1936 Music Guild Awards – the 1st Prize winner was Russian emigre Mitya Stillman, who settled in the U.S. shortly after the Russian Revolution. A Violist by training, Stillman was a member of the prestigious Kiev Quartet before making his way West. He played in a number of orchestras and chamber ensembles in Paris before settling in the U.S. to become a member of the String Section of the Detroit Symphony, under their then-music Director Ossip Gabrilowitsch. Later on, he resettled in New York where he performed with a number of orchestras, as well as working on a number of compositions, including this one; his 7th String Quartet.
Unfortunately, only a few weeks after submitting the Quartet to the Music Guild judges, Mitya Stillman died suddenly and the awarding of the 1st Prize became a memorial to the memory of his work as a musician as well as composer.
On this broadcast – the last installment of the original 2 hour ceremony and concert, the award is given to Stillman’s son, Mischa who accepts the prize and offers remarks.
The Stillman Quartet is performed by the NBC String Quartet, who were also friends and colleagues of the composer.
Very little of Mitya Stillman’s work is played today, and none of his string quartets have been played or even recorded. This broadcast of the 7th String Quartet marked the World Premier, and is most likely the only recording existing of the work.
Dr. Frank Black, who acted as MC for the proceedings, mentions the extremely high caliber of work being exhibited; with over 280 string quartets submitted to the Music Guild for consideration – the final three were eventually chosen from a field of 20 finalists. Seems we had some talented composers in our midst in the early part of the last century. Makes you wonder how that would go now.
In any event, here is what America was listening to on Januarhy 1, 1937 via the NBC Red Network.