Monday, August 16, 2010

At last the 1948 show

I just couldn't pass this one up when I came across it at a church fair: The Year in American Music, 1948 edition, edited by David Ewen. In its own words, it's "A comprehensive chronicle of major events in the American musical scene amplified by a number of detailed and valuable appendices and checklists". It was a great idea but alas, despite dust-jacket praise from the likes of Virgil Thomson ("A useful reference book, and pleasant to peruse"), this second edition seems to also have been the final one. I'm a sucker for this sort of book - a hindsight-free snapshot of a moment in time. It's a fascinating browse, and I suspect the next several entries in this blog will be devoted to it.
The first two-fifths or so are dedicated to a day-by-day account (not every day) of concerts, premieres, and other musical news from June 1947 to May 1948, beginning with the American premiere of Britten's The Rape of Lucretia and ending with the first modern performance of Pergolesi's Lo frate 'nnamorato (in English, as The Brother in Love). Let's take a look...

June 4. "The Music Critics Circle of New York announced awards for outstanding new compositions by American citizens heard for the first time in New York during the 1946-47 season". The two winners were Copland's Symphony no.3 and Bloch's String quartet no.3; honourable mentions went to Douglas Moore's Symphony no.2, David Diamond's String quartet no.3, and Weill's Street Scene. Also, "Five American chamber-music works, reheard during this period, were singled out as worthy of a permanent place in the repertory", these being Barber's Capricorn concerto, Copland's Sextet, Ives's String quartet no.2, Moore's String quartet no.1, and Piston's String quartet no.2. Not all have received that permanent place, of course: the number of recordings of each listed by Arkivmusic is, respectively, 10, 5, 6, 0, and 0.

August 23. "Margaret Truman, soprano, daughter of the President of the United States, made her concert debut today by appearing as guest artist with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, directed by Eugene Ormandy". Alas, critics were not kind. Mildred Norton in the L.A. Daily News said "Her performance... proved her ill-equipped for any vocal exhibition outside the most kindly and intimate of gatherings".

October 5. Poor old Jean Hubeau. This French composer's Violin concerto in C received its American premiere from Ruggiero Ricci and "was rather universally condemned as weak in imagination and platitudinous in materials". Twelve days later, Arnold Eidus performed Hubeau's Violin sonata in C minor, which was dismissed as "merely old hat".

October 9 saw the beginning of the new season for several orchestras: Stokowski conducted the Philharmonic-Symphony Society of New York in Bach's Sinfonia from Cantata no.156, Brahms' Symphony no.2, Debussy's Nocturnes, and Ravel's Daphnis et Chloe suite no.2; Artur Rodzinski was in Chicago conducting Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor, Brahms' Symphony no.2 again, Copland's Appalachian Spring, and, er, Ravel's Daphnis et Chloe suite no.2. Meanwhile Georgen Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra brought us Weber's Euryanthe overture, Debussy's Nocturnes, Smetana's Moldau, and Brahms' Symphony no.1. Yeah. The following night, Koussevitzky and the Boston Symphony performed Bach's Brandenburg concerto no.1, Hindemith's Mathis der Maler symphony, and Beethoven's Symphony no.5, while in Cincinnati Thor Johnson conducted a Concerto grosso by Vivaldi, Griffes' The White Peacock, Strauss's Don Juan, and Beethoven's Symphony no.3.

October 30. Edith Piaf makes her American debut: "Her authentic repertory of ballads of the unprivileged and the outcast, and her effective and highly individual style and personality not only threatened to start a cult but inspired columns of scholarly comment by some of America's most important music critics".
More to come...

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