February 28, 2010


(Hidemaro Konoye - if it wasn't for that little thing called World War 2 . . )

Hidemaro Konoye, or Viscount Hidemaro Konoye as he was officially referred to, was born into an aristocratic Japanese family. His brother was Prime Minister in 1940. Hidemaro had a degree of obligations in the political world, but his interest was primarily music and bringing Western music, most notably the music of Gustav Mahler, to audiences in Japan. Still, he was the brother of the Prime Minister and that would prove problematic as time wore on.

From the 1920s and 30s he had gained a worldwide reputation and was a frequent guest conductor for numerous symphony orchestras around the world, including appearances with the NBC Symphony prior to the outbreak of World War 2. In fact, he was scheduled to embark on a U.S. tour with the orchestra under the sponsorship of his friend Leopold Stokowski when war broke out and all opportunities suddenly vanished.

Hidemaro recorded a fair number of works during his career, but he was responsible for many more arrangements of works for orchestra as well as performing works unfamiliar in the Far East. The Mahler 4th is probably the best known since it was the first electrical-era recording of any Mahler symphony (although the performance has been criticized for excessive cuts), but he also recorded on several occasions with the Berlin Philharmonic. One of those resulted in the set of discs I'm playing today. A session he recorded in Berlin on April 21, 1938 with the Berlin Philharmonic of the Haydn Symphony Nr. 91. It was briefly available in the UK on Decca via German Polydor but never available in the U.S. - I'm not sure if it's been reissued in Japan in recent years. But in any event, here is my slightly dog-eared set of 78's of the Haydn Symphony Nr. 91 - performed by The Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Viscount Hidemaro Konoye.

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