Fritz Reiner

Last updated
Fritz Reiner Bain.jpg

Frederick Martin "Fritz" Reiner (December 19, 1888 – November 15, 1963) was a prominent conductor of opera and symphonic music in the twentieth century. Hungarian born and trained, he emigrated to the United States in 1922, where he rose to prominence as a conductor with several orchestras. He reached the pinnacle of his career while music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the 1950s and early 1960s.

Contents

Life and career

Reiner was born in Budapest, Austria-Hungary into a secular Jewish family that resided in the Pest area of the city. After preliminary studies in law at his father's urging, Reiner pursued the study of piano, piano pedagogy, and composition at the Franz Liszt Academy. During his last two years there, his piano teacher was the young Béla Bartók. After early engagements at opera houses in Budapest and Dresden (June 1914 to November 1921), where he worked closely with Richard Strauss, he moved to the United States in 1922 to take the post of Principal Conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. He remained until 1931, having become a naturalized citizen in 1928, then began to teach at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia where his pupils included Leonard Bernstein and Lukas Foss. He conducted the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra from 1938 to 1948 and made a few recordings with them for Columbia Records, then spent several years at the Metropolitan Opera, where he conducted a historic production of Strauss's Salome in 1949, with the Bulgarian soprano Ljuba Welitsch in the title role, and the American première of Igor Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress in 1951. He also conducted and made a recording of the famous 1952 Metropolitan Opera production of Bizet's Carmen , starring Rise Stevens. The production was telecast on closed circuit television that year. At the time of his death he was preparing the Met's new production of Wagner's Götterdämmerung .

In 1947, Reiner appeared on camera in the film Carnegie Hall, in which he conducted the New York Philharmonic Orchestra as they accompanied violinist Jascha Heifetz in an abbreviated version of the first movement of Tchaikovsky's violin concerto. Ten years later, Heifetz and Reiner recorded the full Tchaikovsky concerto in stereo for RCA Victor in Chicago.

Reiner's music-making had been largely American-focused since his arrival in Cincinnati. But after the Second World War he began markedly increasing his European activity. When he became music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1953 he had an international reputation. By common consent, the ten years that he spent in Chicago mark the pinnacle of his career, and are best-remembered today through the many recordings he made in Chicago's Orchestra Hall for RCA Victor from 1954 to 1963. The first of these—of Ein Heldenleben by Richard Strauss—occurred on March 6, 1954 and was among RCA's first to use stereophonic sound. [1] His last concerts in Chicago took place in the spring of 1963.

One of his last recordings, released in a special Reader's Digest boxed set, was a performance of Brahms' Symphony No. 4, recorded with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in October 1962 in London's Kingsway Hall. This recording was later reissued on LP by Quintessence and on CD by Chesky. On September 13 and 16, 1963, Reiner conducted a group of New York musicians in Haydn's Symphony No. 101 in D major; this was followed by September 18 and 20, 1963, sessions devoted to Haydn's Symphony No. 95 in C minor. [2]

He also appeared with members of the Chicago Symphony in a series of telecasts on Chicago's WGN-TV in 1953–54, and a later series of nationally syndicated programs called Music From Chicago . Some of these performances have been issued on DVD. [3] The videos clearly show his stern, disciplined demeanor, but at the conclusion of a piece, Reiner would turn to the audience and smile at them as he bowed.

Personal life

Reiner was married three times (one of them to a daughter of Etelka Gerster) and had three daughters. His health deteriorated after a heart attack in October 1960. He died in New York City on November 15, 1963, at the age of 74.

Repertoire and style

Reiner was especially noted as an interpreter of Richard Strauss and Bartók and was often seen as a modernist in his musical taste; he and his compatriot Joseph Szigeti convinced Serge Koussevitzky to commission the Concerto for Orchestra from Bartók. In reality, he had a very wide repertory and was known to admire Mozart's music above all else.

Reiner's conducting technique was defined by its precision and economy, in the manner of Arthur Nikisch and Arturo Toscanini. It typically employed quite small gestures — it has been said that the beat indicated by the tip of his baton could be contained in the area of a postage stamp — although from the perspective of the players it was extremely expressive. The response he drew from orchestras was one of astonishing richness, brilliance, and clarity of texture. Igor Stravinsky called the Chicago Symphony under Reiner "the most precise and flexible orchestra in the world"; it was more often than not achieved with tactics that bordered on the personally abusive, as Kenneth Morgan documents in 2005 biography of the conductor. Chicago musicians have spoken of Reiner's autocratic methods; trumpeter Adolph Herseth told National Public Radio that Reiner often tested him and other musicians. [4]

Related Research Articles

San Francisco Symphony Symphonic orchestra

The San Francisco Symphony (SFS), founded in 1911, is an American orchestra based in San Francisco, California. Since 1980 the orchestra has been resident at the Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall in the city's Hayes Valley neighborhood. The San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra and the San Francisco Symphony Chorus (1972) are part of the organization. Since 1995, Michael Tilson Thomas has been the orchestra's music director. Tilson Thomas is scheduled to conclude his tenure as the orchestra's music director in 2020, with Esa-Pekka Salonen assuming the position of the orchestra's next music director.

Concerto for Orchestra (Bartók)

The Concerto for Orchestra, Sz. 116, BB 123, is a five-movement orchestral work composed by Béla Bartók in 1943. It is one of his best-known, most popular, and most accessible works.

The 5th Annual Grammy Awards were held on May 15, 1963, at Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City. They recognized accomplishments by musicians for the year 1962. Tony Bennett and Igor Stravinsky each won 3 awards.

Jascha Heifetz Russian-American violinist

Jascha Heifetz was a Russian-American violinist. Born in Vilna (Vilnius), he moved as a teenager to the United States, where his Carnegie Hall debut was rapturously received. He was a virtuoso since childhood—Fritz Kreisler, another leading violinist of the twentieth century, said on hearing Heifetz's debut, "We might as well take our fiddles and break them across our knees."

Bernard Haitink Dutch conductor and violinist

Bernard Johan Herman Haitink is a Dutch conductor and violinist.

Sergiu Celibidache

Sergiu Celibidache was a Romanian conductor, composer, musical theorist, and teacher. Educated in his native Romania, and later in Paris and Berlin, Celibidache's career in music spanned over five decades, including tenures as principal conductor of the Munich Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmonic, Sicilian Symphony Orchestra and several other European orchestras. Later in life, he taught at Mainz University in Germany and the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Antal Doráti

Antal Doráti was a Hungarian-born conductor and composer who became a naturalized American citizen in 1943.

István Kertész (conductor)

István Kertész was an internationally acclaimed Hungarian orchestral and operatic conductor who, throughout his brief career led many of the world's great orchestras, including the Cleveland, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Detroit, San Francisco and Minnesota Orchestras in the United States, as well as the London Symphony, Vienna Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmonic, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Israel Philharmonic, and L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande. His orchestral repertoire numbered over 450 works from all periods, and was matched by a repertoire of some sixty operas ranging from Mozart, Verdi, Puccini and Wagner to the more contemporary Prokofiev, Bartók, Britten, Kodály, Poulenc and Janáček. Kertész was part of a musical tradition that produced fellow Hungarian conductors Fritz Reiner, Antal Doráti, János Ferencsik, Eugene Ormandy, George Szell, János Fürst, Ferenc Fricsay, and Sir Georg Solti.

Erich Leinsdorf

Erich Leinsdorf was an Austrian-born American conductor. He 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.

Eugene Ormandy 20th-century Hungarian-American conductor and violinist

Eugene Ormandy KBE was a Hungarian-American conductor and violinist, best known for his association with the Philadelphia Orchestra, as its music director. His 44-year association with the orchestra is one of the longest enjoyed by any conductor with a single orchestra. Under his baton, the Philadelphia Orchestra had three gold records and won two Grammy Awards.

The Grammy Award for Best Engineered Recording, Classical has been awarded since 1959. The award had several minor name changes:

Frederick Stock

Frederick Stock was a German conductor and composer, most famous for his 37-year tenure as music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

William Steinberg

William Steinberg was a German-American conductor.

Walter Hendl

Walter Hendl was an American conductor, composer and pianist.

Árpád Joó was a Hungarian-American conductor and concert pianist.

Béla Bartók's Piano Concerto No. 2 in G major, Sz. 95, BB 101 (1930–31), the second of his three piano concerti, is notorious for being one of the most difficult pieces in the repertoire.

The Piano Concerto No. 1, Sz. 83, BB 91 of Béla Bartók was composed in 1926. Average playing time is between 23 and 24 minutes.

This is a complete list of recordings by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, shown alphabetically by conductor, and then by recording label.

Tossy Spivakovsky

Nathan "Tossy" Spivakovsky, a Jewish, Russian Empire-born, German-trained violin virtuoso who taught in Australia and later settled in the United States, was considered one of the finest violinists of the 20th century.

References

  1. See album notes to RCA Red Seal BMG Classics SACD
  2. Philip Hart, Fritz Reiner: A Biography, Northwestern UP, Jan 1, 1997, p. 280.
  3. Video Artists International 4237
  4. "Last Performance". National Public Radio. July 20, 2001. Retrieved 2009-06-07.

Sources