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Monday, October 15, 2012

Mahler's Autographed Photograph to his Disciple, Arnold Schoenberg, a Perspective on the Mystery

The 1907 Moriz Nahr autographed presentation photograph of Gustav Mahler inscribed to Arnold Schoenberg

Gustav Mahler at the end of his Vienna tenure sat for a series of photographs in his office at the Hofoper. The series taken by the Austrian photographer Moriz Nähr in 1907, are among the most iconic photographs of the composer. To my knowledge there are 8 poses, several seated, several standing at various angles and were released during Mahler's lifetime. These photographs which were a favorite of the composer, but quite expensive at the time, were dedicated to only his closest circle and are rarely offered on the open market, either by auction, or by dealer.  His widow Alma, was famously shown holding a large version of the photograph in a photograph of her taken in her later years. 

The mentor-disciple relationship Mahler had with Arnold Schoenberg was an important and interesting one. They first met in 1904, though Schoenberg had known Alma Mahler since 1900. The meeting was precipitated with his founding of the Vereinigung schaffender Tonkünstler, or the Society of Creative Composers with his brother-in-law and teacher Alexander Zemlinsky. Mahler was made first honorary President of the Society. While Mahler did not fully understand all of Schoenberg's music, he saw the merit of his musical oeuvre and championed the younger composer. From the other perspective, Schoenberg had a difficult professional relationship at times with Mahler, who was slow to accept his ideas and genius.  However he always respected and venerated the composer, who was a great influence on him. A year before Mahler's untimely death and on the occasion of Mahler's fiftieth birthday, Schoenberg made an appeal to him, 

  Your fiftieth birthday affords an occasion for me to tell you what I always want to keep on saying: in what high regard I hold you. and how I cannot help remembering, with much distress that in earlier days I so annoyed you by being at variance with you. I feel I was wrong to try to thrust my opinions on you instead of listening when you talked and letting myself be enriched by what is more important than opinions: the resonance of a great personality. 

He signs the letter, With affectionate veneration and devotion. 

Which brings us to the drama surrounding the missing, now found Mahler photograph. A well written article by Dan Wakin of the New York Times discusses the basic situation surrounding the lost, then found photograph and some of the intrigue which has unnecessarily followed. 

A little background I have discovered since making contact with the Schoenberg Family. Mr. Cliff Fraser appears to have located the photograph while rummaging through his nonagenarian Grandmother's basement. He claims to have found the photograph behind a boiler and further claims it was so dirty he almost threw it out. He apparently cleaned the item and then contacted the Schoenberg Center in Vienna, where the archivist, knowing the history around the photograph and about the empty frames they currently hold contacted the Schoenberg Family. Mr. Fraser maintains his Grandfather, Abraham Fraser, a pianist in the Los Angeles area was given the photograph by his teacher, Josef Schmidt, who was a pupil of Schoenberg's pupil Alban Berg.  Berg died in 1935, when the photograph was well in the composer's possession. While several of Schmidt's students claim he was a pupil of Schoenberg, it is not the truth. According to the Schoenberg family, who have examined all the evidence at their disposal, Schmidt was one of the many Jewish emigre musicians who were known to Schoenberg and occasionally visited his Los Angeles home.   A dialogue began with the Schoenberg's and Mr. Fraser.  Mr. Fraser looking for a big payday demanded they pay $350,000 to return the piece. They attempted to meet with him and he did not keep the appointment;then he then cut off communication with the family. At this point, Mr. Fraser decided to sell the piece on the open market offering it to dealers and auction houses. I come into the story a couple of months later as an interested party and attempted to make contact with Mr. Fraser.  I had read about the item on Randol Schoenberg's blog and had further conversations with one of my colleagues whom Mr. Fraser had contacted.  The entire situation was quite intriguing and so as a known dealer in the marketplace, I made contact.

Dear Sir: 
I was told that you have a group of autographs in the classical music field that you wish to sell. I would be interested in hearing about what you might have to offer.
Sincerely yours,

To which Mr. Fraser responded, 

How exactly did you hear of me and who gave you my contact information? 

Now I have been at this game a long time and have dealt with items at every end of the price spectrum and had never received a response like that.  So I responded as follows,

From another dealer whom you contacted who was not interested in whatever you offered to them, but thought I might have an interest. We buy and sell classical music autographs, manuscripts, scores, letters and ephemera. I am a long standing dealer in the field and a member of the Professional Autograph Dealers Association.
Anyhow, happy to discuss anything you might have to offer. If you no longer have any items, sorry to trouble you.

To which he replied,

I have an autographed and inscribed photograph of Gustav Mahler, dedicated to Arnold Schoenberg. The document's description is as follows: The photograph is a gelatin silver print, measuring approximately 6 inches by 6 ½ inches, mounted on strong cardboard, measuring 8 ½ inches by 10 ¾ inches. The photograph is set off-centered, leaving an uncovered space measuring 2 ½ inches, between the bottom edge of the photograph and the bottom edge of the cardboard. Furthermore, in this aforementioned space there is a penned inscription.
The print is a portrayal of Gustav Mahler in the foyer of the Vienna Court Opera, commissioned in 1907. The artist was Moritz Nahr, and the print bears his stamp which is imprinted in the bottom right-hand corner. The stamp reads, “M Nahr Wien 07”. In the print, Gustav Mahler sits in a chair, left leg crossing over right, arms resting at his sides, right had clutching the chair, left hand forming a fist, head turned to the left. Mahler is wearing glasses, collared shirt, bow-tie, button-up vest, single-breasted jacket, and pants; his feet are not visible. The inscription, which is written in the uncovered space on the cardboard mount below the photograph, is penned in black ink. The inscription reads as follows: “Arnold Schoenberg”, followed by hand written music, “zum abschied, Wien 1907, Gustav Mahler”.
This was a gift from Gustav Mahler to Arnold Schoenberg, saying farewell before leaving Austria for New York on December 9, 1907. Mahler was a broken man at the time following a series of tragic events: On June 11, 1907 after years of satiric criticism, Mahler quits the Austrian Phil Harmonic, a position he renounced his Jewish faith to acquire; OnJuly 12, 1907 his daughter Maria, age 4, dies from scarlet fever in addition to being diagnosed with a bilateral valvular defect. Mahler, fearing his own death lay on the horizon, says goodbye to his dearest friend with a message only they could understand.The Third Symphony was an inspiration to Arnold Schoenberg which he expressed in a letter he wrote to Mahler after hearing it preformed in December 1904:
My Dear Director, I must not speak as a musician to a musician, if I am to give any idea of the incredible impression your symphony made on me. I can only speak as one human being to another, for I saw your very soul naked, stark naked. It was revealed to me as a stretch of wild and secret country. I felt it as an event of nature. I felt your symphony. I shared in the battling for illusion. I suffered the pangs of disillusionment. I saw the forces of evil and good wrestling with each other. I saw a man in torment struggling towards inward harmony... Forgive me, I cannot feel by halves.”
Arnold Schoenberg Sunday, December 12, 1904
Schoenberg too was criticized for his composition, which inspired Mahler to become the biggest supporter and public advocate for Schoenberg.“I do not understand his music, but he is young; perhaps he is right. I am old, perhaps I no longer have the ear for his music.” Gustav Mahler 1907
Gustav Mahler died on May 18, 1911. According to his wife Alma, his last words were“who is going to take care of Arnold?”
Considering Sotheby's recent sale of Mahler's last symphony manuscript for approximately $600,000.00, I value the photograph at least $500,000.00, however, I am negotiable.
Best Regardes, 

Now, the reply above was in a patchwork of fonts.  Also the response as you can see is not written by someone who recently found an item in an area he knew nothing about.  The language is quite interesting, as it is not autograph dealer speak, but antiquarian book seller colloquialisms.  Further, the writing even there is inconsistent and appears to be cobbled together from several people's writing. The email was accompanied by the photograph you see above and several grainy close-ups of the autograph, attached, please see one of the additional images below.

Grainy close-up of the Mahler dedication to Schoenberg

Looking at this situation from my position as a Music Antiquarian, this photograph would normally be something worthy of acquiring.  I could even think of several logical buyers, but there is history on the sale of this image signed and unsigned in the marketplace and the price he was asking was absurd and had no basis in reality.  His basis of comparison, the manuscript for Mahler's 10th Symphony versus an autographed photograph dedicated to Arnold Schoenberg was ludicrous at best and not a basis of comparison whatsoever. An unsigned original standing version of the photograph was sold Villa Grisebach Auktionen in Berlin at a photography auction in 2002 for $7700 U.S. One was offered on E-Bay in 2006 of the same image, also unsigned and brought slightly more than $2000 U.S. I have had the photograph myself signed and inscribed without bars of music and sold it for $15,000. A colleague of mine offered an autographed example with bars of music in his Christmas catalog four years ago and asked $25,000. The fact that the item is signed to Schoenberg would surely drive up the  value, perhaps double, even as much as $65,000 on a really good day at auction, but no where near where this fellow was asking. 

So in an attempt to see where this might go, also attempting to discover the provenance, I replied,

Thanks for telling me about this piece. There is a huge difference between a manuscript and a signed photograph. You are talking about a Rolls Royce vs. a lower end BMW in a price comparison. Price wise, even with an amazing dedication like this, it still is only worth a fraction of an important manuscript of one of the composer's most important works. I have sold this same image signed to a musician within the last 5 years and the retail price was $15,000.00. I have also appraised at least two others in the same period with similar dedications one to a friend, the other a musician and arrived at the same price. That price actually jibes with the entire dealer community. Now obviously, a photograph signed to Schoenberg would command a higher retail, but the question is how much higher. In my mind, at auction the piece would not reach more than $50-$65,000 on a good day, which means I would have to be at close to half of whatever price we agreed upon.
Where in the World did you wind up with this amazing piece? Also, I heard you had other items which may be of interest.
Anyhow, is there a way to get a clearer scan of the photograph?
Please advise, 

The reply came as follows,

Thank you for your professional opinion. However, after speaking with my attorney, I can not continue this discussion unless you identify the individual who gave you my personal information. I have dealt with very few in regard to this item and some have been of unscrupulous character. As a representative of the PADA, a promoter of ethical business practice, I am sure you understand.

No, frankly I did not understand. The fact he had engaged an attorney threw up all sorts of alarm bells, something did not smell right.  I had provided serious knowledge which could be easily followed up on the internet and it would seem he was unwilling to follow through on the provenance.  But truly intrigued, I followed up the conversation.

I am very perplexed. You did contact several members of PADA, you obviously provided them with information, as that is how I found out about you. It is immaterial who it is. I am a regular buyer and seller of this material. My ethics are beyond reproach.......
The piece you offered to me was priced in the stratosphere, many times above the market price. You arrived a price based on a Sotheby's comparable that is a disconnect and it will not sell to a dealer, private collector, or institution anywhere in the World. I've been in this field for many years both as a collector first and then a dealer and appraiser. Two and two do not equal four. I was making you aware that your desired price is unattainable, at Sotheby's, or any place else. Your chances of selling it at your desired price is unachievable. Many in your shoes have an inflated idea of what their property is worth. It is not uncommon, however, if you truly wish to sell the piece, I am happy to work with you at a price that is achievable in the market. It would be in my best interest to sell it at the highest price one could expect from a piece like this, but Five hundred thousand, or even a close percentage of that is not where the market is on the item you have. In speaking with my colleague, he told me he advised you the price was much too high.
Now, all of this said, I am perplexed as to why you have sent me an e-mail stating there is a lawyer involved at this point. We have only begun our introductory conversation on the item. At times I get to that point with a client with a valuable piece, but that is typically well down the line. Now, I am a potential willing buyer, or agent and it appears you have an item you wish to sell. I obviously need to know where the item came from, as my reputation becomes bound in with the item and I have to know the provenance, so that I am confident you have clear title, or I cannot have a further conversation about the item........
Anyhow, food for thought.
Sincerely yours,

Now all of these e-mails occurred over the space of approximately 24 hours and wouldn't you know, all of a sudden the next e-mail came and he has dropped the price from $500,000 to $100,000. Which while substantially lower was not a realistic price.

Under no circumstance would I consign my piece. The only way I would continue dealing with you is if I receive an offer of no less than $100,000. Obviously the information you received is inaccurate on numerous fronts.
Thank you for your interest

So I decided to continue with the conversation as I would for any item I planned to purchase for my inventory, or as an agent for one of my clients.  This time I asked for a high resolution scan of the item to see the condition of the piece as well as once again requesting the provenance, a question he he had not answered in one of my earlier e-mails.

$100,000 is a more realistic gross price, still ad tad high; but where it could be sent to several key collectors for an impression and a possibly a bite, or even if we get lucky, as sale. If I we were to act as your agent, we would need a detailed scan 150 dpi jpg minimum, 300 dpi preferred of the item out of the frame, both sides of the piece. Most of the collectors at this level are extremely concerned about condition and the scans you forwarded will not work. I also need to be able to discuss minute details like creases, tears etc. on the item with as much knowledge as possible. Collectors could care less about the frame and would want to take it to an archival framer and have it matted and molded to their liking, or have a custom leather binder made for the item. It is also important to insure that the piece they are buying has a good clean provenance as I discussed in my earlier e-mail, I need to be able to tell the client where the item has been since Arnold Schoenberg passed away. Obviously if we were to move forward and we do have a bite, I would have to fly out to wherever you are to see the item in person, that is unless you have any designs on coming into New York City.
If you would like to move forward, you now know what I need. If we get to the point that something positive happens, I will send you our standard written agreement and we can work from there.

A reply came, however, he would not forward a scan to me unless I sent him a check in advance and he still did not answer the question about provenance.

As explained previously, I am not interested in an agent as I have great interest internationally and have representation. If you wish to make a definitive offer of $100,000 to purchase the piece directly, I will be happy to comply with your request for a detailed scan.
Respectfully, if we can not proceed as I have outlined there is no reason to think we can move forward. Your company or personal check will be acceptable.
Thank you for your interest,

Now, it was very apparent something was truly amiss.  The expectation a buyer would forward a check of this size to a seller without seeing the piece was a ridiculous request.   What buyer for any item, would make an definitive offer to buy anything for $100,000 without kicking the tires.  Had there been legitimacy to this dance, the buyer would have forwarded scans for my examination so I could decide whether it was worth the price and go to pick the item up in person, negotiate more, or back out.  Further, an unimpeachable provenance with a clear lineage would need to be ascertained.  I would have to know I was purchasing an item that was legitimately his to sell and mine to own and resell.  So I followed up with what I thought would be the final bit of correspondence and I was not wrong.

I cannot commit this sort of money to a piece I have not seen. I cannot move forward with you unless I have seen a scan showing the piece in enough detail that I see any and all imperfections. The value of the piece is based upon perfection, tears, worn edges, sun fades, foxing, creases etc. have to be taken into consideration and your current digital photographs do not show detail at that level, they are fuzzy and pixelated. I have to be able to resell the item to one of my clients and I have to be able to know these things before I can make any sort of commitment. Further, after seeing the scans, if all looks well, I would have to expend capital to come out to wherever you are to see the item in person. Think about it, I'll assume you are a logical guy, would you commit to buy anything significant expending a large amount of capital if you had not seen the item? We are in a recession and I need to feel confident I could sell the item to one of my clients promptly.
Secondly, I need to understand how you came by a piece of this significance. Are you a member of the Schoenberg family? I have asked you several times for the information and you have avoided providing the provenance. If I were to spend a significant amount on this piece, I have to do my due diligence on the piece as well, to insure I am handling something that would legally be mine. Any dealer of upstanding character has to do this.
Please advise,
Sincerely yours,

That was the end of the conversation. I sent a follow up a few days later and asked him if their was a reply forthcoming to my questions, as expected, no reply.

A very detailed account of the piece and the Schoenberg Family's attempt to discuss the piece and meet with Mr. Fraser can be found on the composer's Grandson, Randol Schoenberg's blog.  

Now in my role as a known dealer and appraiser of such items, I hear all sorts of stories.  I have dealt with families who don't speak, where one side has knowledge and the other does not.  I have dealt with pieces which were gifted by a composer, or a musician to a favorite disciple.  I have dealt with marital disputes and yes as a dealer I have been offered items which I knew did not belong in the hands of the person offering them to me.    I remember a dumpster diver who came up with some important letters of a very famous composer.  The mistress who had not been in contact with her family had been sent to a nursing home and had not paid her rent.  Her landlord dumped the entire contents onto the street and I purchased the items and repatriated them with a family member of the composer who manages his archive.  I even purchased an item once from an overseas dealer I suspected of selling stolen property to see the library markings on the item first hand and determine if the items had been stolen.  He was arrested shortly thereafter and the story made the New York Times.

I called Randol Schoenberg today to see if there had been any communication from Mr. Fraser.  I decided to publish this article and expose what is really going on behind the scenes in this particular situation, a portion of the story the New York Times article could not tell.  Changing to Op-Ed mode, the intrigue surrounding this story smells of greed.  The Schoenberg family established and have long since given the Maestro's estate to the Schoenberg Center in Vienna. The piece obviously belongs to them and they will surely send it there to be united with the composer's other possessions.

To the best of my knowledge, there is no statute of limitations on stolen property anywhere in the Country.  As a casual acquaintance, there is no probability the composer would have given this prize possession to Joseph Schmidt.  The family knew the piece was there after the death of Schoenberg and his widow Gertrud would not have given her husband's prize souvenir of his relationship with Mahler to a man who had a cursory relationship with the family.  Further Mr. Schmidt lived in New York during the time between the composer and his widows death.  Dan Wakin published a statement by Mr. Fraser's Father that he had never seen the photograph before. I know music autograph collectors.  They are very proud of their holdings and prominently display their most important pieces and love discussing them with anyone who might take an interest.  Surely, a Father would have shared something of this importance with his son growing up. If Mr. Fraser's Grandfather did not display this piece in his home, or studio, the hiding of the photograph speaks louder than words. There is a reason it was found coated with dust behind a boiler in the basement. Mr. Fraser's Father went on to say that if he could, he would return the piece to the Schoenberg's. It is now up to Mr. Fraser to do the right thing and give the photograph back to the Schoenberg Family, so it can be placed in the Schoenberg Center for the World to see.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Return of the Opportunity to be a Back Yard Impresario!

Lot 5936-333
Remember the tale of the Dutch opera impresario who had shut down operations of his stadium opera company?  He listed the sets, costumes, scores and other finery on E-Bay without the results he wanted.  Our original article
Well he's not done with auctions yet, BVA Auctions in Hoevelaken in the Netherlands has all the items now broken up in 1600 lots to be sold in two days time, on 9/27.  Here is the listings on their website.  Link here 1, Link here 2, Link here 3.
One can still be one's own back yard impresario, each lot begins at a single Euro!

Note: Harmonie Autographs and Music, Inc. has no financial interest in this sale.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Liszt Sonata in B minor performed from the manuscript!

I was recently made aware of a YouTube video by our friend pianist Professor Claudius Tanski of the Salzburg, Mozarteum performing the devilishly difficult Liszt Sonata in B minor S. 178 from the original manuscript!  The piece is hard enough to master from the printed music, let alone performed in Liszt's at times difficult handwriting!  By utilizing the manuscript, Professor Tanski is able to bring the piece, a revolutionary work in its' time to life with all of the original warts and without publisher oversight contained in the more harmonized published version!  I recommend a careful listen to this performance, which is quite unique in comparison to anything I have ever heard before.  A free reading, elegant in phrasing and containing all of the slight nuances written by the composer in it's original form.

The manuscript is contained in the Lehman collection, currently housed at the Morgan Library here in New York City. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

If You Like Mahler's 1st, An Unusual Recording You Should buy!

Every once in a blue moon, I'll take a risk on a recording that could possibly hit the trash can after a first listen.  I happened to stop by the Juilliard Store yesterday while my computer was in the repair shop.  As I rounded the last CD section, I saw they were running a $9.98 sale on single disk Urania recordings.  Knowing Urania can be a real mixed bag when it comes to sound quality, I looked over the group of cd's and saw this oddball Mahler's 1st with Rafael Kubelik conducting the Orchestra Sinfonica di Torino della Rai in a live radio broadcast from Turin in 1956.  So, being a sucker for Mahler's 1st I thought, what the hell, $9.98, what do I have to lose?  I told my friend Seth Winner, a noted Sound Engineer about my new purchase and he chuckled.  Though he had to admit he never heard the recording before.  Anyhow, Urania released this recording from the original master tapes in 2005, the first time the performance had been published in any form.  

Wow!!!! is the best descriptor for this recording.  A true tribute to Kubelik, as it is completely obvious he spent the time needed to take the Italian out of the orchestra and focus on Mahler's dynamics.  The brass as one would expect from an Italian orchestra is strong, but note overdone as I have heard in any number of recordings of the period, the strings are glorious, but the most surprising aspect is the clarity of the woodwinds. The engineer who strung the microphones knew the hall, but also knew the piece, as the woodwinds are well emphasized and the detail in the first and third movements is something to behold and something which engineers do not always emphasize.   On the weak end of the engineering is the underplay of the percussion and over-emphasis of what becomes a virtual tuba solo in the rounds of Frere Jacques at the beginning of the movement.  Happily, the orchestra also has a real feel for the Klezmer vs. Funeral dynamic in the same movement.  The transfer engineers do a terrific job as well and I can heartily recommend this recording for overall sound quality.

Interestingly Kubelik takes the 4th movement in a very deliberate way.  Mahler's marking of Stürmisch bewegt – Energisch (Stormy and Energetic) are built upon, rather than raging from the moment the movement begins.  I personally like this aspect of the performance very much, but it may not be to the absolute puritans liking.  I am quite reminded of the deliberate conducting of Hans Knappertsbusch's in his Westminster recording of Fidelio when I hear something like this which is in absolute good taste, but not quite the way others envision it.

Anyhow, I am sure this cd is available from a variety of sources, however, the sale makes this all worthwhile.  You can call the Juilliard Store at 212-799-5000, or contact them via their website, Juilliard Store contact page to take advantage of this particular cd.

The Music Antiquarian Blog, Harmonie Autographs and Music, Inc. and their employees have not received any financial compensation in the publication of this article.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Bernard Parronchi story updated with Youtube videos

Photograph of Bernard Parronchi courtesy of the Boston Symphony Orchestra Archives

I wrote a post in January regarding Boston Symphony Orchestra cellist Bernard Parronchi.  Today, I added two Youtube videos to the post and thought you, our readers would enjoy listening to Benny at work!  The two works are:

1. Andrea Caporale's Sonata in D minor
2. Enrique Granados's Danza Espanole #5, Andaluza

Each piece was recorded privately by the cellist during a professional recording session.  We own the original source and copyright on the proprietary engineered sound files.


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Elena Gerhardt sings Brahms great lied "Von Ewiger Liebe"

Elena Gerhardt may not be a name well recognized today except by record collectors.  However, at one point in time, she was the most beloved concert mezzo-soprano on the concert stage.  Her lieder concerts were an event that were awaited with great anticipation on three continents.  She was trained at the Leipzig Conservatory, where the legendary conductor Artur Nikisch took her under his wing and promoted her career from the very start, even accompanying her in her debut recital.  Some of her most collected records have the conductor at the piano.  What is not well know about Gerhardt is that she had a Jewish husband who was in charge of the radio network system in Germany. In 1933 he was dismissed by the Nazi's and brought up on trumped up charges.  Gerhardt who had left for England with the understanding her husband would soon follow, had to go back to Germany which was a very dangerous thing to do for a spouse married to a Jewish suspect in a criminal case.  She pleaded and was able to obtain his release for England only after the Nazi's had finished prosecuting him.  Gerhardt had a flourishing career in England and once the War was over, the United States and the rest of the World.

This 1925 early electric recording is a true document of vocal history. My sound engineer worked wonders on this very difficult record.  There are a few over-modulation points when she takes the higher register, however, that is the fault of the early microphone and not her own. Enjoy!

Artur Schnabel on Johannes Brahms

The legendary pianist once described the Johannes Brahms he knew very succinctly.  He broke the composer down into the three "B's, Beard, Beer and Belly.

Page 268 of Stuart Isacoff's A Natural History of the Piano.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Released for the first time in digital format Herta Glaz sings Schubert

Madame Glaz (1910-2006)  outside the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House

The name Herta Glaz (sometimes Hertha) is today perhaps lost, except to a small group of dedicated fans and friends.  She truly was one of the last of the great Jewish Holocaust refugee opera singers.  She was very lucky to be on tour in the United States under the management of Sol Hurok when the Anschluss occured.  

The mezzo-soprano born in Vienna at one time was one of the most sought after lieder singers in the United States.  Her rendition of Schubert's lied Fruhlingstraum is absolutely delightful, with a true sense of the composition and a clear, bright and yes luxurious sound.  The recording we just put up on YouTube to our knowledge has never before been released in digital format.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

When Is A Surplus, Not Really A Surplus, Ask the Metropolitan Opera

Philip Boroff wrote today in Bloomberg News about the apparent financial health of the Metropolitan Opera. In an article that depicts everything coming up roses for the MET on their current tax return, one should pause and ask some serious questions. It would appear salaries are up for Mr. Levine and their Master Electrician (who we have just learned is no longer employed at the MET, his replacement, P.J. Volpe is former Metropolitan Opera General Manager Joe Volpe's son.), Gelb is maintaining at a very high level and it infers that everything is a picture of good health. Fourty-One Million of good health it would seem. The major take home quote from his article,

The Met, the largest U.S. opera presenter, spent $321 million during 2010-2011, up 8 percent. It had a $41 million surplus, reversing a $25 million deficit the prior season, as contributions and revenue surged, according to the return.

Entire Bloomberg Article

But here is the rub:

1. Monies owed to the Metropolitan Opera Pension Fund in 2011 have yet to reach the account.
2. Money was taken in the 2011 season from the endowment of the Metropolitan Opera which has yet to be repaid.
3. The note on the Chagall frescoes with J. P. Morgan Chase has yet to be repaid in full.

Employees within the Metropolitan Opera who are counting on the Pension Fund for their retirements, want to have the peace of mind that their pensions are secure and that the borrowed money has been returned. We all know from the NYCO endowment raid that that sort of "borrowing" occurs as a last resort, when all other options are exhausted, so why did the Metropolitan Opera raid their endowment too? The ludicrous loan on the Chagall frescoes which cannot be removed still is lingering and has not bee fully repaid. So they claim a $41.0 million dollar surplus on their taxes, hmmmmmmmm. It would beg to ask the question, was this was done so the Senior Management of the Opera Company look more successful than they really are?  Are they kicking the can down the road to another year to make this happen?  Once the raided funds are repaid, (of course that is entirely an assumption) the question is where does it really leave them for the 2011 fiscal year?

Of course, that is the 41 Million Dollar question!

Updated 10:59 AM 6/20/12

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

At Last Tsar Feodor, Chaliapin in America is out!

We have just received word from Joseph Darsky, that his new book on Chaliapin's adventures in America is out.  We previously wrote about this new biography of the legendary bass on February 1st.  Click below for a description from the publisher.  The book may be ordered directly from the publisher, Amazon, Powell's and a whole host of other on-line book sites at varying rates of discount.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Craig Sheppard's latest cd release

For those of you who follow my blog, Craig Sheppard was the pianist who gave the true first performance of the Brahms Album Leaf, many months before the Hogwood dust-up. For those who love the Romantic piano works of the 19th Century, the works of Franz Liszt, or specifically Les Annees de Pelerinage by Franz Liszt, we have a treat to tell you about. 

Craig has just released a 2 cd set on the Romeo Records label of the complete cycle, recorded live at the Meany Theater in Seattle on the 20th and 21st of October, 2011.  The playing is first rate, both sensitive and masterful as this cycle requires.  He demonstrates he is a true keyboard virtuoso in his interpretation.  For those who are concerned about such things, the sound engineering is also of the highest quality.  Craig has also written the liner notes concerning the history of the cycle.

You may order below, he also has sound files which you may preview.

Harmonie Autographs and Music, Inc. is not compensated in any way for this endorsement

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Emanuel List Sings a Rumbling Patriotic Song

Emanuel List (1888-1967) was one of the most important German basses at the Metropolitan Opera during the WWII period, chalking up 449 performances in the house between 1933 and 1950.  A Jewish son of a tailor and born in Vienna, his real name was Emanual Fleissig.  He learned to sing in the synagogues of Vienna and joined the chorus of the Theater an der Wien in his teens.  He next joined a quartet which toured Europe, Australia and New Zealand, winding up in New York studying with the vocal pedagogue Josiah Zuro.  To make ends meet, he sung in the local movie theatres during the showing of silent films.  He returned to Austria in 1921 and made his debut at the Vienna Volksoper in 1922.  The following year, he was hired by the Berlin Staditsche Oper and the Berlin Staatsoper in 1924.  He stayed as house bass at the Staatsoper until 1933 and interestingly he sung at the Bayreuth Festspiele that Summer.  He left Germany for America with a contract to sing at the Metropolitan Opera which was to be his srtistic home until 1950.  The bass also was a great favorite as a guest in Vienna, London, Paris, Buenos Aires and Chicago during his long career.  After his return to his beloved Vienna, and in the final years of his career, List sung lieder concerts in Germany and Austria through 1952.  He is buried in the Jewish section of the Zentralfriedhof in Vienna.

The recording you are about to hear is interesting, as it was utilized as a patriotic rallying song during WWI in Austria.  The lied is entitled "Andreas Hofer" and it concerns the real life rebel of the same name, Tirolean innkeeper who rebelled against Napoleon's army.  Knebelsberger also wrote a march of the same name which was used through WWII, substantially different from the lied.  List was fiercely loyal to Austria and when he had a choice whether to retire in the United States, or Austria, he returned home.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Suzanne Sten sings Mahler, a rather rare recording

Moving along with our project presenting previously unreleased in digital format recordings of Jewish singers of the Holocaust era, I present the beautiful mezzo-soprano Suzanne Sten singing Mahler's "Ich atmet 'einen linden duft" the first of the Ruckert lieder.  This recording beautifully sung is from a 1940's Columbia record with Leo Taubmann at the piano.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Hermann Weil sings Robert Schumann's most militaristic lied!

As Count Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro

Weil is an interesting character in the World of Opera.  He was a student of Wagner disciple Felix Mottl, a great Wagnerian conductor.  He spent most of his early career in Stuttgardt, where he made a big name for himself and was brought to Bayreuth where he assumed the heldbaritone fach roles.  In 1911 he came to New York to sing with the Metropolitan Opera, where he stayed for 6 seasons, leaving the company towards the end of the War in 1917.  He returned in the 1920's with a German touring company and stayed long enough to get his citzenship. A smart move, as a Jew, he was able to leave Europe in 1939 for the United States.  He died in a boating accident in upstate New York in 1949.

This 1916 Columbia recording of Weil singing Schumann's Die beiden Grenadiere is not a great recording, it is a good, competent recording in my opinion.  Listen carefully to his exquisite diction and rolling r's!  As much as I admire Feodor Chaliapin, it's a better recording of the lied than his, far less strained, so if you like the Chaliapin recording you should love this.  I am presenting this video which has also been launched for the first time in digital format.  I have also included an English language translation of the lied on the video post on YouTube.

Herbert Janssen sings Richard Strauss, first time in digital format

Most people who remember Janssen think of him as as the mighty Wotan, Amfortas, or Kurvenaal.  What most do not realize is unlike other heldenbaritones of his generation, Janssen prior to his vocal burn-out from singing those roles had one of the most mellow baritones in the business.  We offer this recording of Richard Strauss's 1885 lied Die Nacht for the first time in digital format.  One of the most touching renditions of this work typically performed by sopranos.  This is a recording to savor!


Gelb's Latest Controversy

Updated 6/4/2012 at 8:02 est

Max Bialystock

After Mr. Gelb was called out for complaining and influencing the withdrawal of a well written piece by a WQXR blog critic a month ago, one would think he would have stopped his attempts to censor criticism of his product and tenure. Obviously not.  Thin of skin and now most probably concerned about his job with the cost of the Ring Cycle coming in at least double the original $16.0 million he still touts to the press, he continues on his censorship crusade. The New York Times broke a story today that Peter Gelb has been "collaborative" with the Metropolitan Opera Guild regarding ending their criticism of the Metropolitan Opera in Opera News Magazine.  The rub here is, the Managing Director of the Guild, Stewart Pearce is a Gelb appointee, approved by a Board he controls, so much for "collaboration."  Perhaps Mr. Gelb should spend more time in "little old lady land" and not worry about what is said of him.  Insiders tell me he needs money fast to cover his deficits.  So without further ado, here is the New York Times article by Dan Wakin followed by links to various arts, philanthropy and informational blogs from throughout the World.  We will continue to update this page as the critiques of this action come in! 

New York Times Article

Norman Lebrecht's Slipped Disc Blog

Parterre Box Blog 1

Parterre Box Blog 2

The Atlantic Wire

Philanthropy Today

Lisa Hirsch's Iron Tongue Blog

Musical Toronto Blog

Sketchy Details Blog

Philip Kennicott Blog

Nico Devilliers Blog

RSS News Desk

John's Opera Ramblings Blog

Grapeful Blog

Helsingin Sanormat: (Finnish)

Forum Opera Blog (French)

Tim's Smith's colum on the Baltimore Sun Blog

Terry Teachout's About Last Night Blog

David Stabler on the Oregon Live Blog

Orf Blog (German language Austrian Blog)

A Liberal's Libretto Blog

Old West Arts Blog

Alex Ross's The Rest is Noise Blog

Anne Midgette on the Washington Post Blog

Justin Davidson Vulture Blog

Likely Impossibilities Opera Blog

On Opera Blog

Carolines Blog

Sounds and Fury Opera Blog

Poynter Blog

Super-Conductor Blog

Salazar's Opera Family Circle Blog

Classical Life Blog

The Omniscient Mussel Blog

Real Clear Arts Blog

Well Sung Blog

The PR Verdict Blog

Richmond Times Dispatch Blog

Flack's Revenge Blog

Cricket Toes Blog

Lieto Fine London Blog

Perfectly Rational Dog Blog

Solgerd Islav Blog (Swedish)

Index on Censorship Blog

New Yorker Magazine, Alex Ross

New York Times letter to the editor

Boise State Public Radio Blog Blog

AM New York Blog

Greg Sandow's Blog

Berkshire Fine Arts Blog

Latinos Post Blog

Live 2.0 Blog

Opera Pulse Blog

Boston Lyric Opera Blog

Schleppy Nabucco's Blog

Codex Flores Blog (German)

NPR Blog

Huffington Post

Price Walden Blog

A Beast In a Jungle Blog

Phyllis Chesler Blog

WNO blog

Ion Arts Blog

New York Magazine

Bill Madison Blog

The Daily Astorian on-line

NZZ on-line (Switzerland-German)

El Espectador on-line (Spanish)

Colin Eatock Blog

Opera Cast Blog

Mark J. Golden Blog

Adaptistration Blog

Blog Pong Blog (German)

Das Wochenmagazin On-Line

Update!!!!! 5:15 PM 5/22/12

Gelb backtracks.  Read Norman Lebrecht's account of the weak statement hurriedly issued by the Metropolitan Opera today reversing their ill advised censorship of Opera News Magazine.

Norman's Article on the MET Backtrack

The New York Times recap on the back track

New York Times article on Gelb's Backtrack

The LA Times on the back track

LA Times back track story

The Atlantic Wire on the back track

Atlantic Wire on the back track

Friday, May 11, 2012

Jarmila Novotna's first record at the age of 19!

The soprano "In memory of my first concert" 1940
From a private collection, formerly property of Harmonie Autographs

Jarmila Novotna (1907-1994) was one of the finest singing actresses of her generation.  Czech by birth, she studied with the legendary Emmy Destinn and made her operatic debut at the National Theatre in Prague in 1925.  Her debut was in the Bartered Bride, however, it was her follow-up performance as Violetta in La Traviata which was a senational hit.  Violetta was the role most closely associated with her for the rest of her career, recordings of the third act letter scene are still thought today to be among the finest ever made.

Our recording uploaded to YouTube today was made less than a year after her debut in opera.  The 1926 acoustic is her only record of this type.  The piece is an aria, more of a lullaby from the rarely heard Czech opera, Psohlavci, or the Dog Heads by Karel Kovarovic.  In this charming recording, one can still hear the young girl with the Czech accent, which disappeared over time.

We have included Madame Novotna along with our cycle of Jewish singers, not because she was Jewish, but a conscientous objector.  With the advice and help of Maestro Arturo Toscanini, she left Europe interestingly she always noted that the day she arrived in the United States, the German army marched into Prague.  Later, after the war, she portrayed a Jewish survivor of Auschwitz looking for her son in the 1948 film, The Search.

I hope you enjoy this most historical recording, Novotna's very first!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Richard Tauber sings Strauss's Morgen 1922 in Glorious Sound

Richard Tauber with Franz Lehar and the cast of "Wo die Lerch Singt"

It is our privilege to bring you unusual recordings of Jewish singers of the Holocaust era.  While Tauber was half Jewish, he was forced to flee after the Anschluss.  Once the single most popular tenor in the German speaking World, then personna non grata in the lands where he gave his all.  In 1922 on one of his early records, Tauber made a spectacular recording complete with violin obligato of Richard Strauss's lied, "Morgen" one of the most touching of all Strauss's songs. It was written with a group of lieder as a wedding present for his authoritarian wife Pauline de Ahna.  Tauber recorded the song several times, perhaps the 1932 version is the best known and most published as it is an electric and the sound after decent restoration makes it very immediate. While the recording we present is acoustic, the work my friend, Seth Winner did with the original source is nothing short of spectacular and I invite you to enjoy the video.  There is another example up on Youtube which does not remotely compare.  I have also added a number of images of Tauber during his career, portraits, operetta and with others we either have in our inventory, or have sold over the years to supplement the video, enjoy!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Next in our Jewish singers of the Holocaust era series, Leonardo Aramesco sings Di Rigori Armato from Der Rosenkavlier

We offer a scarce one of a kind recording by the Romanian tenor (1898-1946) of his very first recording, Berlin, 1929.  This is from a one-of-a-kind test pressing by HMV which was never published.  Not a perfect recording of the tenor's aria from Der Rosenkavalier, but elegant and truly heartfelt!  This is the first time this recording has been digitally transfered to our knowledge.

Monday, April 30, 2012

A Group of Jewish Singers of the Holocaust Era Now on Youtube

Louis Treumann in formal attire

Continuing with our project of releasing scarce recordings of European Jewish singers of the Holocaust era, we have uploaded 4 more on our YouTube page.  Several of these recordings are released for the very first time in digital format.

1. Louis Treumann:  The Reporter's Lied from von Suppe's operetta from "Fataniza".  This recording made in Vienna in 1903 is a G&S type patter song.  Self announced by Treumann, who created the role of Danilo in "The Merry Widow" it is an illustration of the man who was King of Operetta in Vienna at the turn of the 20th Century.  He was later killed in Theresienstadt Concentration Camp  by the Nazi's.

2. Grete Forst: Sings the "Puppenlied" from "Le Contes d'Hoffmann" by Jacques Offenbach.  This is Olympia's aris sung with great aplomb.  Grete Forst was one of the group of first tier lyric sopranos at the Vienna Hofoper/Staatsoper who happened to be Jewish and included Selma Kurz, Melitta Heim and herself.  After the Anschluss, she was unceremoniously forced onto a transport bound for Russia where she died in transit.

3. Rudolf Bandler: Sings Oscar Straus's 1903 cabaret song, "Die Musik Kommt" written for Wolzogen's Cabaret in Berlin.  It has essences of Mahler lieder infused in this over-the-top romp.  Bandler was Czech, but a German speaking Czech and spent most of his adult career in Vienna at the Volksoper and as a regular guest of the Hofoper/Staatsoper.  One of the finest Beckmesser's of his day, Cosima Wagner would not hire him as he was an observant Jew.  At the time of the annexation of Czechoslovakia he was in Prague as a stage manager and singer at the German Opera House there.  He was put on a transport and sent to the ghetto in Lodz Poland where he ran musicales to raise the morale of those in the ghetto.  He died in the ghetto in 1944.

4. Arnold Gabor:  sings "Cortigiani" from "Rigoletto" in this scarce VOX recording from 1923.  This record made in Berlin is interesting as it is in the Italian language, something that was rarely done in German of the time.  Gabor's story runs a little differently.  He came to the United States to escape the anti-semitism in Hungary.  He was the leading heldentenor of the Royal Opera in Budapest and sung only leading roles while there.  He came to American and resumed an operatic career, however, mainly as a character, or comprimario baritone.  He did sing Alberich and Beckmesser for a few performances at the MET and several of the other major houses of the Country, but never the great leading roles he sung in Hungary.  His European career came to an end with the Anschluss, as he was unable to return to sing.  He died in California, after a secondary career as a singing professor in Hollywood.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Bjorling Pirate Site, Claims Public Domain

Jussi Bjorling in concert at Carnegie Hall

Recently we have added a few of our extremely scarce recordings to YouTube and have met with resitance on a few of them from web representation outfits like IODA, who claim to represent recordings of an artist which was made in 1923 and the companies doors shut without the sale of their catalog in 1935. I also found resistance from other outfits claiming to hold copyrights on Mozart, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Halevy and Verdi. (All compositions prior to 1922 are in fact public domain in the Uinted States.) That said, I was amazed to learn of this web-site which boasts all of the Jussi Bjorling recordings on the site from 1920-1960 were in public domain and free to download.  Now a quick scan of the listings on the site one finds portions of the 1960 Reiner/Vienna Phil Verdi Requiem which is still in print on Decca and portions of the 1959 RCA Turandot with Birgit Nilsson which is also still in print.  There are also others, but these stick out like sore thumbs.  I know for a fact these are recordings still under copyright.  IODA also seems to represent the Interests of the Bjorling Family in sound recordings on the web.

Anyhow, in variant sound and for as long as it lasts before it is inevitably pulled from the web, here is the site, enjoy.  But realize nothing I can see about the listings on this site is public domain.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The True Story of the Martinu 2nd Violin Concerto, Heretofore Unknown

Autographed photograph of Bohuslav Martinu

One of the exciting functions of a Music Antiquarian is detective work.  I have a three page letter in our inventory by the Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu.  The letter written on July 31st, 1943 is to the pianist and conductor Paul Aron requesting that he send his completed piano score of an unnamed work to the violinist Ruth Posselt.  He mentions, ......Mrs. Burgin will play it next season, need the score as fast as possible to study it and correct the violin part.....  Of course this is entirely leading and research shows that Ruth Posselt, a world class concert violinist who was also the wife of Boston Symphony Orchestra Concertmaster Richard Burgin, never played a Martinu World Premiere.  Now Martinu, who came to America during the Second World War, not as a Jewish immigrant, but a conscientious objector had a very close relationship with the Boston Symphony Orchestra Music Director Serge Koussevitzky.  Koussevitzky through his Foundation, commissioned a number of Martinu's symphonic works of the period.  It is also known that Martinu spent part of the Summer of 1942 at his friend Emanuel Ondricek's home on Cape Cod where he worked on his 1st Symphony for Serge Koussevitzky.  The Posselt connection there is two-fold, first Ondricek was one of Ruth's violin pedagogues and second, he was married to Ruth's sister Gladys.  However, there is no mention in any of the Martinu biographies that the piece was written for Ruth Posselt.  As a matter of fact, Mischa Elman gave the World Premiere performance on December 31st, 1943.  The biographies and descriptions of the work vary, some say Elman contacted Martinu three months before the World Premiere and Martinu produced the work for him and then wrote some cadenzas for the piece with him.  Allan Kozinn's seminal work on Elman, Mischa Elman and the Romantic Style goes into some detail about how the work was commissioned by Elman in January of 1943 after hearing the World Premiere of Martinu's 1st Symphony in Boston several weeks before and includes details of their meetings.  However, based on the composer's oeuvre of unperformed works it seemed to make the most sense that the work described in the letter was in fact the Martinu 2nd Violin Concerto.  Further researched yielded the information that Ruth Posselt played the World Premiere of the Vladimir Dukelsky (Vernon Duke) Concerto with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.  

At this point I picked up the phone and called my friend Bridget Carr, the Boston Symphony Orchestra Chief Archivist to see what she knew and she referred me to Posselt's daughter Dr. Diana Burgin, who has spent years researching her parents careers.  My hunch proved correct, Martinu did write the 2nd Violin Concerto for Ruth Posselt, not Mischa Elman.  She became very interested in the piece during the Spring/Summer of 1943 and planned to play the World Premiere with Artur Rodzinski and the New York Philharmonic in the Fall.   This fact is confirmed in a letter by Artur Rodzinski to Orchestra Manager Bruno Zirato in the New York Philharmonic Archives, June 16, 1943 ...In case Martinu did not write a second violin concerto for Elman and in order to save Miss Posselt any embarrassing situation with Koussevitzky on whom she and her husband depend, and in order to still have a Premiere with our orchestra, I would suggest switching Posselt from her January date to any other date before December which you might find suitable....
(Thank you to Barbara Haws Chief Archivist of the New York Philharmonic)  

The letter is further evidence that the Concerto was in fact written for Posselt.  As the letter to Aron clearly states; Posselt will make corrections to the violin part as noted in the first paragraph and later goes on to say, Mrs. Posselt started to study and she needs the score, she has now only the violin part and there are the stands to reason that she was Martinu's choice for the World Premiere and not Elman.  However, the offer of the Dukelsky Concerto came along and it appears for political reasons she changed her plans and performed it instead with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. However, the Dukelsky Concerto though written for and rejected by Heifetz is dedicated to Posselt and bears her input in the cadenza, as well as corrections throughout the manuscript. (Information provided by Dr. Diana Burgin.)  Elman and Martinu had a group of mixed reviews after the Boston and Carnegie Hall Premieres, mostly good for Martinu and not as good for Elman, the best of which was Olin Downes who praised the work and playing. Posselt did in fact give the World Premiere of the Dukelsky Violin Concerto in Boston with Koussevitzky in December, 1943 and then played the Concerto in its' New York Premier on January 5th, 1944.  

Our letter will be available for purchase shortly, with a complete transcription and further details.

Dr. Diana Burgin is currently working on a biography of her parents.  We will bring you the details when the book becomes available!

Meanwhile, here is a Youtube clip of the first part of the first movement of the radio broadcast of Elman playing the World Premiere.  You can connect to the additional clips on the Youtube site.