St. Louis Symphony – The First Recordings (Discography)




Prepared by Bill Anderson

The first part of this research article is located here.

St. Louis Symphony – The First Recordings 

1923 – (All Acoustic recordings)

Matrix No.

Rec. Date

Composer

Title

Victor Issue

C-28852

10/29/1923

C. M. v Weber

Euryanthe Overture, part 1

55229A

C-28853

10/29/1923

C. M. v Weber

Euryanthe Overture, part 2

55229B

C-28857

10/30/1923

Eduard Lassen

Festival Overture, part 1

55202A

C-28858

10/31/1923

Eduard Lassen

Festival Overture, part 2

55202B

B-28859

10/31/1923

Christian Sinding

Rustle of Spring

45389A

B-28860

10/31/1923

Eugene d’Albert

The Improvisator Overture

45389B

It is interesting to note that the Weber overture had not been performed in St. Louis until premiered by Ganz in 1923. It was also one of the ‘new’ pieces the St. Louis audiences indicated they wished to hear in subsequent concerts (Ganz scheduled again in his last season). The Festival Overture of Eduard Lassen (1830-1904) is only one of two recordings of the work done in the acoustic era. The d’Albert may have been the first recording of the piece.

1924 – (All Acoustic recordings)

Matrix No.

Rec. Date

Composer

Title

Victor Issue

C-28854

11/1/1924

Johann Strauss

Artist’s Life Waltz

55255A

C-28855

11/1/1924

Edward Elgar

Pomp and Circumstance, no. 1

55255B

C-28856

11/2/1924

Rudolph Ganz

St. Louis Symphonic March

unpublished

C-31134

11/1/1924

G. Rossini

Barber of Seville Overture, part 1

unpublished

C-31135

11/2/1924

G. Rossini

Barber of Seville Overture, part 2

unpublished

C-31136

11/2/1924

F. Mendelssohn

Fingal’s Cave Overture, part 1

unpublished

C-31137

11/2/1924

F. Mendelssohn

Fingal’s Cave Overture, part 2

unpublished

C-31138

11/3/1924

Edward German

Country Dance no. 1

unpublished

C-31139

11/3/1924

Edward German

Pastorale & Merrymakers’ Dance

unpublished

Only one published record came out of this these sessions, and that disc (Victor 55255) was a re-recording of the Strauss and Elgar abridged works that were initially recorded, but rejected, in 1923. Further processing of the other sides was halted as Victor experimented with the Westrex electrical recording process in Camden, New Jersey. Victor’s first successful orchestral recordings, with the Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra, were recorded on April 29th 1925, effectively making all acoustically recorded orchestral discs obsolete, including the items listed above. Sadly, the Ganz Symphonic March was not rescheduled for the 1925 sessions.

1925 – (All CVE Matrixes – Electrical recordings)

Matrix No.

Rec. Date

Composer

Title

Victor Issue

CVE-31134

12/4/1925

G. Rossini

Barber of Seville Overture, part 1

55290A

CVE-31135

12/4/1925

G. Rossini

Barber of Seville Overture, part 2

55290B

CVE-31136

12/5/1925

F. Mendelssohn

Fingal’s Cave Overture, part 1

9013A (*)

CVE-31137

12/7/1925

F. Mendelssohn

Fingal’s Cave Overture, part 2

9013B (*)

CVE-31138

12/5/1925

Edward German

Country Dance no. 1

9009A (*)

CVE-31139

12/5/1925

Edward German

Pastoral & Merrymakers’ Dance

9009B (*)

BVE-34021

12/5/1925

Giovanni Bolzoni

Minuet for Strings

45531B

BVE-34023

12/7/1925

N. Rimsky-Korsakov

Song of India

45531A

The 12 inch records (CVE matrix series) are electrical re-recordings of the works originally done acoustically in 1924. The Victor issues noted above with (*) indicate ‘Red Seal’ releases, instead of the ‘Blue Label’ issues for all other St. Louis recordings. It is unclear why this was done.

With only eight double-sided records to review, it is difficult to get a clear picture of what Ganz and the orchestra achieved during those six years he was conductor. Part of this is due to the unfortunate timing of the recording sessions; the switch from acoustical to electrical more or less scrapped the 1924 sessions. And the 1925 discs bring into high relief the technical limitations of the early electrical recording process. The sound quality is not helped by the boxy acoustics of the performing venue (the specific location is unknown). Could those later sessions have offered more evidence to gauge Ganz’ ability at that time as a conductor and programmer?

We will never know…

Listening to the recordings give us a glimpse, however imperfect, of an interesting artist. Ganz’ first record as a conductor, the Weber Euryanthe overture, is a strong and vibrant reading. The Mendelssohn, too, is satisfying, with unique string phrasings and rhythmic approach. The German “Nell Gwyn” dances offers enthusiastic performances of these popular pieces.

In short, the discs we do have are a small sample, a hint of what may have and could have been in those years of his involvement with the orchestra. For collectors, this is a similar situation to that of Ossip Gabrilowitsch. Like Ganz, Gabrilowitsch was known primarily as a concert pianist, but was also the conductor of the Detroit Symphony. The Gabrilowitsch recorded legacy as a conductor amounts to 4 double- sided Victor discs done in 1928.

Ganz after St. Louis

Unlike Gabrilowitsch, who died while still leading the Detroit orchestra in 1936, Ganz had a long and successful career after his years in St. Louis (Ganz resigned his position in 1927 after a petition was circulated criticizing his leadership and programming). Today he is remembered primarily for his work at the Chicago Musical College, becoming the president of that organization in 1934 and serving in that capacity until 1958. He also continued to perform publicly as both pianist and conductor. Building on his enthusiasm working with young people, he conducted the New York Philharmonic’s Young People’s Concerts from 1939 until 1949. He also performed regularly on radio, for both classical and popular programs. Ganz lived to age 95, passing in 1972.

As a recording artist, his output after the St. Louis sessions was quite small. As a pianist; four sides were done and released for Victor in 1930. A few more were done by American Decca in 1944. His last studio recording as a conductor appears to be a 78 rpm set of 10 inch records he did with a pickup orchestra (the Metropolitan Symphony). The set was a hybrid commercial / educational document, with music critic Deems Taylor’s commentary, dedicated to Grieg’s Holberg Suite, 3 on the short-lived Pilotone label, recorded in 1948.

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