Cleveland Orchestra – George Szell, Cond. – Edith Peinemann, Violin – Music of Mendellsohn, Bartok and Debussy – 1967 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
Back to something historic tonight. A 1967 concert featuring the Cleveland Orchestra, led by the legendary George Szell and featuring the enigmatic and stellar virtuosity of German violinist Edith Peinemann.
The concert begins with Incidental music from A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy and ending with performance of Debussy’s La Mer.
Edith Peinemann was born in Mainz, Germany, the daughter of a Mainz orchestra’s concertmaster, with whom she learned violin until the age of fourteen. She later studied with Max Rostal in London, and would fulfill the “prophecy of violinist Yehudi Menuhin who, upon hearing her play when she was 19, predicted a ‘brilliant and successful career’.”
In 1956, she won the first prize in the International Competition of the German Radio in Munich. At that competition, conductor William Steinberg, who was among the judges, invited her to make her American debut with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, which she did in 1962. Word spread among Germany’s conductors, such as Max Rudolf, about her achievements in the U.S., including her Cleveland debut where she played Dvorak’s Violin Concerto. Reviews of that concert were positive, with Carl Apone noting that Dvořák’s concerto was “a proving ground on which to separate the men from the boys:”
By the time Germany’s Edith Peinemann, 24, had reached the end of the first movement, it was obvious that this serious musician had the situation well in hand. . . When Miss Peinemann had completed her evening’s work, she was called back for six curtain calls . . some of the men in the audience, as impressed with her physical beauty as with her musical talent. . . The orchestra violinists raved about her playing in a manner not often heard here and swarmed around to congratulate her.
Hungarian-born American conductor and composer George Szell saw her perform in Cleveland, invited her to perform with him at the De Doelen in Rotterdam in 1963, the Berlin Philharmonic, and the New York Philharmonic, and often gave her coaching before concerts. She began to call him “Uncle George,” as they developed a close friendship during that period. Szell made a special attempt to obtain private funds from wealthy donors to buy her a violin of finer quality, which he helped her select. Peinemann recalls his assistance:
“[Szell] was in Zurich and I had my violin dealer from Bern who had a lot of fine instruments come to Zurich. We went to the concert hall there and Mr. Szell went into the audience and I played to him five fine violins: two Guarneri, three Stradivari. And he chose the one I have now, a Guarneri. . . . He was marvelous to young musicians”.
She performed as a soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the start of their new year in 1966, and with the Atlanta Symphony in January, with Robert Mann conducting.
In 1967, after working with Szell to perfect a performance of Bartok’s Violin Concerto No. 2 along with a Beethoven concerto, he asked her to perform Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3, as Mozart, notes historian Michael Charry, was “a composer he reserved for his favorite and most mature artists.
Okay – enough out of me – click on the player and enjoy the next 90 or so minutes and repeat as necessary.