Emanuel Ax, piano – Erich Leinsdorf, Conductor – Pittsburgh Symphony in concert – January 24, 1991 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection
More legends this week. Erich Leinsdorf leads the Pittsburgh Symphony in music of Liszt, Stravinsky, Mozart and Offenbach, along with pianist Emanuel Ax in a concert recorded on January 24, 1991.
Opening the concert with Liszt’s Orpheus, Symphonic Poem Number 4 – followed by Stravinsky’s ballet Orpheus. Emanuel Ax joins the orchestra in a performance of Mozart’s Piano Concert Number 22 and the concert ends with Offenbach’s Orpheus In The Underworld Overture.
Erich Leinsdorf performed and recorded with leading orchestras and opera companies throughout the United States and Europe, earning a reputation for exacting standards as well as an acerbic personality. He also published books and essays on musical matters.
In November 1937, Leinsdorf travelled to the United States to take up a position as assistant conductor at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. As it turned out, his departure from Austria came a few short months ahead of the Anschluss of March 1938, when the country was taken over by Nazi Germany. With the assistance of freshman Representative from Texas Lyndon B. Johnson, he was able to stay in the United States, and became a naturalized American citizen in 1942.
While at the Met, Leinsdorf was particularly noted for his Wagner performances; after the sudden death of Artur Bodanzky in 1939, he was named the Met’s “head of German repertoire”. By the spring of 1943, the candidates being considered to take over for Artur Rodzinski as music director of The Cleveland Orchestra included Vladimir Golschmann of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, Albert Stoessel of the Juilliard School and New York Oratorio Society, George Szell of the Metropolitan Opera Company, and Leinsdorf, also of the Met.
Leinsdorf recorded throughout his career, including some 78-rpm discs for RCA and for Columbia with the Cleveland Orchestra. In the early 1950s, Leinsdorf recorded all of the Mozart symphonies for Westminster with the Royal Philharmonic, and started a highly regarded series of recordings with the Rochester Philharmonic for Columbia with an Eroica that rivaled Toscanini’s in intensity. He also recorded a complete Lohengrin with the Boston Symphony, a massive and expensive project, which at the time was the first Wagner opera recorded with a major US orchestra. It was announced at the beginning of Leinsdorf’s appointment with the Boston Symphony that he and the orchestra would record all the major works of Prokofieff, but by the end of his tenure only symphonies 2,3, 5,and 6; the violin concertos; and the five piano concertos; music from Romeo and Juliet; the Scythian Suite; and the Symphony-Concerto for Cello had been released. Many of his RCA recordings were flawed by the controversial Dynagroove process. For Decca/London Leinsdorf recorded many Mozart operas, including Don Giovanni, Cosi Fan Tutti, and the Marriage of Figaro as well as a highly regarded Wagner Die Walkure. In the 1970s, after leaving Boston, he returned to Decca/London to record several releases in their Phase 4 project, notably Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring and Petrouchka. For Sheffield Labs, Leinsdorf recorded three direct-to-disc recordings with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in the 1980s.
He died of cancer in Zürich, Switzerland, at the age of 81.
Emanuel Ax is a Grammy-winning American classical pianist and teacher on the faculty of the Juilliard School.
He is a particular supporter of contemporary composers and has given three world premieres in the last few seasons; Century Rolls by John Adams, Seeing by Christopher Rouse and Red Silk Dance by Bright Sheng. He also performs works by such diverse figures as Michael Tippett, Hans Werner Henze, Joseph Schwantner and Paul Hindemith, as well as more traditional composers such as Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Chopin.
Emanuel Ax holds honorary doctorates of music from Yale University and Columbia University. He is a recipient of Yale University’s Sanford Medal.
Enjoy the concert.