted by the composer which prove conclusively that he meant something quite different. At Elman’s first entry, he starts slowing down where others forge on in the manner of an obsessive toccata. Your reaction might be that this is an old man fumbling for the notes, but how he makes you listen! The lyrical melodies – and even the main theme in the finale – are slowed down to a crawl, yet that nagging, wheedling tone gives the music an expressive power it just doesn’t have in other versions. I actually enjoyed the music! Maybe this is a Khachaturian Violin Concerto for people who don’t like the Khachaturian Violin Concerto, but then, I don’t like it myself. Except here. I can only say that, if Khachaturian himself ever heard this recording, I hope he had the grace to paraphrase Brahms’s comment on the Dvořák Cello Concerto: “Why didn’t somebody tell me a violin concerto like this could be written? I’d have written one myself long ago”.
The baroque concertos are another special case. Outer movements are very slow and I have to say I wondered, in the first movement of the Nardini, whether this was a heavy-handed leg-pull, a deliberate self-parody. The violin speaks and slithers as Elman twists the tempi to do everything you might have expected of him, and then more. Slow movements are lavishly cossetted and are convincing if you can set pre-conceptions aside. A harpsichord is used only in the Bach, and so far distant that at first I thought it was not there, then I wondered if I was hearing a harpsichord or someone laying out the cutlery in a canteen the other end of the corridor. But in a few places, where the orchestra is very much thinned down, it is unmistakably a harpsichord.
Golschmann was an inspired choice of conductor and he does a marvellous job. Not only does he guess Elman’s every next move, sticking to him like a limpet – though this is remarkable in itself. He actually seems to share totally the spirit of the interpretations. A lot of the success of these recordings is due to this fact. Elman’s extreme flexibility sounds natural because the orchestra is always with him. They would have sounded forced and mannered if the orchestra was continually getting out of step, or even if the sheer cleverness of the conductor in holding it all together had been more obvious. As it is, this is a unique group of recordings which every violinist and violin fancier should know.
Golschmann made one further recording in 1959, on 1 September. This was a version of Brahms’s Fourth Symphony that is again claimed as live by Quonten and Guillet. Again, I can hear no audience noises to suggest this is so, but this time I did notice certain features which would have been more admissible in a one-off live performance than on disc. Things are scrappy at the beginning and improve as the music goes on, conductor and orchestra evidently striking up a relationship. In the first movement in particular, there are some spurts into a faster tempo, quickly clawed back. Noticeably, too, the strings are not numerous. Either that or the microphones have given undue prominence to the front desks. The balance is also a bit top-oriented.
So much for the drawbacks. The pluses are considerable and significant.
For Golschmann, Brahms is essentially a melodist. Right through, he sees to it that the melodic phrases are warmly, generously sung. But he does not wallow in them. As you will hear at the beginning, he combines enjoyment of the melody with a sense of onward movement. And, like many conductors of earlier generations, including Brahms’s own, so far as we can tell, he lets the tempo adjust itself from moment to moment to give full rein to the melody. In the third movement, the way he comes in and out of his basic tempo is masterly. In the second, after an unusually spelt-out, fanfare–like opening, everything flows beautifully. In the finale, Golschmann actually slows down less than many for the famous flute solo. Even if he does seem to be living for the moment, Brahms’s structure is able to take care of itself. It is in the first movement that one gets the impression, here and there, of an interpretation busked on the spot, probably because it was. As a once-off, it is difficult to resist such warmth even here. This is the movement that might prove troublesome on repeated hearings.
But I must stress the ardent generosity of it all. This is not introspective Brahms, tragic Brahms still less. There are many paths to Brahmsian excellence and I wouldn’t like to pit one against the other too much. Certainly, if Brahms sometimes seems to you a grumpy, pedantic old sobersides or, in this symphony, obsessively tragic, Golschmann might be your point of entry. If, like myself, you don’t think these things, but sometimes wonder why so many conductors are doing their darnedest to make you think them, then Golschmann might not be your choice for a Great Experience with capital letters. But I think that next time I just want to enjoy the symphony, I could well come here (Vanguard SRV 116).
In the same year that Golschmann was aiding and abetting Mischa Elman in a very old-fashioned baroque style, he also set down Vivaldi’s complete “La Cetra” with Paul Makanowitzky, Willy Boskovsky (in no.9, which requires two violinists) and a nicely whittled-down Vienna State Opera Orchestra (SRV 159 SD). According to the Quonten/Guillot discography, just four of them were recorded live at the Baumgarten Casino, Vienna, but in fact all 12 were issued and none of them seem live to me. I imagine that Quonten and Guillot have correctly traced a public performance of four of the concertos as an offshoot of the recording project, but have confused this with the recording sessions.
Golschmann’s track record in baroque music was hardly an impressive one. There was the weird Corelli arrangement back in 1945, the Bach concerto with Gould in 1958 (with more to come) and the Elman items just discussed. And yet these are performances that stand up pretty well even today. The orchestra is not too numerous, there’s a harpsichord well present, and quite busy at times, textures are clean and clear, outer movements are buoyant but not over-driven, middle movements are expressive without undue romanticism.
To what extent this is Makanowitsky’s doing is anyone’s guess. My guess is that while, with outsize personalities like Gould and Elman, Golschmann fed them the accompaniment they wanted, with Makanowitzky a democratic decision was reached that this was how they wanted to do it.
Not that Makanowitzky was all that minor an artist. Born in Stockholm to Russian parents in 1920 he studied with Galamian and Thibaud. A child prodigy, he made his debut in Paris in 1929. His New York debut followed in 1937. In 1942, though still a Swedish subject, he decided to fight in the war for America, thus becoming a US citizen. His solo career resumed after the war and he was particularly noted for the duo he formed with the pianist Noël Lee between 1954 and 1964. They recorded the sonatas of Bach, Beethoven and Brahms together. From 1966 he concentrated on teaching, his posts including the Juilliard School and the Curtis Institute. He retired from performing in 1967, taught at the University of Michigan until 1983 and died in 1998.
Makanowitzky’s style is beautifully clean with an effortless flow of silvery tone. A baroque specialist in the second decade of the 21st century might be sniffy about even his unexaggerated, well-controlled vibrato. If you’re happy with good, lively performances on modern instruments where everybody seems to be enjoying the voyage of discovery, this version might still please you as well as any.
The interesting question is, would Golschmann have conducted Vivaldi like this twenty years earlier, or was his discovery of a fairly authentic baroque style a late one? We do not know, but it is interesting to note that in 1937, in St. Louis, he gave the first known performance of a concerto for strings by Domenico Scarlatti, from a manuscript found in the British Library. So maybe he had always been attracted to this repertoire.
May 1960 saw Golschmann setting down three more popular romantic works: the Berlioz “Symphonie Fantastique” and a Mussorgsky pairing of “Pictures at an Exhibition” and “Night on the Bald Mountain”, in the usual versions by Ravel and Rimsky-Korsakov respectively.
The relatively few works recorded suggests that it had occurred to someone that, by taking a little more time, pretty good records might become superb ones. In the two main pieces, there is no sense of busking or improvisation. The orchestral playing is on a high level and great care has evidently been taken on articulation, phrasing and colour.
The Berlioz has been compared to Paray. It is a lean, classical interpretation, fiery and forward-moving but also appreciative of the songful beauties of the middle movement. The worse that can be said of it is that, as Berlioz’s opium dreamer gets more and more out of sync with the world, the performance, while immensely vital, maintains a certain classical reserve. This is a valid view, in that the hero’s crazed dreams are set against a background of normality. In the last resort, Golschmann does not delve into the depths of Berlioz’s soul as does Vladimir Delman or play out a psycho-drama in the manner of Klemperer. But this symphony has many facets and Golschmann offers a well-nigh perfect realization of his particular viewpoint.
The foursquare strut given to the louder of Mussorgsky’s “Promenades” is initially off-putting. But it has to be taken in conjunction with Golschmann’s truly superb and imaginative characterization of the pictures themselves. In “The Old Castle”, his swiftish tempo, allied to strong dynamic shading, completely removes the longueurs of this piece. This is the finest I’ve heard, even including the Delman I praised in a previous article. Like Delman, too, his “Children playing in the Tuileries” are affectionate rather than cheeky. A particular highlight is “Two Polish Jews”, who truly spit bile in all directions. “The Market Place in Limoges” is driven hard. All in all, a splendid, even wonderful performance.
Was “Night on the Bald Mountain” an unplanned space-filler? It’s good, but this is more like the free-wheeling busker we know from other Golschmann performances. The first part lives dangerously, even arousing the feeling that unplanned ventures have their virtues. The final section, while nicely enough done, is generic in its response to phrasing and colour if you set it alongside any of the slow sections of “Pictures”. A fine disc, all the same.
Still in May 1960 – the 7th – Vanguard had Golschmann back in the USA to record Roy Harris’s “Folksong Symphony” with the American Festival Orchestra – whatever that was (VRS 1064). I haven’t heard this. On the other hand, the record of Samuel Barber that he set down in New York in December of that year with the Symphony of the Air is probably the disc by which Golschmann – outside the role of accompanist – is chiefly remembered (VRS 2083).
At the time the LP was issued, most of the pieces were first recordings, and remained the only ones until Barber returned to favour a decade or so ago. Critics better versed in this repertoire generally seem to agree that the performances hold up well against later-comers. For my part, I can point out that the well-prepared articulation and attentive dynamic shading of the Serenade op.1 show that we have here the fully engaged Golschmann and not the busker. I cannot imagine the “Music for a Scene from Shelley” packing a stronger punch and the succinct Essay no.2 likewise gets a strong performance. The Roger DeCormier Chorale make a confident appearance in “A Stopwatch and an Ordinance Map”, a setting of a poem by Stephen Spender which suggests Barber had recently been impressed by Stravinsky’s “Oedipus Rex”. But the gem of the record is the nine-and-a-half-minute opera, with a libretto by Menotti, “A Hand of Bridge”. Various staged versions of this – with various kinds of accompaniment – can be found on the YouTube. They all lead to the conclusion that Golschmann steered an unerring course between smoochy nightclub jazz, neo-classical Stravinsky, Broadway and neo-romanticism, whereas all the others seem to tend too much in one direction or another. None of the singers are known to me, but the soprano Patricia Neway soars lusciously when needed and the others – Eunice Alberts (contralto), William Lewis (tenor) and Philip Maero (baritone) – are clear with the words and know their business.
Golschmann was soon back in Vienna. In 1961 and 1962 he set down Mendelssohn’s “Italian” Symphony, with some “Midsummer Night’s Dream” pieces (SRV 122), Bloch’s Concerto Symphonique, curiously coupled with the Litolff Scherzo and played by Marjorie Mitchell, Bloch’s Violin Concerto coupled with Bartòk’s First, played by Roman Totenberg and Schoenberg’s “Pierrot Lunaire” with Ilona Steingruber. The performances by Roman Totenberg (1911-2012) are held in considerable esteem by violin fanciers, but the only recording from this group I have heard is the Bloch Concerto Symphonique.
Marjorie Mitchell (1935-2012) made a number of concerto recordings in the 1960s, mostly conducted by her husband William Strickland. These included a pair by Mozart, the Grieg and Rachmaninov’s second, but more typically straddled the quite rare and the very rare: Field’s first two concertos, the Delius, the Britten, MacDowell’s second, Busoni’s Indian Fantasy, concertinos by Piston and John Alden Carpenter, a concerto by Walter Ross and a truncated version of Bortkievitch’s first. No solo repertoire is listed that I can find. She certainly had the technique to encompass Bloch’s quite heavy writing with a full, rounded tone and manages the quieter moments nicely. I wouldn’t go so far as to describe her touch as magical, but maybe this is due to the way Bloch writes for piano. The combination of strenuous bludgeoning and obligatory relaxation leaves an overall impression of drabness, and I don’t really think the performers are to blame.
In a disc of arias from Russian operas, set down on 1st May 1963, Golschmann and the Vienna State Opera Orchestra – with a small choral contribution in one aria – accompanied the soprano Netania Davrath (VRS 1114). Shorter arias from Glinka’s “Life for the Tsar”, Borodin’s “Prince Igor” and Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Sadko” and “The Snow Maiden” were followed by a more ambitious piece from Tchaikovsky’s “The Queen of Spades” and the Letter Scene from “Eugène Onegin”.
Netania Davrath was born in Ukraine in 1931. Her family emigrated to Israel in 1948. She then moved to the United States, where she studied at the Juilliard School with Jennie Tourel. She died in 1987.
Davrath’s reputation rests almost exclusively on a small group of recordings she set down for Vanguard. A video of her singing Villa-Lobos’s Fifth Bachianas Brasileiras with Bernstein can be found on YouTube. She must have done other things, but nobody seems to know about them. Nay more; her reputation rests essentially on her recording of the complete set of Canteloube’s “Songs of the Auvergne”, which has attained iconic status. The suspicion that her girlish timbre, so frankly gorgeous in the middle upper register so long as she didn’t push the dynamics beyond a mezzo forte, was ideally matched to the innocent, pastoral pleasures of Canteloube’s Auvergne but to little else, is not allayed by a hearing of this disc.
Best is the “Sadko” aria, its gentle folk-tones initially suggesting that there may be other ways of singing this repertoire than the full Vishnevskaya treatment. Warning bells come when an obviously close mike setting fails to discover that she has any lower register worth mentioning. So far, so fairly good. But even the gentlest of operatic arias tend to require some sheer heft somewhere along the line to ram them home – that’s what they’re there for. And that’s where Davrath is found floundering, shrill for lack of real body to the voice and uncertain of pitch.
Likewise, the aria from “The Snow Maiden” is utterly delightful at the beginning, redolent of the vernal charm of Canteloube’s country girls. But drama intrudes, and Davrath is once more over-parted. The Glinka and Borodin pieces have the same flaws as the “Sadko” aria, but writ large because the parts that call for heft are larger and longer. And sadly, the Tchaikovsky pieces are just non-events. The spirit was willing, no doubt, but if you haven’t got the voice, you haven’t got the voice. Our editor Rob Barnett will be saddened to read this – he argues as counsel for the defence here.
Golschmann is most tactful, concentrating on gentle, wistful poetry and pastel colours rather than anything more visceral. Once again, it’s Tchaikovsky who loses out most. The suggestion of blandness from the conductor doesn’t help and one longs for someone like Vladimir Delman to take the orchestra by the scruff of its neck. For what it’s worth, the disc had a very dusty write-off from Lionel Salter (Gramophone 1/1969) on its first UK appearance. Salter allowed that Davrath had “a pretty voice”, but felt that “in this repertoire she is totally out of her depth, both interpretatively and technically … she has only a minute range of colour and little power of expansion for climaxes”. He also objected to some “uneasily placed high notes”. For good measure, he added that the orchestral playing was “often untidy” and Golschmann “pedestrian”.
After a four-year hiatus, Golschmann returned to Vienna in 1967 for two sessions with “Toscanini’s tenor” Jan Peerce (1904-1984). One disc was dedicated to excerpts from “Fiddler on the Roof”, in which Peerce made his Broadway debut not long afterwards, the other to Jewish songs. Of these, I’ve heard only “Ven ich bin a Rothschild” from the former. I haven’t investigated Peerce’s work very much but I am familiar with his Riccardo in “Un Ballo in Maschera”. He certainly wasn’t the most alluring Riccardo of his time, but he was able to bring off Riccardo’s tittering laughter very neatly and absolutely in tempo. I mention this because here, too, he inserts a few vocal gags, while maintaining strict time. It’s a more subtle performance than most others. If only it had sounded a little more spontaneous.
Golschmann ended his recording career with Columbia, Bach and Glenn Gould. With the Columbia Symphony Orchestra in the 30th Street Studio, New York, they set down the 3rd (2 May 1967), 7th (4 May 1967), 2nd and 4th (both 10-12 February 1969) Concertos.
Obviously, the sort of relatively good baroque manners essayed by Golschmann in “La Cetra” would have met a stony reception from the soloist. The strings sound a pretty massive presence, though this may also be the result of close recording, since we hear individual vibratos at times. At their best, these performances have an animation, élan and sense of joyous living that carries all before it. The first movement of no.4 is quite wonderful in this respect. Unfortunately, they aren’t always at their best. The long first movement of no.2 is a hard-hitting, doggedly bludgeoning affair, with all the allure of a pneumatic drill. The dividing line between hits and misses can seem a small one. The finale to no.7 starts out doggedly then, about half-way through, with a very slight increase in speed – maybe a different take – it becomes animated.
Golschmann’s own contribution, for better or for worse, seems to reflect and abet Gould’s own mood of the moment. They certainly connive in two weirdo slow movements – those of no. 4 and, to a slightly lesser extent, no. 2. Here Gould’s brittle shaping of the piano line is contrasted with the lush vibrato, Mantovani-style, of the accompanying strings. If Mantovani himself had been conducting, one could write it off as a meeting of two incompatible minds. From all we know about Gould and, by now, about Golschmann too, it seems more likely that they amused themselves no end dreaming up the most perverse effects that could be extracted from the music.
Legend has it that Gould, after one Bach Concerto set down with Bernstein, preferred working with Golschmann, who was less likely to get uppity over interpretation. So I turned with some curiosity to the Bernstein collaboration – Concerto no. 1. I can’t say I like it particularly and they manage to be fairly dogged in the first movement. In the slow movement Bernstein seems to think he’s conducting late Shostakovich – a far cry from Golschmann’s Mantovani. Here and in the finale I sense a creative engagement with the music on the part of the conductor which is a world apart from the admirable musicianship of a Golschmann, however inappropriately that creative engagement is applied here.
One other collaboration with Gould has been preserved and it is, so far as I know, our only opportunity to see Golschmann in action. On 15th November 1967, with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Gould and Golschmann set down Richard Strauss’s “Burleske” for CBC Television.
If Golschmann rather than Gould is your principal interest – not very likely unless you are writing an article about the former – you’ll have to wait patiently. Apart from the close-ups of Gould himself whenever playing, the camera roves freely among the orchestra, dominated by a magnificently-bearded timpanist, and we’re about five minutes in before someone remembers that there’s a conductor too. Thereafter we get a fair opportunity to study his technique, with both close-up front views and longer views from the side of the orchestra. All shots are taken during forte passages, however, so we do not see how he conducted quieter, more expressive moments. One oddity is that the camera twice catches him wearing a pair of glasses which he promptly takes off and puts in his breast pocket. A clue that, as was Gould’s custom, there is mere cutting and editing here than we are supposed to realise.
Golschmann was by now 74, but he still retained a pretty flamboyant upbeat. The actual downbeat is very precise, though, and the side-shots show that it is the sort of beat that leaves the orchestra in no doubt as to where in the bar he is. An ideal technique, I daresay, for bringing off the sort of semi-rehearsed, busked interpretations he often favoured.
Not that there is anything busked here. Gould seems very much into the music and gives a strong account concentrating more on its symphonic qualities than anything very jokey. I have fond memories of Shura Cherkassky romping through the piece with feline enjoyment in Edinburgh, and playing cat-and-mouse with a hapless Antony Hopkins conducting (more or less) the SNO. Nevertheless, this is one of the least controversial Gould performances, and a very fine one too.
So what overall conclusions can we make about Vladimir Golschmann?
Just for a moment, let us play the game of imagining that history “went the other way”. Let us suppose that George Szell had remained with the Scottish Orchestra for the remainder of his career and Golschmann, uncontested, had taken over the Cleveland orchestra in 1944, remaining there till his death on 1st March 1972. Which city would have had the best orchestra in the 1960s, Glasgow or Cleveland? If the Scottish Arts Council and the municipal authorities of Glasgow and Edinburgh had provided Szell with the funds to hire the personnel he needed (unfortunately, this is unlikely), a priori there is no reason why he should not have done in Scotland what he later did in Cleveland. Bearing in mind that the Cleveland Orchestra was not, in 1944, quite in the same league as the orchestras of Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago and New York, how might it have turned out under Golschmann’s stewardship? The likely answer is that he would not have been found inadequate, but neither would he have transformed the “big four” into the “big five”.
There seems, at root, to have been a certain “laissez-faire” in his artistic make-up that contrasts with the sort of dogged single-mindedness needed to build up a great orchestra, a quality that Szell certainly had. He tended to let an orchestra play as it wanted to, or in the way that came naturally to it, intervening to polish and discipline the result. So his Ravel sounds American in St. Louis and New York, French in Paris, his Enesco sounds Viennese in Vienna. This willingness to do it other people’s way, as we have seen, made him a welcome accompanist when a pricklier customer on the rostrum might actually have been in the soloist’s own interests. A certain inconsistency of approach meant that he might busk a Brahms symphony, treat the Franck symphony with extreme freedom and play the Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique with classical discipline.
All the same, some of his recorded performances are extremely fine. I suppose no one would quite put at the top of their list his Sibelius 7, Shostakovich 5th, Prokofief 1st or his Schoenberg Verklaerte Nacht. And yet his versions of these, and for that matter his recording of Vivaldi’s “La Cetra”, stand up remarkably well alongside whatever top version you might choose. In the case of the Franck symphony and the Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique, moreover, I’m inclined to think that he does explore facets of the music that set his recordings apart from the others.
Golschmann’s work for his contemporaries is not to be brushed aside, either. Guillot’s site lists 75 world premières he conducted – 20 by Tansman alone, from “Impressions pour Orchestre” at the Concert Golschmann in 1921 through to “Dyptyque” at Denver in 1970. Many of these premières were of works that were scarcely heard of since, but skimming down the list we find quite a few that have stayed with us: Milhaud’s “Le Boeuf sur le Toit”, “La Création du Monde” and “Saudades do Brasil”, Poulenc’s “Aubade”, Honegger’s “Pastoral d’été”, Antheil’s “Ballet pour instruments mécanique”, Ibert’s “Divertissement”, Casella’s “La Giara”, Copland’s Preamble”, Falla’s “El Retablo de Maese Pedro” and Korngold’s Violin Concerto (with Heifetz). To these are to be added innumerable “local” premières. In 1928 in Paris, for example, Gershwin attended the European première of his Piano Concerto, with Dimitri Tiomkin (later of Hollywood blockbuster fame) as soloist and Golschmann conducting. All this adds up to a figure of some importance in mid-twentieth century musical life.
Mr. and Mrs. Golschmann’s Art Collection.
Before we take our leave of Golschmann, we should also note that he assembled an art collection of some importance, mainly dedicated to painters operating in the same milieu as the composers he advocated during his Parisian years. This collection was shown, possibly for the first time, in Cincinnati in 1947 while the Golschmanns were spending their summer in Europe. The notice for the exhibition states that the collection had begun ten years previously and contained works by Braque, Matisse, Modigliani, Picasso and Rouault. In 1950 it was reckoned that Golschmann’s 27 Picassos amounted to the largest private collection of this artist’s work in the world (Globe-Democrat, 3 March 1950). Of the Picassos in Golschmann's collection, Philip Guston remembered “the double heads, those disturbing metamorphic images that reflected Picasso's own weariness with the calm classicism that preceded them” (Ashton, Dore. A Critical Study of Philip Guston. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990). The collection was shown again at the Baltimore Art Museum in 1958. By his time it was apparently causing some marital friction. In a letter to Joseph Pulitzer III, Golschmann related that Odette wanted him to sell half of it in order to pay for the interior decoration she thought suitable for their summer flat in Paris. He added that they were talking of divorce and he had offered her half the collection (Daniel W. Pfaff: No Ordinary Joe, A Life of Joseph Pulitzer III, University of Missouri Press, 2005). Maybe Golschmann was just joking. Anyway, the couple stayed together, but what about the collection?
After Golschmann’s death, Odette donated two African masks – another speciality of the collection – to the St. Louis Art Museum. The rest seems to have been dispersed by sale, so perhaps Odette got her interior decoration after all. Occasional traces of the Golschmann collection crop up in exhibition and auction catalogues. We learn that the Modigliani was “La Robe Noire” (1918). It is now in a private collection. The Braque was “Bouteille, verre et compotier de fruits” (1930). This was held for some time in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection in Lugano and was then sold in New York in 1976. Golschmann’s love of art lives on in his great-niece, the New York-born artist Nicole Emanuel who recalls among her formative experiences “drawing with her great-uncle Vladimir Golschmann”.
1. Thank you Mr Howell for the in-depth analysis of the conductor Vladimir Golschmann and his numerous recordings. I was quite pleased with the coverage of the St. Louis items on the Columbia, RCA and Capitol labels. The reviews of the 78 rpm sets were especially welcome, as these performances, some of his finest, have been more or less forgotten over the years. Also, Mr. Howell was most kind in referencing me in relation to some of the discs noted. His article mentions my "Mid-West Tour" series of 78 and LP transfers I have done over the years. That series was an outgrowth of several transfers made for my own use and subsequently offered to collectors on a number of discussion boards and blog sites.
For readers who would like to hear those transfers, they are available for download from my mediafire account. The address is https://www.mediafire.com/folder/aau6ljm11w51d/St._Louis_Symphony_Orchestra
2. The Guillot/Quonten Discography
I have been contacted by M. René Quonten, who has kindly clarified a few points.
The discography appearing on the Golschmann site of M. Nicolas Guillot is the work of M. Quonten. There seems to have been a misunderstanding over live versus studio recordings. In fact, all of the recordings claimed as live on the site, but which did not sound live to my ears, are studio recordings, and were so listed in M. Quonten’s own notes. Golschmann’s “official” discography therefore contains no live recordings. We hear him live in the private issue of Beethoven’s 4th Concerto played by Eloise Polk and in the various broadcast retrievals that have emerged since the conductor’s death.
Regarding the incredible amount of music apparently set down on May 1st 1958, the Dvorak “New World” was actually recorded on 10th May 1958. This still leaves an unrealistic amount of music to be recorded on a single day. M. Quonten points out that the date is that given by Michael Grey’s discography, viewable at the CHARM site. He suggests that 1st May is the starting date for sessions that would have continued for at least one day more. This also applies to other dates that seem too full.
M. Quonten also points out that the date of 1960 for the three baroque concertos set down by Mischa Elman is the date of issue, so the recording is likely to have been made in 1959 (alongside the other Elman recordings).