Schoenberg conducts Mahler

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John F
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Schoenberg conducts Mahler

Post by John F » Thu Aug 04, 2011 8:52 am

This thread's gone into the memory hole, but the recording is of interest and we collectively found out about its provenance, so I'll put it all together again for what interest it may have now and in the future.

Though I found the recording on YouTube, its source is the Arnold Schönberg Center in Vienna: ... 19&lang=de

There it's identified as follows: "Gustav Mahler: II. Symphonie | Arnold Schönberg, Dirigent; Cadillac Symphony | Los Angeles, 1934 (Auszug)." Apparently from the same concert is the "Lied der Waldtaube" from Schoenberg's "Gurrelieder," with Rose Bampton as the mezzo-soprano soloist. But what was the Cadillac Symphony, and was the performance really given in Los Angeles?

I wish I could remember who tracked this down, but the recordings clearly originated as an NBC radio program. This from John Dunning's "On the air: the encyclopedia of old-time radio":
The Cadillac Symphony Orchestra, Bruno Walter, conductor. December 24, 1933 -May 5, 1935, Blue Network, 60 m, Sundays at 8 Cadillac Motor Car Co.
(At the time the Blue Network belonged to NBC, and broadcast concurrently with NBC's Red Network.)

The following snippet from Time Magazine on December 25, 1933, tells us more about the program, including that Bruno Walter conducted only the first broadcast, though it doesn't name Schoenberg among the conductors:
Time Magazine wrote:A new high in radio advertising was reached a month ago when Liggett & Meyers Tobacco Co. started Leopold Stokowski and his Philadelphia Orchestra broadcasting six nights a week for Chesterfield cigarets (TIME, Nov. 27). This week Cadillac Motor Cars and Lucky Strike cigarets overtook Chesterfields. Cadillac started a rich symphonic series for Sunday nights (6 to 7 E. S. T.). Bruno Walter conducted the first concert, Jascha Heifetz fiddled. Conductors to come: Artur Bodanzky, Eugene Ormandy, Walter Damrosch, Fritz Reiner, Sir Henry Wood, Artur Rodzinski. Vladimir Golschmann, Ossip Gabrilowitsch, Nikolai Sokoloff, Tullio Serafin. Soloists to come: Rosa Ponselle, Yehudi Menuhin, Efrein Zimbalist, Josef Hofmann, Jose Iturbi, Vladimir Horowitz. Lily Pons, Lucrezia Bori, Lotte Lehmann, Elisabeth Rethberg, Tito Schipa, Richard Bonelli.

Finished with Baron Munchausen (Funnyman Jack Pearl), Lucky Strikes undertook to sponsor the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts hitherto paid for by National Broadcasting out of its own pocket as a sustaining program. The Metropolitan will be on the air Saturday afternoons and for special matinees, starting on Christmas with Hansel und Gretel. The Lucky Strike contract is worth at best $100,000 to the hard-pressed Met. ... 33,00.html

The Cadillac Symphony Orchestra and the Met had their announcer in common, Milton Cross, a former tenor and now staff announcer that the Blue Network called on for cultural broadcasts, who is heard at the beginning and end of the Mahler clip referring to "this Cadillac concert." Since Cross was physically in the Metropolitan Opera House on Saturdays until 5:00pm or later, and the Cadillac program aired on Sunday evenings (at 6:00 or 8:00), the latter can't possibly have originated in Los Angeles. (Besides which, the Blue Network's reach didn't extend that far west at the time; until 1936, California was covered by NBC's Orange Network, aka Pacific Coast Network.)

At the time there was no such orchestra as the Cadillac Symphony, which was the ad hoc broadcast name of an unidentified ensemble, so there's no reason to believe that the broadcasts originated anywhere but New York City. Whether the Cadillac Symphony Orchestra was contracted from New York's abundance of freelance musicians or hired wholesale from the Met, the New York Philharmonic, or whatever, I've no way of knowing. They play quite well.

Where was Schoenberg at the time? He arrived in the U.S. in October 1933 and got a job as a teacher at the Malkin Conservatory in Boston, also occasionally teaching classes in New York City. It wasn't until September 1934 that he and his family moved to the more temperate climate of Los Angeles for the sake of his health. During the 1933-34 season, then, he would have been conveniently at hand to guest-conduct on the Cadillac Symphony program in New York. I think that just about settles it, though I haven't been able to turn up anything so specific as a broadcast date.

Since this contradicts what the Arnold Schönberg Center says about the Cadillac Symphony recordings, I've emailed this information to them for whatever use they may make of it.
John Francis

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