Fritz Reiner

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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.

Conducting directing a musical performance by way of visible gestures

Conducting is the art of directing a musical performance, such as an orchestral or choral concert. It has been defined as "the art of directing the simultaneous performance of several players or singers by the use of gesture." The primary duties of the conductor are to interpret the score in a way which reflects the specific indications in that score, set the tempo, ensure correct entries by ensemble members, and "shape" the phrasing where appropriate. Conductors communicate with their musicians primarily through hand gestures, usually with the aid of a baton, and may use other gestures or signals such as eye contact. A conductor usually supplements their direction with verbal instructions to their musicians in rehearsal.

Opera artform combining sung text and musical score in a theatrical setting

Opera is a form of theatre in which music has a leading role and the parts are taken by singers, but is distinct from musical theater. Such a "work" is typically a collaboration between a composer and a librettist and incorporates a number of the performing arts, such as acting, scenery, costume, and sometimes dance or ballet. The performance is typically given in an opera house, accompanied by an orchestra or smaller musical ensemble, which since the early 19th century has been led by a conductor.

Chicago Symphony Orchestra American symphony orchestra in Chicago, IL

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) was founded by Theodore Thomas in 1891. The ensemble makes its home at Orchestra Hall in Chicago and plays a summer season at the Ravinia Festival. The music director is Riccardo Muti, who began his tenure in 2010. The CSO is one of five American orchestras commonly referred to as the "Big Five".

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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 - November 1921), where he worked closely with Richard Strauss, he moved to the United States of America 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, Pennsylvania, 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 .

Budapest Capital city in Hungary

Budapest is the capital and the most populous city of Hungary, and the tenth-largest city in the European Union by population within city limits. The city had an estimated population of 1,752,704 in 2016 distributed over a land area of about 525 square kilometres. Budapest is both a city and county, and forms the centre of the Budapest metropolitan area, which has an area of 7,626 square kilometres and a population of 3,303,786, comprising 33 percent of the population of Hungary.

Austria-Hungary Constitutional monarchic union between 1867 and 1918

Austria-Hungary, often referred to as the Austro-Hungarian Empire or the Dual Monarchy, was a constitutional monarchy in Central and Eastern Europe between 1867 and 1918. It was formed when the Austrian Empire adopted a new constitution; as a result Austria (Cisleithania) and Hungary (Transleithania) were placed on equal footing. It dissolved into several new states at the end of the First World War.

Pest, Hungary Part of Budapest, Hungary

Pest is the eastern, mostly flat part of Budapest, Hungary, comprising about two thirds of the city's territory. It is separated from Buda and Óbuda, the western parts of Budapest, by the Danube River. Among its most notable sights are the Inner City, the Hungarian Parliament Building, Heroes' Square and Andrássy Avenue. In colloquial Hungarian, "Pest" is often used for the whole capital of Budapest. The three parts of Budapest united in 1873.

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.

Jascha Heifetz Lithuanian violinist

Jascha Heifetz was a Russian-American violinist. Many consider him to be the greatest violinist of all time. 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."

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.

Symphony Center concert hall in Chicago, Illinois, United States

Symphony Center is a music complex located at 220 South Michigan Avenue in the Loop area of Chicago, Illinois. Home to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; Chicago Symphony Chorus; Civic Orchestra of Chicago; and the Institute for Learning, Access, and Training; Symphony Center includes the 2,522-seat Orchestra Hall, which dates from 1904; Buntrock Hall, a rehearsal and performance space; Grainger Ballroom, an event space overlooking Michigan Avenue and the Art Institute of Chicago; a public multi-story rotunda; tesori restaurant; and administrative offices. In June 1993, plans to significantly renovate and expand Orchestra Hall were approved and the $110 million project resulting in Symphony Center began in 1995 and was completed in 1997.

<i>Ein Heldenleben</i> symphonic poem by Richard Strauss

Ein Heldenleben, Op. 40 is a tone poem by Richard Strauss. The work was completed in 1898. It was his eighth work in the genre, and exceeded any of its predecessors in its orchestral demands. Generally agreed to be autobiographical in nature, despite contradictory statements on the matter by the composer, the work contains more than thirty quotations from Strauss's earlier works, including Also sprach Zarathustra, Till Eulenspiegel, Don Quixote, and Death and Transfiguration.

Richard Strauss German composer

Richard Georg Strauss was a leading German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras. He is known for his operas, which include Der Rosenkavalier, Elektra, Die Frau ohne Schatten and Salome; his Lieder, especially his Four Last Songs; his tone poems, including Don Juan, Death and Transfiguration, Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks, Also sprach Zarathustra, Ein Heldenleben, Symphonia Domestica, and An Alpine Symphony; and other instrumental works such as Metamorphosen and his Oboe Concerto. Strauss was also a prominent conductor in Western Europe and the Americas, enjoying quasi-celebrity status as his compositions became standards of orchestral and operatic repertoire.

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]

<i>Readers Digest</i> magazine

Reader's Digest is an American general-interest family magazine, published ten times a year. Formerly based in Chappaqua, New York, it is now headquartered in Midtown Manhattan. The magazine was founded in 1922, by DeWitt Wallace and Lila Bell Wallace. For many years, Reader's Digest was the best-selling consumer magazine in the United States; it lost the distinction in 2009 to Better Homes and Gardens. According to Mediamark Research (2006), Reader's Digest reaches more readers with household incomes of $100,000+ than Fortune, The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, and Inc. combined.

Symphony No. 4 (Brahms) composition for orchestra by Johannes Brahms

The Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 98 by Johannes Brahms is the last of his symphonies. Brahms began working on the piece in Mürzzuschlag, then in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in 1884, just a year after completing his Symphony No. 3. It was premiered on October 25, 1885 in Meiningen, Germany.

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra orchestra based in London

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO), based in London, was a British Orchestra that has formed by Sir Thomas Beecham in 1946. In its early days the orchestra secured profitable recording contracts and important engagements including the Glyndebourne Festival Opera and the concerts of the Royal Philharmonic Society. After Beecham's death in 1961 the orchestra's fortunes declined steeply; it battled for survival until the mid-1960s, when its future was secured after an Arts Council report recommended that it should receive public subsidy; a further crisis arose in the same era when it seemed that the orchestra's right to call itself "Royal" could be withdrawn.

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.

WGN-TV Independent TV station in Chicago

WGN-TV, virtual channel 9, is an independent television station licensed to Chicago, Illinois, United States. It serves as the flagship television property of the Tribune Broadcasting subsidiary of Tribune Media and is one of the company's three flagship media properties, alongside news/talk/sports radio station WGN and local cable news channel Chicagoland Television (CLTV). The station's second and third digital subchannels respectively serve as owned-and-operated stations of Tribune's two national over-the-air multicast services, classic television network Antenna TV and movie-focused general entertainment network This TV, both of which are headquartered at the WGN studios.

Music From Chicago was a program broadcast on the DuMont Television Network from WGN-TV in Chicago on Sundays. The 30-minute show first aired April 15, 1951, and the last show aired June 17, 1951.

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]

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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