Ingolf Dahl – Concertino for Clarinet for Violin and Cello (World Premier) – Benny Goodman, clarinet – Eudice Shapiro, Violin – Victor Gottlieb, cello – recorded at Bovard Auditorium, USC – April 24, 1948
Something rare and somewhat frustrating this weekend. The first public performance of a work by Composer/Professor Ingolf Dahl. His Concertino for Clarinet, Violin and Cello with Benny Goodman, clarinet – Eudice Shapiro, violin and Victor Gottlieb, cello – it was recorded during a live broadcast over the newly installed KUSC on the USC Campus on April 24, 1948.
The big drawing card for this performance at the time was the presence of Benny Goodman, the “King Of Swing” on clarinet, whose musical horizons also included serious classical works, with several notable recordings in his discography. This was a world premier and it was (to my knowledge) never made available commercially this whole time.
The frustration is in the recording itself. The original discs were in very poor shape with water damage and deterioration rendering some of it, especially the opening announcements, very hard to hear over the noise. It also didn’t help the announcer mistook the concert for a Golf tournament and whispered the rundown of the piece we were about to hear.
It straightens out after a few minutes, but the discs are what they are; damaged, and some damage you can’t get around with futzing, equalizing, cleaning and tweaking.
A little background about Ingolf Dahl via the CSO website:
Dahl, a Hamburg native who became an American citizen in 1943, was part of a group of European composers whose lives and careers were upended or destroyed by the rise of the Nazis. He first emigrated to Switzerland as the Nazis were coming to power; then he worked for more than six years at the Zurich Opera, where he served as vocal coach and chorus master for the world premieres of Berg’s Lulu and Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler. But as hostility grew toward émigrés of Jewish descent (his father was German Jewish and his mother Swedish), Dahl fled to the United States in 1939.
He settled in Los Angeles, the hometown of his future wife, Etta, whom he met in Zurich in the late 1930s. Dahl joined a vibrant community of expatriate composers who included Stravinsky and Arnold Schoenberg. “It turned out to be a wonderful place for music at the time and for a society of émigré composers of the first rank,” said Anthony Linick, Dahl’s stepson, from his home in London, and whose 645-page biography of the composer was published in 2008.
Dahl’s American career can be divided into three main phases. After his arrival, it took him little time to be absorbed in this country’s classical scene. In February 1944, Dahl wrote in his journal of the euphoria of walking down a street in New York, arm in arm with three fellow composers: Copland, David Diamond and Harold Shapero. But in part because he was such a perfectionist and composing did not come easily to him, Dahl was not as prolific as many of his peers; he wrote just over 30 pieces, many centered on small ensembles. “He never took the easy or fashionable way out in his works,” said Tilson Thomas in a remembrance of the composer published in the Los Angeles Times shortly after Dahl’s death. “He would revise them until, like the works of Bach and Ockeghem, which he much admired, they had a sense of oneness, of tension and balance and hidden craft like a work of architecture.”
Technical drawbacks aside (and apologies ahead of time), this is an engaging piece of work and the musicians are top-notch.
Proceed with caution but enjoy with abandon.