February 19, 2012

Artur Schnabel - One of the undisputed giants of the music world.

Those rather cumbersome, oversized, disgustingly fragile records again this week. Only instead of by way of France they're local. A weekly program that began life in the late 1920's and continued until the 1950's featured two major orchestras on the West Coast - The San Francisco Symphony and The Los Angeles Philharmonic. Sponsored by Standard Oil this one hour program featured some of the greatest names in the Classical Music World performing live in specially arranged concerts.

This one, originally broadcast on March 4, 1945 featured the Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by their Music Director at the time Alfred Wallenstein with the legendary Artur Schnabel as piano soloist.

The program is pretty mainstream and aimed at the musical novice (there's nothing wrong with that - we all were). Starting with the Overture to Hansel and Gretel by Humperdinck, and the Prize Song from Wagner's Die Meistersinger. Schnabel joins the orchestra in the Schumann Piano Concerto (with a bumpy start) and ends with Dukas' Sorcerer's Apprentice.

Certainly historic in retrospect, but if you looked at the broadcast schedules from most American radio networks at the time who carried Symphonic concerts, it was no big deal. Every major (and many minor) symphony orchestras were regularly broadcast around the country. Some were dedicated to new music, some were dedicated to the meat-and-potatoes repertoire, but all of them were performing a service in introducing our culture to everything that was available. And the airwaves were filled with legendary figures at just about every spot on the radio dial

Something that, sadly, exists only in pockets today. With all this access in recent years you'd think we'd be drowning in an embarrassment of riches these days. But no.

Maybe someday. In the meantime - check out this slice of history. You may have heard of Artur Schnabel and you may have his benchmark series of complete Beethoven Piano Sonatas in your collection. Or maybe you just heard about him and never knew what he sounded like.

Now's your chance.

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