American Contemporary Music Festival – USC – May 7, 1948 – USC Symphony – Ingolf Dahl, Conductor –
The fifth (and last) program from the 1948 American Contemporary Music Fesival, held at the Bovard Auditorium at USC and broadcast over KHJ and KUSC in Los Angeles on May 7, 1948.
Starting with the Music for Baritone and Orchestra by Ernst Toch, with William Vennard, Baritone and then the West Coast premier of Charles Ives Symphony Number 3 and concluding with Eerie Canal by Gail Kubik.
This was Contemporary Classical Music circa 1948 – adventuresome at the time, and ironic that Charles Ives’ Symphony Number 3 was never heard before on the West Coast before this performance – and the Toch piece was receiving its third performance and this concert. But also it gives further evidence that Los Angeles has always been a hotbed of creativity, especially in the 1920s to 1940s, although we sometimes try to ignore it.
FYI from Wikipedia:
Ingolf Dahl was born Walter Ingolf Marcus.in Hamburg, Germany, to a German Jewish father, attorney Paul Marcus, and his Swedish wife Hilda Maria Dahl. He had two brothers, Gert (1914–2008; a noted Swedish artist and sculptor, and a recipient of the Prince Eugen Medal), and Holger, and one sister Anna-Britta.
In Hamburg, Dahl studied piano under Edith Weiss-Mann, a harpsichordist, pianist, and a proponent of early music. Ingolf studied with Philipp Jarnach at the Hochschule für Musik Köln (1930–32). Dahl left Germany as the Nazi Party was coming to power and continued his studies at the University of Zurich, along with Volkmar Andreae and Walter Frey. Living with relatives and working at the Zurich Opera for more than six years, he rose from an internship to the rank of assistant conductor. He served as a vocal coach and chorus master for the world premieres of Alban Berg’s Lulu and Paul Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler.
Since Switzerland became increasingly hostile towards Jewish refugees (including people of partial Jewish parentage) and Dahl’s role at the Opera was restricted to playing in the orchestra, he emigrated to the United States in 1939. There he used the name Ingolf Dahl, based on his original middle name and his mother’s maiden name. He consistently lied about his background, claiming to be of Swedish birth and denying his Jewish heritage (Marcus being a recognizably Jewish surname). He claimed to have emigrated a year earlier than he actually had. He settled in Los Angeles and joined the community of expatriate musicians that included Ernst Krenek, Darius Milhaud, Arnold Schoenberg, Igor Stravinsky, and Ernst Toch. He had a varied musical career as a solo pianist, keyboard performer (piano and harpsichord), accompanist, conductor, coach, composer, and critic. He produced a performing translation of Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire in English and translated, either alone or with a collaborator, such works as Stravinsky’s Poetics of Music. He performed many of Stravinsky’s works and the composer was impressed enough to contract Dahl to create a two-piano version of his Danses concertantes and program notes for other works. In 1947, with Joseph Szigeti he produced a reconstruction of Bach’s Violin Concerto in D Minor.
He also worked in the entertainment industry, touring as pianist to Edgar Bergen and his puppets in 1941 and later for comedian Gracie Fields in 1942 and 1956. He produced musical arrangements for Tommy Dorsey and served as arranger/conductor to Victor Borge. He gave private lessons in the classical repertoire to Benny Goodman as well. He performed on keyboard instruments in the soundtrack orchestras for many films at Fox, Goldwyn Studios, Columbia, Universal, MGM, and Warner Bros., as well as the post-production company Todd-AO. He also worked on the television show The Twilight Zone. Though grateful for the income this work provided, he complained while working on Spartacus how pointless it was “to tinkle a few notes on the celeste” when the notes are also doubled by several other instruments, all for a passage presented to the audience under sound effects and actors’ voices. Dahl conducted the soundtrack to The Abductors (1957) by his pupil Paul Glass and performed both second and third movements of Beethoven’s Pathétique Sonata in the 1969 animated film A Boy Named Charlie Brown.
Among his compositions, the most frequently performed is the Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Wind Orchestra commissioned and premiered by Sigurd Raschèr in 1949. He later completed commissions for the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Koussevitsky and Fromm foundations. His final work, complete and partly orchestrated at his death in 1970, was the Elegy Concerto for violin and chamber orchestra. In 1999, one critic reviewing a recording of Dahl’s works called him a “spiffy composer,” “a cross between Stravinsky and Hindemith.”
He legally changed his name to Ingolf Dahl in February 1943 and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in September of that year. In 1945 he joined the faculty of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where he taught for the rest of his life. In 1952 he was appointed the first head of the Tanglewood Study Group, a program that targeted not professionals but “the intelligent amateur and music enthusiast, also the general music student and music educator.” His most prominent students included the conductor Michael Tilson Thomas and the composers Harold Budd and David Cope. In 1957 he co-directed the Ojai Music Festival in partnership with Aaron Copland and served as its Music Director from 1964 to 1966.
Among Dahl’s honors were a Guggenheim Fellowship in music composition in 1951, two Huntington Hartford Fellowships, an Excellence in Teaching Award from the University of Southern California, the ASCAP Stravinsky Award, and a grant from the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1954.
He died in Frutigen, Switzerland on August 6, 1970, just a few weeks after the death of his wife on June 10.
Enjoy the show – couple caveats: There’s an awkward side join during the Toch and the opening of the Ives Third is clipped – problems coming from the actual discs themselves at the time of recording. Can’t be helped, but shouldn’t deter you from enjoying it.