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|NBC Symphony Orchestra|
|Later name||Symphony of the Air|
|Location||Studio 8H, New York City, USA|
|Principal conductor||Arturo Toscanini|
The NBC Symphony Orchestra was a radio orchestra established by David Sarnoff, the president of the Radio Corporation of America, especially for the celebrated conductor Arturo Toscanini. The NBC Symphony performed weekly radio concert broadcasts with Toscanini and other conductors and served as house orchestra for the NBC network. The orchestra's first broadcast was on November 13, 1937 and it continued until disbanded in 1954. A new ensemble, independent of the network, called the "'Symphony of the Air'" followed. It was made up of former members of the NBC Symphony Orchestra and performed from 1954 to 1963, notably under Leopold Stokowski.
A radio orchestra is an orchestra employed by a radio network in order to provide programming as well as sometimes perform incidental or theme music for various shows on the network. In the heyday of radio such orchestras were numerous, performing classical, popular, light music and jazz. However, in recent decades, broadcast orchestras have become increasingly rare. Those that still exist perform mainly classical and contemporary orchestral music, though broadcast light music orchestras, jazz orchestras and big bands are still employed by some radio stations in Europe.
David Sarnoff was an American businessman and pioneer of American radio and television. Throughout most of his career he led the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) in various capacities from shortly after its founding in 1919 until his retirement in 1970.
The RCA Corporation was a major American electronics company, which was founded as the Radio Corporation of America in 1919. It was initially a wholly owned subsidiary of General Electric (GE); however, in 1932, RCA became an independent company after GE was required to divest its ownership as part of the settlement of a government antitrust suit.
Tom Lewis, in the Organization of American Historians Magazine of History, described NBC's plan for cultural programming and the origin of the NBC Symphony:
Sarnoff devoted considerable effort and resources to create an orchestra of the first rank for Toscanini and NBC. Artur Rodziński, a noted orchestra builder and musical task master in his own right, was engaged to mold and train the new orchestra in anticipation of the arrival of Toscanini. It offered the highest salaries of any orchestra at the time and a 52-week contract.Prominent musicians from major orchestras around the country were recruited and the conductor Pierre Monteux was hired as well to work with the orchestra in its formative months. A new large broadcast studio was built for the orchestra at NBC's Radio City Studios in Rockefeller Center, New York, "Studio 8-H". In addition to creating prestige for the network, there has been speculation that one of the reasons NBC created the orchestra was to deflect a Congressional inquiry into broadcasting standards.
Artur Rodziński was a Polish conductor of opera and symphonic music. He is especially noted for his tenures as music director of the Cleveland Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic in the 1930s and 1940s.
Pierre Benjamin Monteux was a French conductor. After violin and viola studies, and a decade as an orchestral player and occasional conductor, he began to receive regular conducting engagements in 1907. He came to prominence when, for Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes company between 1911 and 1914, he conducted the world premieres of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring and other prominent works including Petrushka, Ravel's Daphnis et Chloé, and Debussy's Jeux. Thereafter he directed orchestras around the world for more than half a century.
Rockefeller Center is a large complex consisting of 19 commercial buildings covering 22 acres (89,000 m2) between 48th and 51st Streets, facing Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. The 14 original Art Deco buildings, commissioned by the Rockefeller family, span the area between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, split by a large sunken square and a private street called Rockefeller Plaza. Five International Style buildings, built later, are located on the west side of Sixth Avenue and at the north end of Rockefeller Plaza.
The orchestra's first broadcast concert aired on November 13, 1937 under the direction of Monteux. Toscanini conducted ten concerts that first season, making his NBC debut on December 25, 1937. In addition to weekly broadcasts on the NBC Red and Blue networks, the NBC Symphony Orchestra made many recordings for RCA Victor. Televised concerts began in March 1948 and continued until March 1952. During the summer of 1950, NBC converted Studio 8-H into a television studio (the broadcast home of NBC's late-night comedy program Saturday Night Live since 1975) and moved the broadcast concerts to Carnegie Hall, where many of the orchestra's recording sessions and special concerts had already taken place.
Saturday Night Live is an American late-night live television variety show created by Lorne Michaels and developed by Dick Ebersol. The show premiered on NBC on October 11, 1975, under the original title NBC's Saturday Night. The show's comedy sketches, which often parody contemporary culture and politics, are performed by a large and varying cast of repertory and newer cast members. Each episode is hosted by a celebrity guest, who usually delivers the opening monologue and performs in sketches with the cast as with featured performances by a musical guest. An episode normally begins with a cold open sketch that ends with someone breaking character and proclaiming, "Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!", properly beginning the show.
Carnegie Hall is a concert venue in Midtown Manhattan in New York City, United States, located at 881 Seventh Avenue, occupying the east side of Seventh Avenue between West 56th Street and West 57th Street, two blocks south of Central Park.
Leopold Stokowski served as principal conductor from 1941-1944 on a three-year contract following a dispute between Toscanini and NBC. During this time Toscanini continued to lead the orchestra in a series of public benefit concerts for war relief. He returned as Stokowski's co-conductor for the 1942-43 and 1943-44 seasons, resuming full control thereafter. Upon Toscanini's retirement in the spring of 1954, NBC officially disbanded the orchestra, much to Toscanini's distress, though it continued for several years independent of NBC, as the Symphony of the Air. Toscanini's final broadcast concert with the orchestra took place at Carnegie Hall on April 4, 1954, and he conducted the orchestra for the last time during RCA Victor recording sessions held June 3 and 5, 1954.
Leopold Anthony Stokowski was an English conductor of Polish descent. One of the leading conductors of the early and mid-20th century, he is best known for his long association with the Philadelphia Orchestra and his appearance in the Disney film Fantasia. He was especially noted for his free-hand conducting style that spurned the traditional baton and for obtaining a characteristically sumptuous sound from the orchestras he directed.
Some notable musicians who were members of the orchestra include violinists Samuel Antek, Henry Clifton, Felix Galimir, Josef Gingold, Daniel Guilet (concertmaster 1952-54), Harry Lookofsky, Mischa Mischakoff (concertmaster 1937-1952), Albert Pratz, David Sarser, Oscar Shumsky, Benjamin Steinberg, Herman Spielberg, Boris Koutzen and Andor Toth; violists Carlton Cooley, Milton Katims, William Primrose, and Tibor Serly; cellists Frank Miller, Leonard Rose, Harvey Shapiro, Alan Shulman, George Koutzen and David Soyer; double bassists Homer Mensch and Oscar G. Zimmerman; flutists Carmine Coppola, Arthur Lora and Paul Renzi; clarinetists Augustin Duques, Al Gallodoro, David Weber and Alexander Williams; trombonist Norberto (Robert) Paolucci; saxophonist Frankie Trumbauer; oboists Robert Bloom and Paolo Renzi; bassoonists Elias Carmen, Benjamin Kohon, William Polisi, Leonard Sharrow and Arthur Weisberg; French horn players Arthur Berv, Harry Berv, Jack Berv and Albert Stagliano; Harry Glantz, Bernard Baker, and Raymond Crisara trumpets and tuba player William Bell, among others.
Samuel Antek (1909–1958) was a violinist in the NBC Symphony Orchestra under conductor Arturo Toscanini. He joined at the orchestra's inception in 1937 and played with it until its dissolution in 1954.
Felix Galimir was an Austrian-born American-Jewish violinist and music teacher.
Josef Gingold was a Belarusian-Jewish-born classical violinist and teacher, who lived most of his life in the United States. At the time of his death he was considered one of the most influential violin masters in the United States, with many successful students.
Not all of the NBC Symphony performers were under full-time contracts to NBC. In the early 1950s, for example, only about 55 of these musicians were salaried; the rest were hired under per-service contracts (in line with Local 802 American Federation of Musicians wage scales) to bring the Orchestra's performing and recording strength up to the 85-100 seen in period photographs and video footage. Even for the salaried members, NBC Symphony duties constituted barely half of their work obligations for NBC; these musicians played in orchestras for other NBC radio and television programs, with many of the wind players also serving with the Cities Service "Band of America" conducted by Paul Lavalle.
The American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada (AFM/AFofM) is a 501(c)(5) labor union representing professional instrumental musicians in the United States and Canada. The AFM, which has its headquarters in New York City, is led by president Raymond M. Hair, Jr. Founded in Cincinnati in 1896 as the successor to the "National League of Musicians," the AFM is the largest organization in the world to represent professional musicians. They negotiate fair agreements, protect ownership of recorded music, secure benefits such as health care and pension, and lobby legislators. In the US, it is the American Federation of Musicians (AFM)—and in Canada, the Canadian Federation of Musicians/Fédération canadienne des musiciens (CFM/FCM). The AFM is affiliated with AFL–CIO, the largest federation of Unions in the United States; and the Canadian Labour Congress, the federation of unions in Canada.
In the first several seasons the NBC Symphony broadcasts were "sustaining" programs, meaning that they were paid for and presented by NBC itself. In later years the broadcasts were commercially sponsored, primarily by General Motors. Under GM's sponsorship the NBC Symphony broadcasts went out under the title of General Motors Symphony of the Air, not to be confused with the later orchestra of the same name. Other sponsors included the House of Squibb, the Reynolds Metals Company, and the Socony Vacuum Oil Company (Mobil).
RCA Victor began making studio recordings of the NBC Symphony for commercial release early in 1938; Mozart's Symphony No. 40 , Joseph Haydn's Symphony No. 88 and the second and third movements from Beethoven's Op. 135 String Quartet were among the first works to be recorded. The orchestra recorded initially in Studio 8-H, but RCA Victor producer Charles O'Connell soon decided to hold most of the studio recording sessions in Carnegie Hall. However, many live broadcast performances originating in Studio 8H were also released on records, and subsequently on CD. The infamous dry acoustics of Studio 8-H, designed for broadcasting, were found to be less than ideal for recording. Acoustical modifications in 1939 were thought to have greatly improved the sound of Studio 8H; although most NBC Symphony recording sessions were shifted to Carnegie Hall in 1940, some sessions were held there as late as June 1950, when 8-H was converted into a television studio. From the autumn of 1950 until 1954, all NBC Symphony radio broadcasts and RCA Victor recording sessions took place in Carnegie Hall. [ citation needed ]
RCA Victor released the orchestra's recordings on its flagship Red Seal label on the then-standard 78-rpm records. In 1950, a 1945 recording of Ferde Grofé's Grand Canyon Suite became the NBC Symphony's first LP release (LM-1004). A mainstay of RCA Victor's Red Seal catalog through the 1950s, most of the Toscanini/NBC Symphony recordings were reissued on the lower-priced RCA Victrola label to celebrate Toscanini's centenary in 1967. In the 1980s, RCA began digitally remastering recordings of the orchestra for release on Compact Disc. A complete reissue of all Toscanini's RCA Victor recordings was released on CD and cassette between 1990 and 1992 and again in 2012. Later advances in digital technology has led RCA (now owned by Sony Music) to claim further enhancement of the sound of the magnetic tapes for later reissues, changing original equalization balances and adding acoustical enhancement, but critics are divided in their judgment. RCA has only reissued recordings that were personally approved by Toscanini, including some broadcast performances such as the seven complete operas he conducted at NBC between 1944 and 1954; however, several other labels have released discs taken from off-the-air recordings of NBC broadcast concerts. Toscanini's final two broadcast programs, in the spring of 1954, were experimentally recorded in stereo, but he did not approve their release; many years passed before they were finally issued by labels other than RCA Victor. Recorded in rather primitive and "minimalist" two-channel sound, the stereo antiphonal effect is striking (if crude); but unfortunately the complete performance from March 21, 1954 of the Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6 ("Pathetique") is not entirely stereo as the master 2-track tape of the entire 'Allegro molto vivace' third movement had apparently not survived; an artificial stereo synthesis is substituted. [ citation needed ] The missing portion of the stereo recording of the third movement was later found and included in the version now available on YouTube.
The complete series of ten NBC Symphony telecasts has been issued on VHS and LaserDisc by RCA in 1990 and on DVD by Testament in 2006. While the videos are taken from primitive kinescope films, the sound tracks were carefully synchronized from the highest fidelity transcriptions and tapes that exist.
One of the NBC Symphony Orchestra's most ambitious projects was the recording of the 13-hour musical score for NBC Television's 1952-53 series Victory at Sea. Robert Russell Bennett conducted the orchestra in his arrangements of Richard Rodgers' musical themes for the 26 documentary programs (recorded in Rockefeller Center's Center Theatre). The series is currently available on DVD. The first RCA Victor LP of excerpts was recorded by Bennett and the NBC SO musicians in July 1953. Bennett would later lead stereo recordings of "Volume 2" in 1957, a re-make of "Volume 1" in 1959, and a concluding "Volume 3" in 1961, conducting the "RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra" (members of the Symphony of the Air). RCA has reissued all of these recordings on CD.
In 1954, shortly after the orchestra's final concerts with Toscanini, Stokowski made stereo recordings for RCA Victor of excerpts from Prokofiev's ballet Romeo and Juliet and Gian Carlo Menotti's ballet Sebastian. The recordings were originally issued (monophonically) as "Leopold Stokowski and his orchestra," but reissued as "members of the NBC Symphony Orchestra." On April 6, 1954, just two days after Toscanini's final concert with the orchestra, Guido Cantelli made a recording in Carnegie Hall of César Franck's Symphony in D minor. Though the performance was recorded in stereo, RCA Victor initially issued the recording in mono. The label finally issued the stereo version in 1978.
After the NBC Symphony Orchestra disbanded, some members went on to play with other orchestras, notably Frank Miller (principal cello) and Leonard Sharrow (principal bassoon) with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. However, many former NBC Symphony members, in an attempt to stay together and preserve the orchestra, regrouped as a new ensemble called the "Symphony of the Air". They made their first recording on September 21, 1954, and gave their first public concert at the United Nations 9th Anniversary Celebration on October 24. [ citation needed ]On November 14 they appeared on the acclaimed Omnibus TV program in which Leonard Bernstein, making his first television appearance, discussed Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, and Bernstein led the Symphony of the Air during its first season. With an Asian tour under the auspices of the State Department and an attendance of 60,000 at concerts in the Catskills that summer, the first season was a huge success.
In 1960, the CBS Television network also featured the "Symphony of the Air" in its televised prime-time special Spring Festival of Music under the direction of the conductor Alfredo Antonini. In collaboration with the concert pianist John Browning, producer Robert Herridge and director Roger Englander, the orchestra presented a virtuoso live presentation of Sergei Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Concerto.
For nearly a decade, the Symphony of the Air performed many concerts led by Stokowski, the orchestra's music director from 1955. The orchestra recorded widely (on RCA Victor, Columbia, Vanguard and United Artists) under leading conductors, including Stokowski, Bernstein, Monteux, Fritz Reiner, Bruno Walter, Kirill Kondrashin, Sir Thomas Beecham, Alfred Wallenstein and Josef Krips. Only once more did they use their old name, the NBC Symphony Orchestra, in the 1963 telecast of Gian Carlo Menotti's written-for television opera, Amahl and the Night Visitors , with an all-new cast.The orchestra disbanded in 1963.
The New York Philharmonic, officially the Philharmonic-Symphony Society of New York, Inc., globally known as New York Philharmonic Orchestra (NYPO) or New York Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra, is a symphony orchestra based in New York City. It is one of the leading American orchestras popularly referred to as the "Big Five". The Philharmonic's home is David Geffen Hall, located in New York's Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.
The San Francisco Symphony (SFS), founded in 1911, is an American orchestra based in San Francisco, California. Since 1980, the orchestra is 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, when Esa-Pekka Salonen is scheduled to become the orchestra's next music director.
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".
The Columbia Symphony Orchestra was an orchestra formed by Columbia Records strictly for the purpose of making recordings. In the 1950s, it provided a vehicle for some of Columbia's better known conductors and recording artists to record using only company resources. The musicians in the orchestra were contracted as needed for individual sessions and consisted of free-lance artists and members of either the New York Philharmonic or the Los Angeles Philharmonic, depending on whether the recording was being made in Columbia's East Coast or West Coast studios.
Arturo Toscanini was an Italian conductor. He was one of the most acclaimed musicians of the late 19th and of the 20th century, renowned for his intensity, his perfectionism, his ear for orchestral detail and sonority, and his eidetic memory. He was at various times the music director of La Scala in Milan, the Metropolitan Opera in New York, and the New York Philharmonic. Later in his career he was appointed the first music director of the NBC Symphony Orchestra (1937–54), and this led to his becoming a household name through his radio and television broadcasts and many recordings of the operatic and symphonic repertoire.
RCA Records is an American record label owned by Sony Music, a subsidiary of Sony Corporation of America. It is one of Sony Music's four flagship labels, alongside RCA's former long-time rival Columbia Records, Arista Records, and Epic Records. The label has released multiple genres of music, including pop, classical, rock, hip hop, afrobeat, electronic, R&B, blues, jazz, and country. Its name is derived from the initials of its defunct parent company, the Radio Corporation of America (RCA). It was fully acquired by Bertelsmann in 1986, making it a part of Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG); however, RCA Records became a part of Sony BMG Music Entertainment, a merger between BMG and Sony Music, in 2004, and was acquired by the latter in 2008, after the dissolution of Sony BMG and the restructuring of Sony Music. It is the second oldest record label in American history, after sister label Columbia Records.
Guido Cantelli was an Italian orchestral conductor. He was named Musical Director of La Scala, Milan in November 1956 but his promising career was cut short only one week later by his death at the age of 36 in an airplane crash in Paris, France.
Charles Munch was an Alsacian, German-born French symphonic conductor and violinist. Noted for his mastery of the French orchestral repertoire, he was best known as music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Eugene Ormandy was a Hungarian-American conductor and violinist, best known for his association with the Philadelphia Orchestra, as its music director. The maestro's 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.
Frederick Martin "Fritz" Reiner 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.
Jan Peerce was an American operatic tenor. Peerce was an accomplished performer on the operatic and Broadway concert stages, in solo recitals, and as a recording artist. He is the father of film director Larry Peerce.
The National Philharmonic Orchestra was a British orchestra created exclusively for recording purposes. It was founded by RCA Records producer and conductor Charles Gerhardt and orchestra leader and contractor Sidney Sax. The orchestra was created partly due to the requirements of an extensive recording project for the Reader's Digest.
RCA Victrola was a budget record label introduced by RCA Victor in the early 1960s to reissue classical recordings originally released on the RCA Victor "Red Seal" label. The name "Victrola" was the trademark for early console phonographs with enclosed horns first marketed by the Victor Talking Machine Company in 1906. The Victrola label replaced the older RCA Camden label for budget classical reissues, the Camden label now mostly reissuing recordings from RCA Victor's pop and country catalog. Many reissues on the Victrola label included recordings from the historic RCA Victor "Living Stereo" series first released in 1958, using triple channel stereophonic tapes recorded as early as 1954. There were also some first stereo issues of recordings that had previously been available only in monophonic versions. For several years, Victrola released both stereo and mono versions of many albums, many of them in "reprocessed" (fake) stereo.
Charles Allan Gerhardt was an American conductor, record producer, and arranger.
Richard Mohr was one of RCA Victor’s most prominent producers of classical and operatic music recordings from 1943 through 1977. His producing credits included recording the casts of the world premieres of Samuel Barber's Vanessa and Gian Carlo Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors, as well as the first LP recordings of Ernani,Luisa Miller and Lucrezia Borgia and three versions each of Rigoletto,Aida,La Traviata and Il Trovatore.
John "Jack" Pfeiffer ,was a classical recording producer, a design engineer, and an occasional electronic music composer.
Arturo Toscanini was an Italian conductor. He was one of the most acclaimed musicians of the late 19th and 20th century. Toscanini was a prolific recording artist, having conducted many recordings from 1920 until his retirement in 1954.
RCA Red Seal is a classical music label whose origin dates to 1902 and is currently owned by Sony Music.