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Artur Rodziński (conductor)
At the NBC – Volume 3
Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
Symphony No 100 in G major, ‘Military’, HOB 1:100 (1794)
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
Symphony No 4 in E minor, Op 98 (1884)
Richard Strauss (1864-1949)
Salome – ‘Dance of the Seven Veils’, Op 54 (1905)
NBC Symphony Orchestra/Artur Rodziński
rec. live 18 December, 1937, Studio 8H, New York, USA
Remastered in Ambient Stereo

I was very impressed by the previous release in this series of Rodziński’s radio concerts with the NBC Symphony Orchestra. Not only is the sound of remarkable clarity, but the standards of interpretation and performance are outstanding. The Polish conductor prepared this ensemble for the arrival of Toscanini as the Music Director on his return to the United States; after hearing him conducting at Salzburg, he approved of Rodziński’s disciplined training of this virtuoso orchestra. For its new orchestra, NBC recruited the finest musicians, among whom were: Mischa Mischakoff, William Primrose, Josef Gingold, Ernst Silberstein and William Bell, who were trained by Rodziński for two months before Toscanini’s first concert on Christmas night 1937.

Rodziński (1892-1958) was born in the Croatian city of Split, the son of a Polish army officer, and studied law at Vienna University, then graduated as a Doctor of Music from the Vienna Conservatoire. He served in the Austrian army in Western Ukraine where he was wounded and later studied further in Vienna with Schalk in conducting, Sauer in piano and Schreker in composition. His first appointment was at the Lvov Opera (then in Poland) and then at the Warsaw Opera, where he came to the attention of Stokowski, who invited him to Philadelphia as his assistant. The most successful years of his career were in Los Angeles, Cleveland and New York. During the 1930s, he returned to Europe to conduct the Vienna Philharmonic at the Salzburg Festival. On the debit side, was his abrupt and tyrannical manner with his musicians - as a result of which he lost his positions in New York and Chicago.

Following the war, he returned to Europe for several successful years in Italy and the UK, and was also a guest conductor in South America. Interestingly, when he suggested staging Tristan and Isolde in Naples, the director responded by saying that they could only afford to play it only over two seasons. He was renowned for his interpretation of the Romantic repertoire through to Strauss and Prokofiev; hence it is surprising how fine his conducting is here in one of the ‘London’ symphonies by Haydn.

The opening Adagio opens with grace and elegance in startlingly clear sound. The strings led by Mischakoff are richly eloquent and the Allegro is distinguished by the virtuosi woodwind in a passage decorated by lovely solos from the oboe of Robert Bloom and Augustin Duques on the clarinet before the exhilarating flutes. In the Allegretto, the oboe expresses an appealing idea before the dashing march with a clearly reverberant triangle and the thrilling entry by the trumpet of Bernard Baker. The Minuet is here a delightful dance, with a colourful Trio section. The Finale Presto is blessed with outstandingly disciplined violins playing at a breathless pace, and the triangle may be clearly heard in the celebratory close.

Superb strings and woodwind open the Brahms symphony magnificently and Rodziński ensures dynamic phrasing and rhythm; he avoids portamento in the strings phrasing throughout. Unfortunately, the close of the movement suffers some 90 seconds of tape distortion into the first bars of the Andante moderato. The woodwind is distinctly voiced, heralding a wonderful Romantic idea on the strings. The third movement is dynamic, emphasised by the glorious brass including Armand Ruta on trombone and Albert Stagliano on the French horn. In the finale, Allegro energico e passionato, a stirring chorale is led by the woodwind and Karl Glassman on the timpani. A flute solo by John Wummer heralds a melancholy sequence on the horns before the flute idea briefly returns before the final surge to the splendid climax.

The final piece in this superb radio concert is Strauss’ ‘Dance of the Seven Veils’ from Salome, a work eminently suited to this conductor. It opens spectacularly on the timpani against eager strings heralding an exotic passage with glorious harmonies - one can visualise the whole of this erotically charged dance as the rhythms escalate on the strings, percussion and colourful woodwind to through to its stunning climax.

The CD is in a gatefold cardboard folder adorned by a colour-enhanced photo of Rodziński and Toscanini, with notes on the conductor and the restoration of the original radio tapes by Andrew Rose. The sound quality is astonishingly fine, with beautiful Ambient Stereo throughout all three works and the brief announcements by Milton Cross the NBC announcer. This release is obligatory for all who have the first CDs in this series and are attracted to historical recordings of this glorious period in American music.

Gregor Tassie

Published: November 30, 2022

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