A short, but historic one this weekend. A familiar face around the Hollywood Bowl in the 1940s, the legendary Leopold Stokowski leads the Hollywood Bowl Symphony (L.A. Philharmonic) in a concert from August 11, 1946.
Only one piece – the Overture to Franz von Suppé’s Die Schöne Gallathée (The Beautiful Galatea), which starts this concert. Sadly, the other parts of this concert are missing. But rather than not play it at all, I thought I would play the opening work, since the recording is quite good, considering a lot of the concerts from the Bowl around this period of time are a mixed bag, and often don’t sound all that good.
Needless to say, The Hollywood Bowl has changed a lot over the years. The audiences have changed, the tastes in music have changed. The percentage of “serious’ music has dropped considerably in favor of more Pop and lighter programming. Which is okay, since the Bowl has often been a struggle in listening anyway; between the odd passing jet or the odd rolling bottle of Chardonnay clanking its boozy way down the steps (which is a thing of the past now, as the cement steps are covered), or the frothy exclamatory, equally boozy conversation taking place in the row in front of you (or worse, if you’re in a box seat and the party won’t stop) – fixing your brain on the subtle strains of Bruckner or Lutoslawski is a moot point if nobody around you feels the same way. But it is Summer, and it is an outdoor concert and it’s been going on for decades – and anything that gets you out of the house and into a concert hall to see actual, honest-to-god live music is a bonus, no matter what or who you are seeing.
That said – here is a snapshot of what concerts used to sound like and the people who performed at the Bowl on a regular basis during the 1940s and 1950s – and how you could hear a pin drop – or a B-17, on some nights.