Beginning with the 1924-1925 season, Koussevitzky was director of the Boston Symphony for 25 seasons, 1924-1949, and brought the Boston Symphony Orchestra to a new level of international fame, with consistent excellence. Koussevitzky also provided the musicians with a new level of income security by expanding the season. Beginning in 1936, Koussevitzky further expanded the orchestra's activity with the Tanglewood Festival during summers. The Tanglewood Music Festival had its beginnings in 1936 when Koussevitzky brought the orchestra to the Tanglewood estate for a series of concerts. In 1940, Koussevitzky started what became known as the Tanglewood Music Center, an educational experience held each summer for promising young musicians, with master classes and multiple performance opportunities. During his tenure in Boston, Koussevitzky was a leading advocate of new music, commissioning a long list of now-famous works. Koussevitzky founded the Koussevitzky Music Foundation in 1942 to commission and promote new music. Koussevitzky's many commissions, such as the Bartok (1943), Benjamin Britten’s (1944-1945), Aaron Copland’s Symphony no 3 (1944-1946), Arnold Schoenberg’s (1947), and others. One controversial aspect of Koussevitzky's art was his use of a pianist (usually or even the full orchestra, to play new scores, so that he could hear and master them. Most other conductors study the scores directly, but a facility to hear the music from reading the score was apparently was not a gift granted Koussevitzky (but of course he could read a symphonic score). Yet, Koussevitzky was an inspired performer, one of the greats of a great age, as still shown by his recorded legacy. Koussevitzky also had a broad repertoire, including an open attitude to contemporary music. As a conductor, Koussevitzky made relatively fewer alterations to the composer's score, unlike, for example, Stokowski or Mengelberg. During his tenure, Serge Koussevitzky and the Boston Symphony made a long series of very successful 78 RPM recordings which are still enjoyed today on CD. Serge Koussevitzky made a long-lasting impact on the Boston Symphony. Harry Ellis Dickson in his book Gentlemen, More Dolce, Please noted:
This is the only complete Mahler symphony where we can compare and contrast recordings by the two conductors most closely associated with Mahler's work in his lifetime: Willem Mengelberg and Bruno Walter. Mengelberg sat in the audience in Amsterdam in 1904 to hear Mahler conduct the symphony with the Concertgebouw Orchestra twice in the same concert. He also attended the rehearsals, discussed the work with Mahler, and made copious notes in his score with Mahler's co-operation. Mahler in turn had a very high opinion of Mengelberg's conducting of his music so any recording by the Dutchman must carry a degree of authenticity but with the caveats that need to be applied to that word in this context. Whether what we hear in the "live" concert recording from November 1939 (Archipel ARPCD006) can be said to represent Mahler's own wishes is another question. I would only point out that by this time twenty-eight years had passed since Mahler's death and Mengelberg, a conductor known for a very expressive style, must have developed his interpretation in those years however much it may have been influenced by Mahler to start with. However, I think we can say this recording gives us a window into the way the generation nearest to the composer saw and performed his works.
The CD of the concert (DG 431 768) remains only a grim deathbed memory, best forgottenin favor of more vital souvenirs of a fabulous career. Bernstein's true final legacy liesin the valediction of his late recordings, which exemplify all he had lived for as anartist and as a human being. Ever the egoist, Bernstein tried to thwart death through afinal concert and to defy mortality through the permanence of recordings. Ever theexplorer, Bernstein's final records transcended tradition to blaze musical paths that noprevious conductor had dared to attempt. Ever the teacher, Bernstein imparted a greatfinal lesson through his deeply inspired and passionate interpretations of power,conviction and truth. Ever the visionary, Bernstein devoted himself to a musical ecstasythat would inspire the artistic outlook of future generations. And ever the humanitarian,Bernstein poured every last drop of his life into the redemptive power of music for thesake of all mankind.
Timothy Genis was born in California in 1966. As a student, he played in the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra. Interestingly, as a student timothy Genis was a member of the San Francisco Boys’ Chorus and participated in the performances of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony that opened Davies Hall in 1981 under Edo de Waart. Timothy Genis was also a Fellow at the Tanglewood Institute. Then Genis studied at the Eastman School of Music, and while there also played in the Rochester Philharmonic. The then played in the Hong Kong Philharmonic. Studying at the Juilliard School, he also played with the Radio City Music Hall Orchestra. Timothy Genis then went to the Honolulu Symphony 1991-1993. Then in May, 1993, Timothy Genis won the audition to become enter the percussion section of the Boston Symphony. He was first Assistant timpani May 1993-2004, and then advanced to Principal timpani 2004-present.
Toby Oft was born in the Portland, Oregon area on February 16, 1976. His was a musical family, and he began playing trombone, guided by his trombonist father Michael Oft (1946- ), at the age of 6. Toby Oft studied at the Indiana University School of Music (as it was then known), where he earned his BMus. This was followed by Northwestern University (Illinois) MMus. While in the Chicago area at University, Toby Oft was also an active freelance musician. His first professional orchestral job was as Principal trombone of the Florida West Coast Symphony (Sarasota) in September 2002. Oft was then Principal trombone of the Buffalo Philharmonic during about 2004-2006. Then, Toby Oft was named Principal trombone of the San Diego Symphony Orchestra 2006-2008. In 2008, Toby Oft won the very competitive auditions for the Boston Symphony Principal trombone chair. In Boston, Oft was one of the founders of the Boston Symphony Brass Quintet: trumpet, horn, tuba, second trumpet, trombone. Only the 12th Principal trombone of the Boston Symphony since its creation in 1881, Toby Oft continues the rich tradition of excellence of the BSO "Low Brass".
At the same time as the release of the Britten recording, BBC Legends also gave an official release to one by Sir John Barbirolli and the BBC Symphony Orchestra made in Prague in 1967. (BBCL 4014-2). Although Barbirolli was of the "interventionist" school of Mahler conductors his brand of expressionism never sprang from self indulgence. Michael Kennedy found a quotation from Russell in the conductor's papers: "....underneath the passion there should always be that large impersonal survey which sets limits to actions that our passions inspire." There is about his reading of the Fourth a remarkable air of calculation underpinning the emotion that throws a frame around what, under other conductors, might sound like hamming. The feeling that thought and careful planning has gone into every bar and every sound too as this is a recording where the sound of this symphony has been rendered to a more vivid degree than I have heard in a long time. You could also say this is Mahler's Fourth in retrospect from later works. Barbirolli doesn't at all indulge in the excesses of Mengelberg, but he's closer to the Dutchman than many. In the tapes made by William Malloch of the old New York players who played under Mahler himself we hear how the composer would interpret the opening theme of this movement and it's as if Barbirolli had heard this too for in the fourth note you hear the same drag that with Mengelberg is so accentuated it can annoy on rehearing whereas under Barbirolli it has the effect of a rather arch "Once upon a time" and is quite charming. Likewise his rendering of the second theme marked "Broadly sung" where Barbirolli really takes Mahler at his word. But that appears to be the hallmark for the strings, the cellos especially, in this performance. One of the other glories of this recording is the prominence given to woodwinds with some particular phrasing in the oboes and the sound of the bassoon against high flutes in the development especially notable - reminder of Mahler's propensity to pitch highest and lowest against each other that would reach its apogee in the last movement of the Ninth. In sum, I think Barbirolli sees this movement's darker, unhinged side more than most. The pizzicatos and spiky high woodwinds really protrude from the texture.
These concerts, employing most of the musicians of the Boston Symphony, except the section principals, began just after the end of the BSO orchestral season, typically in May. For the first seventy years of the Boston Symphony, until year-around employment was achieved, the Pops season supplied welcome added employment for the Boston Symphony Orchestra musicians.
Ella's Pablo recordings have always existed in the shadow of her Verve material, and with some reason. Ella's Verve material is clearly better. But Ella's Pablo work has not been fairly assessed because it has been judged against impossibly high standards. When compared to her Verve material, Ella's Pablo work reveals significant decline, but when compared to jazz singing more generally, Ella's Pablo work sounds much better. If Ella's Verve material had never existed--if she were known only for her Pablo work--she would still be considered a major jazz singer because her 70's output is more impressive than virtually anybody else's.
Rafael Kubelik's recording with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra can be found singly on a Deutsche Gramophon Eloquence release (469 6372), otherwise it's in the boxed set of his complete cycle. As always Kubelik's tempi are on the quicker side compared with others, but this is never at the expense of inner detail, quite the opposite in fact. Early in the first movement notice the solo clarinet chugging away around the strings and listen also to how Kubelik sours the music in the Development. He has a great line in the grotesque with the bassoon especially memorable and, as the central crisis approaches, notice too the squeals of flutes and oboes. In fact at this point Kubelik is perhaps the most harsh and most abrasive of all. Kubelik is another conductor who realises this symphony needs a particular treatment, a light touch in front of the grotesques for them to make a more distinctive mark. The climax on the dissonance is superb with the bass line especially accentuated by the sharp recording against the piquant woodwind. Then, when the music resumes, the effect is like that of a day dream passing, which seems to me to be what Mahler intended. The second movement follows on from the kind of mood Kubelik is trying to portray in the first with the solo violin balanced forward to make its "out of tune" effect well. Then the Trios strike a very four-square pose with clipped woodwind contributions attended to in a performance that radiates attention to detail right down to really malevolent clarinets at the close. A fine prelude to the lovely performance of the slow movement where Kubelik maintains the same kind of singing line as Walter. He even brings in the movement at around the same overall timing as Klemperer but by speeding up more in the faster sections gives himself that little more space in the lyrical passages. So his handling of the surprisingly many tempo changes, some of them quite drastic, in a movement too often referred to as the "slow" movement is one of its most remarkable features. Not least the passage between 222 and 282 we noticed under Klemperer where Kubelik is even more convincing in handling the step-by-step increase in tempo. I also want to draw attention to the way Kubelik treats the sound of woodwind against strings in this movement and how they are reproduced in the recording. One early commentator dubbed this delicate sound ("Tone-colour Melody"), a term used later by Schoenberg and that link between these two great Viennese composers never seemed more significant in these passages as interpreted by Kubelik. Again the soprano in this work, Elsie Morrison, fails to really deliver a childlike response in the last movement, but she sings with great meaning and Kubelik seems more anxious than most to mark the relationship between aspects of this last movement and the second. The faster sections also are very impish and the work is rounded of beautifully.
The Klemperer recording wasn't the first Mahler Fourth by the Philharmonia Orchestra of the old era with Walter Legge producing. As early as 1957 Paul Kletzki had made a version which Legge must have felt was going to be hard to equal, even with Klemperer (Royal Classics ROY6468). This must be at the top of the list for bargain hunters as well as a contender irrespective of price. It has always been a favourite of mine and I've always felt it has been overlooked because Kletzki is not a conductor usually associated with Mahler and was never one of the big names. He does superbly well and is supported by an orchestra which, at the time, was at the height of its considerable power. Some would say their response is not Mahlerian enough and I suppose I can see what they mean, but the gains they bring to their account are remarkable and, like the Concertgebouw of 1939, bring us a style of playing now lost. Straight away there is more lift to the first movement than with Klemperer, more bounce and optimism to aid the jocund woodwind - "Legge's Royal Flush", as they were known. Kletzki seems determined to press forward, accentuating a more spiky feel, less likely to lay back and contemplate. In the development this is even more in evidence where the principal horn of Dennis Brain makes a wonderful impression. More details beguile us including the shrieking clarinets as the point of crisis approaches. I think this recording has an almost ideal sound balance for home listening with every detail clear. Though a little age is betrayed by a touch of harshness at the climax even though I loved the tam-tam being allowed full rein. This is followed by a remarkable similarity between the textures of this section and the music of the Third Symphony's third movement, something no other conductor but Kletzki seems to have noticed. An illuminating touch from the conductor, but I think Kletzki draws more out of the textures of this movement generally than Klemperer and can't help but wonder whether Legge realised this. There is a rather veiled quality to Kletzki's account of the second movement which is quite appropriate and refreshing. This isn't at the expense of important details since you can hear the clarinet really chuckling, showing us Kletzki is well aware of the humour in the music that is so often forgotten in the "It's Mahler so it must be depressing or ironic" school of thought. The more inner quality is apparent in the slow movement which emerges as deeply felt and noble with a hint of tragedy. Kletzki’s soprano is Emmy Loose who seems far better suited to this symphony than does Elizabeth Schwarzkopf bringing a more child-like and wide-eyed approach that is more appropriate.