On today’s date in 1931, the Russian-born American conductor, and composer Nicolas Slonimsky was in Paris conducting the first of two concerts of ultra-modern music from the New World. These were presented under the auspices of the Pan American Association of Composers, and funded by an anonymous philanthropist Slonimsky later identified as retired insurance executive and fellow composer Charles Ives.
Slonimsky had approached Ives early in 1931 with the idea of presenting a series of new music concerts in New York. When that proved too costly, they suggested mounting the same concerts in Paris.
“In 1931, the dollar was still almighty among world currencies,” recalled Slonimsky. “Ives gave me a letter of credit to the Paris branch of the Chase Manhattan Bank in the amount of $1500, an enormous sum of money in French francs at the time. The prestigious Orchestra Straram was engaged for my first Paris concert. I had a brilliant audience: composers, journalists, painters, Italian futurists. There was applause, but also puzzled responses.”
One French music critic even entitled his review “The Discovery of America,” writing, “We have, (without joking), just discovered America, thanks to a Christopher Columbus called Slonimsky.” As for Ives, he was very pleased with the success of the concerts, and for a time jokingly addressed Slonimsky as either “Columbus et Vespuccius,”
Music Played in Today's Program
Henry Cowell (1897 – 1965)SynchronyPolish National Radio Orchestra; William Strickland, cond.Citadel 88122