1936 Music Guild Awards. Begun in 1934 by NBC to promote serious music to a mass audience, The NBC Music Guild put together a series of awards for compositions; from Orchestral and Vocal to Chamber music, by new composers and performed by some of the best performing bodies in the U.S. at the time.
The awards for 1936 concentrated on Chamber music and the performers were The Roth String Quartet, The Gordon String Quartet and the newly formed NBC String Quartet. The program, originally broadcast on January 1, 1937 ran over 2 hours.
Rather than run the whole program in one sitting, I thought I would break it up over the next three weeks, starting with the 3rd Place composition: the Quartet for Strings by Rudolf Forst, played in its world premier by the celebrated Gordon String Quartet.
Rudolf Forst (1900-1973), a native of New York and professional violinist composed a considerable number of chamber works and arrangements in the 1930s and 1940s, but also had composed a number of orchestral and vocal pieces, including the incidental music to the 1934 Broadway production of Brittle Heaven, which starred Dorothy Gish. His works arranged for Harp were recorded in a collection in 2006, along with other American composers whose works have been neglected over the years.
As far as I know, this is the only known recording made of Forst’s Quartet for Strings. His other works were broadcast by various groups and networks during the 1930s and 1940s, but aside from the CD of Harp arrangements, practically none of his other work has been performed or recorded.
Like so many composers of the 20th century (and most centuries, for that matter), the work of Rudolf Forst has been largely forgotten. Not for any particular good reason, just a simple matter of overlooked and lost in the shuffle. Certainly by mid-century, composers like Forst were looked at with a goodly amount of disdain, because they represented a conservative approach and were largely ignored by the new schools of thought. Sadly, it became a question of throwing out babies with bathwater, as the music of this period was judged to be quaint and irrelevant, which was a harsh criticism of a music which still had an audience. Oddly, in recent years, the trend has gone back to a more conservative approach, but much of the technique and process of orchestration has been forgotten when it was abandoned in the late 1950s. The moral of the story – careful what you toss out, it may come in handy at some point.
At any rate, here is that 3rd Prize composition by Rudolf Forst, as performed in its world premier by The Gordon String Quartet on January 1,1937.