On the fifty-eighth anniversary of Thomas Mann's death in 1955, a YouTube playlist with almost all of his top twelve favorite recordings. [more inside]
Miracle on 57th Street. Thomas Wolfe said that America is not only the place where miracles happen, but where they happen all the time. This is the story of a miracle, a true-life fairy tale, and appropriately enough it begins with the intervention of the Almighty. Artur Rodzinski, music director of the New York Philharmonic from 1943 to 1947, was an eccentric, a health nut who drank only milk from goats he raised himself and who kept a loaded revolver in his back pocket whenever he conducted. Rodzinski said that God told him to hire 24 year old Leonard Bernstein, to be his assistant conductor. In the fall of 1943 Rodzinski decided to take a vacation, spend a little time with his goats, and called in Bruno Walter to conduct seven concerts in ten days. Only hours before one of those concerts (in the program, works by Schumann, Rosza, Strauss and Wagner) Walter fell ill. Rodzinski was only four hours away, in his farm. But he declined to come back to Carnegie Hall: "Call Bernstein. That's why we hired him." The concert was broadcast over radio and a review appeared on page 1 of The New York Times the next day: "Young Aide Leads Philharmonic; Steps in When Bruno Walter is Ill". In the same size type as another that read, "Japanese Plane Transport Sunk." More inside.
"The extraordinary radiance of the voice. I still remember that. The extraordinary, enveloping, overwhelming beauty of Ferrier's voice." When Kathleen Ferrier died at 41 in October 1953, she was as famous as the newly crowned Queen. A working class girl from Blackpool who had to quit school at 14 to work as a telephone operator, a young woman who lacked formal musical training and whose husband bet that she would never win a music contest, Ferrier -- under the guidance of the great conductor Bruno Walter -- went on to become an international superstar. An "ordinary diva" who humbly worshipped "Herr Doktor Bruno Walter", gave very few newspaper interviews, never appeared on television or in cinema newsreels. Her speaking voice can be heard only briefly and only twice, on a tape made at a post-concert New York party, and in a short speech she made for the BBC at an Edinburgh Festival. Her extraordinary career lasted only less than 12 years. Half a century later, although her legacy lives on through her music, Ferrier herself -- "Klever Kaff" -- remains elusive. More inside.