Monday, December 31
In the 1940s, the Boston Symphony gave the premiere of more than 60 new orchestral works—most conducted by the very charismatic and very wealthy Serge Koussevitzky, the music director of the Boston Symphony.
And why not? It was the Koussevitzky Foundation that commissioned most of those pieces in the first place, and certainly Maestro Koussevitzky had the knack for picking winners and advancing the careers of composers he admired. In the 1940s, for example, Koussevitzky premiered no less than four major works by the Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu. On today’s date in 1943, one of these pieces, Martinu’s Second Violin Concerto, received its first performance under Koussevitzky with Mischa Elman as the soloist.
But not all the Boston premieres were conducted by Koussevitzky. Earlier that same December of 1943, the American composer and conductor Howard Hanson led the orchestra in the first performance of his Symphony No. 4, and on today’s date in 1948, the premiere of his own Piano Concerto, with the Boston Symphony and the Czech pianist Rudolf Firkusny as soloist. Like the Martinu Concerto, this, too, was a Koussevitzky Foundation commission.
And while we’re on the subject of music patrons, we should note that George Eastman, the great Kodak film magnate, was so impressed with Hanson back in the 1920s that he put him in charge of the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. This recording of the jazzy finale from Hanson’s concerto is from a 1965 recording, featuring the Eastman-Rochester orchestra conducted by Hanson.
Music Played in Today's Program
Bohuslav Martinu (1890–1959) Violin Concerto No. 2 Josef Suk, violin; Czech Philharmonic; Vaclav Neumann, cond. Supraphon 11 0702
Howard Hanson (1896–1981) Piano Concerto, Op. 36 Alfred Mouledous, piano; Eastman-Rochester Orchestra; Howard Hanson, cond. Mercury 434 370