Haydn: Symphony No. 100 in G Major, "Military"
Here's another recording from the Reader's Digest catalogue that the label has never released on CD. The most notable feature of this recording is its conductor, Charles Gerhardt, better known as a record producer than as a conductor. In fact, he refused every invitation to conduct in concert, preferring instead the comparative privacy of the recording studio. He further disguised his presence on the podium on some occasions with the pseudonym Eric Hammerstein.
His first such venture was with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra only a year before he made the recording we present here, when he famously took up his producer's pencil, using it as a baton to direct the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra when the conductor who'd been booked for the session fell ill. Gerhardt saved the session and, in doing so, enhanced his already protean musical skills.
As a graduate of Juilliard Gerhardt was already an accomplished pianist and arranger but it was in the recording studio first as an engineer, then producer, arranger and finally conductor that he clearly felt most at home.
The list of conductors with whom Gerhardt worked is, to say the least, impressive: Boult, Barbiroli, Stokowski, René Leibowitz, Leindsorf, Charles Münch, Fritz Reiner, Horenstein, Kempe, and James Levine. But it was Toscanini, with whom he worked for several years, who first suggested that he should develop his own conducting.
In 1968 RCA commissioned Gerhard to prepare a 15-volume series of Classic Film Scores which included his own arrangement of Korngold's music for the 1942 film 'King's Row'. The composer's son George Korngold, with whom Gerhardt became great friends, produced the entire series. RCA reissued the re-mastered series on CD in 2010/2011.
The success of this series led in 1975 to the first recording of a Korngold opera, Die Tote Stadt, conducted by Eric Leinsdorf and produced by Gerhardt.
Gerhardt's recordings, many of which in the early days were engineered by Decca's Kenneth Wilkinson, are characterised by the clarity and highlighted presence of harps and percussion instruments. If, at times, his recorded repertoire seems overly indulgent, his taste for sentimental and dramatic scoring belies the seriousness of the musician and the man. He knew what gave a recording popular appeal and he enjoyed exploiting the possibilities afforded by studio techniques but he was a fiercely intelligent and independently minded man who, in later life, did not suffer fools gladly or otherwise.
The recording presented here is taken from a mono UK edition of The Reader's Digest 'Treasury of Classical Favourites'. It was recorded in Walthamstow Assembly Hall in London in a two-month period during which Gerhardt and Wilkinson were working flat out at Walthamstow. Between 8th January and 27th February that year, the two spent 36 recording-days in the Assembly Rooms.
produced all these sessions he conducted only one day each
week throughout the month of February. Other works he
conducted include; Vivaldi's Concerto in A minor RV522,
the Hoedown from Copland's Rodeo as well as excerpts from
Billy the Kid and Villa-Lobos's The Little Train of the
Caipira. Whether Gerhardt or, as the record sleeve
suggests, René Leibowitz conducted Grieg's Elegiac Melody
'Last Spring' is unclear. But Gerhardt's performance of
Coleridge-Taylor's Petite Suite de Concert Op. 77 was
never released. Neither was the Chanson de Matin he'd
recorded in his earlier January sessions.
radio host and producer Erik Woods has compiled a 12-hour
online radio tribute featuring the film music of Charles
Cinematic Sound Radio
The header image is courtesy of Charles's friend and confidant, Robert E Benson whose charming Classic CD tribute includes more images and biographical information.
24bit 96Khz transfers from an original mono LP
zipped 194 Meg
The Norwegian conductor Ĝivin Fjeldstad (1903-1983) is probably best known in the UK for the few highly regarded recordings he made with the London Symphony Orchestra, most notably the incidental music to Grieg's Peer Gynt Suites Op.23. Examples of this recording, released on the Decca record label (LXT 5441 mono and SXL 2012 stereo) in the autumn of 1958, are now collectable as much for of the technical excellence of the recording as for the quality of the performances.
Other recordings Fjeldsad made for Decca with the LSO include Fourteen Songs of Sibelius with Kirsten Flagstad (LXT 5444 & SXL 2030) and the Sibelius Violin Concerto with Ruggiero Ricci (SXL2077). All these recordings were in fact recorded at Kingsway Hall London during the same two-week period in February 1958.
Decca invited Fjeldstad back to London early the following year to record Norwegian songs with Flagstad (LXT 5558 & SXL 2145) and the Grieg Piano Concerto with Clifford Curzon (LXT5547 & SXL2173) this time in another of Decca's favoured orchestral recording venues - Walthamstow Assembly Hall.
These recordings certainly endeared Fjeldstad to the British public. So much so that by 1961 he'd taken on the role of directing the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain; a post he maintained until 1974. They perhaps also helped him cement his already well-established reputation back home in Norway where, in 1962, he was appointed Chief conductor and Artistic Director to the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra a role he shared until 1968 with Herbert Blomstedt.
made a number of recordings with the Oslo
Philharmonic, not the least of which was the 1956
radio recording of Götterdämmerung
featuring Kirsten Flagstad and Set Svanholm.
While many of his recordings have been re-released
on CD the Schubert Unfinished that I present here
and Brahms Symphony No. 3, both
commissioned by Reader's Digest, seem to
have been overlooked and neglected.
Little information is available about the Oslo Philharmonic recording of Schubert's Symphony No. 8 beyond the fact that it was made in 1959 and bears a Decca matrix (K80P 4573). This is not in itself surprising since Decca production staff was often engaged to make recordings for Reader's Digest.
most Reader's Digest recordings,
this version of
Schubert's Unfinished appeared
in several constellations as part of a box set;
first in the US and Continental Europe as ' Music of
the World's Great Composers', and some
years later in the UK as 'Treasury of Classical
Favourites'. Unfortunately, it seems to have been
released in stereo only in the US so the version
presented here is the European mono edition.
zipped 203 Meg
Robert Koff, Robert Mann - violin
Raphael Hillyer - viola
Arthur Winograd - cello
The Juilliard String Quartet's cycle of Bartok's 6 string quartets
was the first complete set
performed by one consistent ensemble. Recorded
shortly after performing the cycle in concert on February 28th and
March 28th 1949, it was originally
issued simultaneously on 78rpm
and on three Columbia LPs, (ML-4278,
4279 and 4280).
Aside from their
musical qualities these recordings are
notable early examples of post-war tape recording
These recordings, of which the first two quartets are offered , retain their popularity even after 60 years and continue to garner high praise. Moreover, they are preferred by some to the Juilliard's two more recent recordings of the cycle.
The composer Milton Babbitt, who wrote the programme notes for the 1949 concert performance also wrote a longer article, originally published in the Musical Quarterly, which is available here.
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