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ARSCLIST  December 2013

ARSCLIST December 2013

Subject:

Re: Houston Symphony/Stokowski recordings, venue

From:

Mark Jenkins <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 9 Dec 2013 12:00:00 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (127 lines)

Here's the answer to the recording locale for the Houston/Stoki recordings, as part of the remembrances of one of the clarinetists in the orchestra at the time.  Part of a forthcoming article/review on the reissues:
 
Mark Jenkins
Countdown Media
 
Maestro Leopold Stokowski's work with the Houston Symphony endures
 
Stokowski's work with Houston Symphony endures through reissued recordings
 
By Colin Eatock
December 8, 2013
 
"All passes - art alone endures," the sobering old saying goes.
But sometimes, art has strange ways of enduring. It can lie dormant for years, as if waiting for the right moment to emerge. Then, when least expected, a forgotten masterpiece can leap into the world reborn.
Four recently reissued CDs of recordings made by the Houston Symphony are exactly this kind of blast from the past. Recorded on the Everest label more than half a century ago, they're a testament to the glorious reign of maestro Leopold Stokowski in Houston.
Stokowski's arrival on the podium of the Houston Symphony in 1955 came about through a combination of luck and quick thinking of the orchestra's president and founder, the irrepressible Ima Hogg.
His coming to Houston was almost accidental," explains Houston Symphony archivist Ginny Garrett. "Ima Hogg was in New York when the orchestra decided to let conductor Efrem Kurtz go. She called Stokowski's agent and asked what he was doing. His agent said Stokowski wasn't doing much. So the orchestra began negotiations with Stokowski. That was at the beginning of February - and by the end of the month they had a signed contract."
If Stokowski "wasn't doing much" in 1955, he'd already accomplished more than most conductors can in three lifetimes.
The English-born conductor (the son of a Polish father and an Irish mother) arrived in America in 1905, to work as a church choirmaster in New York. But he aspired to greater things, and three years later he had landed the job of music director of the Cincinnati Symphony. After four years in Ohio, he snagged a plum position: music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra.
It was in Philadelphia where he famously created the "Stokowski sound," allowing his musicians to breathe and bow freely, rather than play in a precise unison. He took a similarly liberal approach to the scores he conducted, rewriting the music to suit his personal tastes and enhance effect.
Always a showman, Stokowski was constantly on the lookout for new ways raise his own prominence. He recorded and broadcast extensively, and premiered many new works. With his "fabulous Philadelphians," he led the first transcontinental tour of an American orchestra. And he liked to appear in films - famously shaking Mickey Mouse's hand in Disney's "Fantasia."
By the late 1930s, his working relationship with the Philadelphia Orchestra's board of directors began to deteriorate. He left the orchestra in 1941, spending the next decade conducting the NBC Symphony, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra in Los Angeles and making guest appearances around the country.
When "Stoki" (as he was affectionately called) arrived in Houston, he was 73 years old. Nevertheless, he was, as Garrett puts it, "a rock star." His flowing white hair and his magnetic charm made him an object of fascination to concertgoers.
Clarinetist Jeffrey Lerner, who joined the Houston Symphony in 1952, clearly recalls the celebrated maestro.
"Even at his advanced age," Lerner notes, "he had a lot of charisma, and he was extremely knowledgeable. He could spend two, three or four hours at a time conducting new scores. We had some very long rehearsals in those days. We'd heard stories about how tough he could be with orchestral players - but he was very respectful toward all of us."
However, Stokowski had some embarrassingly naive ideas about Houston. Upon arriving, he was eager to meet a "real Texas cowboy" - and he initially hoped to live on a ranch outside the city. (When this idea proved impractical, he took up residence at the Warwick Hotel, now Hotel ZaZa.) And Lerner recounts an occasion when the conductor made a little joke at Houston's expense.
"Once, when he was being driven down Main Street," the clarinetist recalls, "he said, 'This town must be full of sinners because there are so many churches here!'"
Lerner also remembers the Houston Symphony's recording sessions for Everest in 1959 and 1960.
"We recorded in the Music Hall," he begins. "Stokowski liked to record pieces in large sections. He worked with a producer from Everest whom he trusted - and they were always trying to figure out where to make cuts. This was in the days before digital recording, so they were limited as to what was possible. However, Everest had some new recording equipment that was rather avant-garde."
Indeed, the Long Island record company was employing a new technique - recording on 35mm magnetic film, rather than the half-inch tape generally in use at the time. It's thanks to this innovation the reissued recordings sound so vivid.
The four CDs, reissued by Countdown Media and available online, contain performances of big orchestral showpieces, including Béla Bartók's "Concerto for Orchestra" and Alexander Scriabin's "Poem of Ecstasy." Two of the discs are largely devoted to the music of Richard Wagner: excerpts from his "Ring" cycle and his opera "Parsifal."
It's in the Wagner selections, especially, that Stokowski's freewheeling conducting style can be clearly heard. In his hands, the music takes on a fluid quality - and the Houston Symphony sounds lush and bursting with energy.
Just one year after the last Everest recording was made, Stokowski quit the Houston Symphony. As in Philadelphia, he found himself at odds with his orchestra's board of directors: Some felt he was programming too much modern music.
When he resigned, Stokowski said he wanted to be closer to his sons in New York after a bitter divorce from his fifth wife, Gloria Vanderbilt, writes former Houston Post critic Carl Cunningham in his new history, "Houston Symphony: Celebrating a Century."
But tensions came to a head in the 1961-62 season, when, for a guest appearance, Stokowski attempted to present Arnold Schoenberg's massive "Gurrelieder," with mezzo-soprano Shirley Verrett of Texas Southern University. Cunningham writes that after two additional white choirs that were needed for the work declined to participate, the symphony retracted its invitation, "apparently without fully explaining the matter to Stokowski, who publicized it widely."
The incident, Cunningham writes, "became a matter of national embarrassment to the Houston Symphony during the last years of racial segregation."
But in this centennial year of the Houston Symphony, these CDs from the Stokowski era remain timely testament to the orchestra's past glories.
"I think we were a very fine orchestra," Lerner says with pride. "Back then, the orchestra may not have had the depth that it does today, but there were many fine players in it."
Colin Eatock is a composer who covers classical music. He lives in Toronto.
 
-----Original Message-----
From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Tom Fine
Sent: November-18-13 7:56 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] [78-L] PROGRAM Records early LP label info wanted
 
Hi Joe:
 
Good question! I looked in the booklets of the new Everest reissues and it just says "Houston." I also re-checked part II of Lonn Henrichsen and David Patmore's 2007 Everest profile in Classic Record Collector. No info on the Houston recording site. Given that Everest didn't seem to be ambitious in scouting new or different recording venues, my bet would be that the same venue used by Capitol would have been used by Everest.
 
Stokowski also made some Everest records with the "Stadium Symphony Orchestra," which was just NY Philharmonic players acting under a different name so as not to violate the NYPO's recording contract. In any case, those recordings were made at Manhattan Center, also used by Columbia, RCA and Vanguard at various times.
 
By the way, Discogs and all of the other used LP websites show no reissues of the Shostakovich 11th on Everest. There were reissues on Capitol with a different cover, Seraphim (the budget reissue sub-label of Angel in the US), Angel in Europe and Seraphim in the UK with a different catalog number. The original Capitol 2LP set was in a box rather than a gatefold cover and had a separate booklet. Nowhere in the original-issue Capitol 2LP set that I own is there mention of the recording location.
 
-- Tom Fine
 
----- Original Message -----
From: "[log in to unmask]" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Monday, November 18, 2013 7:06 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] [78-L] PROGRAM Records early LP label info wanted
 
 
> Where were the Stokowski/Houston 35mm mag films recorded?
> 
> joe salerno
> 
> On 11/18/2013 4:46 PM, Tom Fine wrote:
>> Hi Mark:
>> 
>> Are you positive that it was the Capitol recording and not one of the
>> several Everest recordings of Stoki and Houston? I suppose it's possible
>> that Bernie Solomon was able to license the Shostakovich 11th from
>> Capitol, but I don't see why Capitol would want to have it in print
>> other than by them. It doesn't add up.
>> 
>> Remember that Stokowski and Houston made several records for Everest,
>> recorded on 35mm magnetic film. But the Solomon orange-label Everests
>> were probably cut from tapes mixed off the films before the original
>> Everest went out of business. According to Lonn Henrichsen's history of
>> Everest that was published in Classic Record Collector, Stokowski and
>> Everest producer Bert Whyte were friends.
>> 
>> Speaking of the Shostakovich 11th, was it reissued on CD beyond the one
>> time EMI put it out in the Capitol classical reissue series? That
>> version was terrible, someone got way overly aggressive with digital
>> noise-reduction, and the end note just cuts off instead of fades out
>> like on the original LP. There are also clearly audible tape dropouts on
>> the CD.
>> 
>> -- Tom Fine
>> 
>> 
>> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Mark Obert-Thorn" <[log in to unmask]>
>> To: <[log in to unmask]>
>> Sent: Sunday, November 17, 2013 11:20 AM
>> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] [78-L] PROGRAM Records early LP label info wanted
>> 
>> 
>>> <<Date:    Sat, 16 Nov 2013 17:07:43 -0500
>>> rom:    John Haley <[log in to unmask]>
>>> ubject: Re: [78-L] PROGRAM Records early LP label info wanted
>>> Hi.  This is off-topic but related.  I recently bought an Everest LP
>>> record
>>> hat is a reissue (unfortunately in "electronic" stereo) of an earlier
>>> apitol mono LP.  I can't recall having seen that before.  Are there more
>>> ike this?   Everest obviously licensed things from other companies, but
>>> rom EMI?
>>> Best, John>>
>>> 
>>> I recall frequently seeing Stokowski's Houston recording of the
>>> Shostakovich 11th for Capitol/EMI issued as a two-LP set on Everest in
>>> cut-out bins during the 1970s and wondering the same thing. In its
>>> later days, Everest did some licensing from other companies (e.g.,
>>> Elman and Renardy releases from Decca/London).
>>> 
>>> Mark Obert-Thorn
>>> 
>>> 
>> .
>> 
> 
> -- 
> Joe Salerno
> 
> 

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