Artur Rodzinski – NBC Symphony In Concert – December 11, 1937 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
Up front – I need to tell you we have a problem. This is an amazing concert, with sound that mostly belies it’s age. But here’s the catch: There were three pieces announced by Milton Cross at the start: Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet overture – Stravinsky’s Petruschka Ballet Suite and Shostakovich’s First Symphony. The Tchaikovsky and the Stravinsky are there and are complete – the Shostakovich is missing. Therefore, this isn’t the complete concert and it’s maddening, frustrating beyond belief, that it’s nowhere to be found. I have been laboring over whether to post this or not, because the Shostakovich is an important symphony, most likely getting its first broadcast here. But – this is Rodzinski’s second night on the podium with this new orchestra and it’s this new orchestra’s fifth broadcast performance together, and just before Toscanini entered the picture and made history from that point on. From the sound in places, it feels like they are working the bugs out with Studio 8-H and there are few gaffes here and there. Someone opening the announcers booth while Cross is on the air, creating an eerie echo effect while the announcements are being read. The balance of the orchestra is off in a few places, leaving one with the impression someone left out a few parts in the score.
But this is a historic performance, part of a historic series of broadcasts I am not sure have entirely survived, or survived intact.
Artur Rodzinski was one of the greats of the podium and his long-time association with the Cleveland Orchestra yielded a treasure trove of benchmark recordings made during the 78 era and were prominent fixtures in just about every record library in the country.
With the disappointing omission of the Shostakovich, the first two works are nonetheless excellent examples of the work of Artur Rodzinski and the NBC Symphony getting ready for the arrival of Toscanini.