A rather short concert this week – short, in the sense that only two pieces survived and the third piece (the Mendelssohn “Scottish” Symphony) was sadly incomplete and badly damaged. So rather than not run this concert at all, to only run the first half because it features a work by one of America’s important composers of the 20th Century – the work of a celebrated pianist, and a rare appearance by a conductor whose brilliant career was cut short.
The San Francisco Symphony, in this concert from the 1978-1979 season features guest Conductor Guido Ajmone Marsan and the legendary Rudolf Firkusny in Beethoven’s 4th piano Concerto. The concert begins with Vincent Persichetti’s Symphony For Strings (Symphony Number 5).
Here’s what The Guardian wrote about Guido Ajmone Marsan on the occasion of his obituary, written by Michael Roll and published on January 20, 2015:
“My colleague and friend Guido Ajmone-Marsan, who has died aged 67 from cancer, was an Italian-American conductor who excelled in a wide range of repertoire. He had a particular affinity with the great operas of Verdi and Puccini.
He was born in Turin, Italy, to Cosimo, a neurologist, and Rosetta (nee Pesatori). From the age of four or five he wanted to be a conductor. His grandparents were close friends of Arturo Toscanini and instead of playing with his friends he would spend his time listening to the famous conductor’s recordings. The story goes that once when his parents visited Toscanini, Guido, still a little boy and totally mesmerised, would follow the maestro around to the point of irritation.
The family moved first to Montreal, Quebec, then to Washington DC, where Guido grew up. He went to school in Bethesda, Maryland, and from there to the Eastman School of Music, Rochester, from where he graduated in conducting in 1968. His talent brought him to the attention of Franco Ferrara, who considered Guido to be one of his most outstanding students.
From the age of 22 he won several conducting competitions. His big international break came in 1973, when he won both the Rupert Foundation competition in London and the International Conductors’ Competition Sir Georg Solti in Chicago one month later. Following Guido’s success, Solti took a keen interest in the development of his career.
He was soon in demand worldwide, appearing with leading orchestras such as the Orchestre de Paris, Chicago, Cleveland, Philadelphia and San Francisco Symphony Orchestras, and in London with the Philharmonia, Royal Philharmonic, BBC Symphony and London Symphony Orchestras. In 1982 he shared the conducting of a concert to mark the centenary of the birth of Stravinsky with Leonard Bernstein; it was given in Venice by the orchestra of La Scala, Milan. His Covent Garden debut came the following year, and in 1990 he made a triumphant debut at the Met with Rigoletto.
He was also music director of the Essen Opera in Germany (1986-90) and was responsible for a great revival of that company’s fortunes. For many years, he was a regular conductor at the New York City Opera, where, in 1996, he conducted a memorable performance of Falstaff with Sherrill Milnes.”
And a brief bio on Vincent Persichetti, in case you weren’t already familiar:
Vincent Ludwig Persichetti (June 6, 1915 – August 14, 1987) was an American composer, teacher, and pianist. An important musical educator and writer, Persichetti was a native of Philadelphia. He was known for his integration of various new ideas in musical composition into his own work and teaching, as well as for training many noted composers in composition at the Juilliard School.
His students at Juilliard included Philip Glass, Bruce Adolphe, Michael Jeffrey Shapiro, Laurie Spiegel, Kenneth Fuchs, Richard Danielpour, Peter Schickele, Lowell Liebermann, Robert Witt, Elena Ruehr, William Schimmel, Leonardo Balada, and Leo Brouwer. He also taught composition to Joseph Willcox Jenkins and conductor James DePreist at the Philadelphia Conservatory.
Now sit back and enjoy.