Fritz Reiner, Maestro and Martinet
Publication Year: 2005
Published by: University of Illinois Press
Series: Music in American Life
Table of Contents
This book provides a comprehensive scholarly appraisal of the life and musical career of Fritz Reiner, the notable Hungarian conductor whose main musical achievements occurred in the United States between the early 1920s and the early 1960s. In those four decades Reiner made a significant contribution to the teaching of conducting at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia; ...
The extent of research required for this book has obliged me to call on the services of many individuals and institutions. First and foremost, I must thank the British Academy for awarding me a personal research grant to undertake extensive work on this project in the United States and Europe. ...
1. The Man and the Musician
For forty years musical audiences in America were used to seeing a stocky figure around five feet, five inches in height, with hooded eyes like a falcon, a serious look, and tremendous discipline, conduct operatic and symphonic performances. After a brief handshake with the leader of an orchestra and an almost curt nod of the head to the audience, ...
2. Early Years in Europe
Fritz Reiner—Reiner Frigyes in Magyar—was born in Budapest on December 19, 1888, the son of upper-middle-class Hungarian Jews who took a cultivated interest in the arts. Ignácx, his father, was a prosperous textile merchant with a wide social circle. Though he was no performer, he had a keen interest in music and could sing most of Schumann’s songs from memory. ...
Reiner was selected as music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra from a shortlist of four highly respected, European-trained conductors. The other three candidates turned down the position. Serge Koussevitzky lost interest when his salary demand of thirty thousand dollars per season could not be met. ...
4. Teaching at Curtis
In 1931 Reiner was appointed head of the opera and orchestral departments at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, a conservatory that catered to young musical talent of a high order. Founded in 1924 by Mary Curtis Bok, the daughter of a successful publisher and serious music lover, ...
5. A Guest Conductor in the 1930s
Reiner’s teaching position at the Curtis Institute was a useful vantage point for guest appearances conducting operas and symphonic music in the Quaker City and for keeping in touch with musical developments on the East Coast. It also gave him time to pursue other musical activities on a freelance basis. ...
When Reiner became music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, he came to one of the grimiest industrial centers in the United States—a city full of smoke and steel, dominated by river and rail traffic, regular floods, and the smell and pollution of factories. Ash and soot were so prevalent that daylight street lighting was needed, ...
7. At the Met
Reiner made his Met debut with a sensational triumph on February 4, 1949, when he conducted Richard Strauss’s Salome with Ljuba Welitsch as the acclaimed interpreter of the heroine. This was truly one of the red-letter days in the history of the Metropolitan Opera, for the performance was greeted with a fifteen-minute standing ovation, ...
Illustrations follow page 146
Reiner came to Chicago after a turbulent decade for the orchestra that followed half a century of stability. From its foundation in 1891 until 1942 the Chicago Symphony played under only two chief conductors, Theodore Thomas and Frederick Stock. ...
9. The Recorded Legacy
Until the age of fifty, Reiner’s recording career consisted of false starts and dashed hopes. His debut as a recording artist came before the First World War when, at the age of eighteen, he played the piano into an acoustic horn to accompany a soprano singing German lieder for reproduction on a cylindrical record.1 ...
10. Reiner the Interpreter
Reiner’s quest for technical perfection in music making and his catholic taste meant that he was an exacting and significant interpreter of a wide range of music, from baroque concerti to Stravinsky’s Agon. His insistence on thorough preparation, total knowledge of scores, and an awareness of different musical styles underpinned the re-creative methods he mastered. ...
Appendix: Timings of Recordings by Reiner
Discography: Reiner on Compact Disc