Sound Fountain

.

LP LIST / AUDIO & MUSIC BULLETINTHE REMINGTON SITE  / 7" RECORD GALLERY    /   BACK

Laszlo Halasz (1905-2001)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The recording of an admired performance of Aida conducted by Franco Capuana and a cast which included Mary Curtis, Oralia Dominguez, Ettore Bastianini, Enzo Feliciati and
Umberto Borsó, Norman Scott.
Remington R-199-178/3

The Remington Capuana recording from 1954 found its equal in the 1952 recording of Aida on LXT 2735/6/7 with Renata Tebaldi, Mario del Monaco, Ebe Stignani and Aldo Protti with Chorus and Orchestra of the Academia di Santa Cecilia, Rome under conductor Alberto Erede.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oralia Dominguez (picture taken from her Deutsche Grammophon recital recording).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another production of the 'Teatro la Fenice': Puccini's Turandot performed by singers Grob-Prandl, Ferrari-Ongaro, Zola, Scott, Rossi, Mercuriali and conductor Capuana (Remington R-199-169/3)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bidu Sayao

Bidu Sayao (as portrayed on Odyssey 32160377)


The cover of Life Magazine from April 11, 1949, featuring Laszlo Halasz and his stars of the NYCO Company

Joseph Rosenstock.
Edited image taken from the back of the cover of the Renaissance LP, reference X-15, with a Schubert Song Recital by contralto Herta Glaz accompanied on the piano by Joseph Rosenstock. Glaz and Rosenstock were married then.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Camilla Williams as Bess and at right as Cio Cio San in 'Madame Butterfly'.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Camilla Williams, picture from the notes of the Columbia 3 LP Set SL-162 of Gershwin's opera  'Porgy and Bess'.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Performing in 1962 with Támás Vásáry in the Royal Festival Hall: Tchaikovsky (Romeo and Juliet), Rachmaninoff (2nd Concerto) and the New World Symphony (Dvorak).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

Search The Remington Site

 

 

 

 

On Bertelsmann Schallplattenring 8135 a variety of Remington artists can be heard: Wolfgang Sawallisch, Alexander Jenner, Karl Rucht and Laszlo Halasz.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REMINGTON RLP 149-44 from 1951 with Laszlo Halasz conducting the Austrian Symphony Orchestra in Hary Janos Suite of his teacher Zoltan Kodaly.

 

When Don Gabor of Remington Records was planning to make recordings in Vienna with Albert Spalding, and in Berlin with the RIAS Symphony Orchestra, he asked Laszlo Halasz, who was leaving the New York City Opera Company, to supervise these and other recordings for the Remington label.

In his capacity of Recording Director of Remington Records, Mr. Halasz traveled all over Europe to supervise recordings in Vienna, Berlin, Venice, Düsseldorf, and Hamburg, while he also was booked to appear as a conductor in various cities like Barcelona, Milan and Paris, working with the famous artists of that time. He conducted Wagner in the 'Gran Teatro del Liceu' of Barcelona (during Franco's regime) and he introduced many young talented singers to the European public.

Laszlo HalaszUnder his supervision many Remington Musirama recordings were made of the RIAS Symphony with various conductors and soloists, and four important opera productions were taped in Venice.

With conductor Franco Capuana two complete operas were recorded. The first was Aida with Mary Curtis, Oralia Dominguez, Umberto Borso, Ettore Bastianini, Norman Scott, Enzo Feliciati (on label and box wrongly spelled as Felicitati), and Uberto Scaglioni. Remington R-199-178/3 - released in 1955.

The other was Turandot with Gertrude Grob-Prandl, Antonio Sprùzzola-Zola, Norman Scott, Renata Ferrari-Ongaro, Angelo Mercuriali, Mariano Caruso, and Marcello Rossi. Remington R-199-169/3).

The complete recording of Mascagni's 'Cavalleria Rusticana' with the 'Teatro la Fenice' was conducted by Halasz's fellow-countryman George Sebastian. Remington R-199-175/2. The singers were Teresa Apolei, Pina Geri, Antonio Spruzzola Zola, Piero Campolonghi and Letizia Del Col.. This set replaced the earlier recording of conductor Erasmo Ghiglia with Vassilka Petrova, Edward Ruhl, Ivan Petrov and Benucci.

Also the live performance of Lucia di Lammermoor was recorded with Renata Ferrari Ongaro, Giacinto Prandelli, Filippo (Philip) Maero, Norman Scott, Tosca Da Lio, Uberto Scaglione, Luigi Pontiggia, Chorus and Orchestra of the Teatro La Fenice were now conducted by Jonel Perlea was taped and issued in 1957 on R-199-200/3. In some publications Laszlo Halasz was listed as the conductor of this production issued as a 3 LP boxed set.

Mrs. Halasz who accompanied her husband during the recordings, among those made in Venice, Italy, told me the following anecdote.


After recording Verdi's 'Aida' in the 'Teatro La Fenice' they were splicing the tapes and discovered that one long note was lost. It laid somewhere on the floor with the other discarded runs of tape. They kept on searching for it in the spaghetti as they used to call the tangle of loose tape on the floor. It took till 3 o'clock in the morning to find that long, lost note. Without it the recording would not have been complete.*) - Mrs. Suzette Halasz - 2003


Laszlo Halasz was mainly involved with the new MUSIRAMA recordings which generally have a better quality then the earlier recordings made in Austria produced by Marcel Prawy who had contracted the Tonkünstler Orchestra and the Orchestra of the Viennese Volksoper. In some cases Prawy bought tapes from the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation ORF.

In the 1953 Remington Record Catalog, the Musirama productions are announced and it is said that "In charge of all future Remington recordings will be Laszlo Halasz, brilliant symphony and opera conductor (and former concert pianist) who founded the New York City Opera Company and, in the brief space of five years, turned it into one of the four most influential operas in the world." This text was later corrected and several releases mention "in the brief space of seven years..." which of course is more correct.

For the recordings made in Berlin, Mr. Halasz had a contract that stated that his name would be printed on the cover and that his fee would be 5% of every record sold. But then his name was hardly ever mentioned, except for a few recordings made in the US (the Bolet recordings of Chopin and Prokofiev), the Aida recording, and the recordings of the Beethoven and Brahms concertos with Albert Spalding in Europe. But Halasz was not mentioned on the recordings made in Berlin. "That man still owes me money", Halasz said when I spoke to him on the phone. Was he joking? Was he serious? The relationship between Halasz and Gabor was generally good and it was not sure if he referred to "that man" in a joking manner.

On top of that, there was a lawsuit, as Mr. Heinrich Köhler (principal cellist of the RIAS Symphony until 1995) told me. Most likely because several of the recordings were issued in Germany on the Diamant label by Gabor himself. And that was not in accordance with the agreement.
In Berlin Mr. Halasz supervised many recordings (on occasion together with Don Gabor). Among these were Piano Concertos of Brahms and Liszt performed by Edward Kilenyi. "He was an excellent pianist", Laszlo Halasz said referring to his late friend Edward Kilenyi.

Laszlo Halasz was born on June 6th, 1905 in Debrecen in Hungary. His uncle, composer/pianist Theodor Szántó (1877-1934), took an interest in Laszlo's talent and advised him to participate in the exams of the Budapest Music Academy. Laszlo was immediately admitted. His teachers were Zoltan Kodály, Béla Bartók, Leo Weiner and Ernö (Ernst von) Dohnányi. 

In 1928 he received the Coolidge Prize of the Elisabeth Sprague Coolidge Foundation which promotes contemporary chamber music.
 Laszlo made his debut as a concert pianist performing with the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra. His real passion however was not the piano but the orchestra. He wanted to become a conductor and got the post of assistant conductor at the Budapest Opera in 1929. Lateron he was assistant to the eminent Beethoven conductor George Szell at the "Deutsche Oper" in Prague until 1931.

The first opera Laszlo Halasz conducted was no less than Wagner's "Der Fliegende Hollander" with the Wiener Volksoper in 1933. This success resulted in engagements in Vienna and Budapest as well as in Rome. In 1935 and 1936 he was assistant to Bruno Walter and Arturo Toscanini when they conducted at the 'Salzburger Festspiele'.
In the nineteen thirties, when dark clouds gathered over Europe, many artists fled and went to live in the US. Many Hungarians left their country because of the dictatorial regime of Miklos Horthy (1921-1939).
Arturo Toscanini (as of 1926 conductor of the New York Philharmonic Society) still lived in Italy. In 1936 he left Italy for good and settled in the USA as he did not want to conduct his orchestra playing "Giovanezza", the fascist hymn, for dictator Mussolini.

 In that same year, 1936, Laszlo Halasz migrated to America, as did conductor George Szell a few years later, in 1939.
When in 1937 the NBC Symphony Orchestra was founded specifically for Toscanini, the maestro asked Laszlo Halasz to be his assistant. When the St.Louis Opera Company called one day, because they needed a conductor on short notice, Toscanini recommended Mr. Halasz who conducted to great acclaim a performance of Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde" although he hardly had time to study the score in detail. The main roles were performed by tenor Lauritz Melchior and soprano Kirsten Flagstad who made the success complete. The performance was a revelation and resulted in an engagement to conduct Wagner operas with the Philadelphia Opera Company.

In 1939 Mr. Halasz returned to St. Louis to take up the post of General Director of Music of the St. Louis Opera Company. The most famous artists of that time performed with him. There was gifted soprano Grace Moore (1901-1947) who had started as a singer in musicals but had become a notable singer of Lieder. She performed in many operas. She died at the height of her career in a plane crash. And there was American soprano Dusolina Giannini who became an opera star in Europe as well as in America, but she was also loved for her song recitals. And Czech soprano Jarmila Novotna also performed in St. Louis. Bidu Sayao from Brazil who was a star of the Metropolitan Opera  from 1937 till 1955 came to St. Louis to sing under Laszlo Halasz' direction.

Jan Kiepura from Poland, who through his marriage with Martha Eggert also sung operetta, performed under Halasz. Another famous name was Italian tenor Tito Schipa who in 1917 had sung the title role in the world premiere of Puccini's "La Rondine". Also from Italy was Giovanni Martinelli, who had a vast repertory of more than 50 roles in French and Italian opera's. Raoul Jobin from France was, understandably, especially at home with the music of Massenet, Gounod, Bizet and Berlioz. Also Ezio Pinza, who really was fortunate and had a long career at the Metropolitan from 1926 until 1948, traveled to St. Louis.
They all sang in a great variety of operas ranging from "Manon Lescaut" to "Falstaff".

Proof of Laszlo Halasz' period in St. Louis can be found on the Vocal Archive CD VA 1227 with Opera Arias of Mozart, Rossini and Donizetti sung by Pinza, Roselle, della Chiesa and Alvary with the St. Louis Opera House Orchestra conducted by Laszlo Halasz (Ref.). And on Unicorn Opera Series UORC 133 you will find a recording from 1940 of Act 3 of Carmen with Lawrence Tibbitt, Jan Kiepura and the St. Louis Opera under the direction of Laszlo Halasz (coupled with excerpts from Carmen with Coe Glade, Hertha Tokatyan, Joseph Royer, and conductor Fausto Cleva with the Cincinnati Symphony, recorded in 1938).
Halasz' successes brought him invitations to conduct at the Festival of Havana, with The Chicago Opera  and to conduct in the series of "The Symphonic Concert of Montreal".

Like Ferenc Fricsay and Antal Dorati, Laszlo Halasz had been a pupil of Béla Bartók in Hungary. Bartók who had come to the US in 1939 was living in New York in a very poor neighborhood, He was not at all the respected composer of today. Halasz often went to see his elder fellow countryman on a social visit and on several occasions he made (together with Don Gabor) the famous recordings with Bartók which were first released on Continental 78 RPM and later on LP (Continental CLP 101) around 1949, and when the Remington label was established on R-199-94: Bartók plays Bartók. The recordings were made as early as 1941 or 1942, at least a year before the performance by Béla and Ditta Bartók of Bartók's Concerto for Two Pianos with the New York Philharmonic (January 21, 1943). Don Gabor supported Bartók by making these recordings and paid him generous royalties.
During the war Laszlo Halasz conducted 300 concerts for the US troops.
All these successes added up to his experience and to his reputation
.

When in 1943 New York mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia asked Laszlo Halasz to create a center for the progressive opera as a counterpart to the Metropolitan Opera Company which dwelt in the more traditional repertory, Laszlo became the energetic director of The New York City Center Opera Company, later named New York City Opera Company, which was located in the center of Manhattan, just behind Carnegie Hall.

New York mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia signed this photograph: "To my colleague and bartatom Laszlo Halasz, from F.H. La Guardia."

The new company, located on West 55th Street, soon became a well known institution in America and abroad because of the great variety and quality of productions conducted by Laszlo Halasz himself and also by Jean Paul Morel who had joined the company right in 1944.

In those days the repertory listed "The love of Three Oranges" (Sergey Prokofiev), "Ariadne auf Naxos" and "Salomé" (Richard Strauss), "Turandot" (Giaccomo Puccini), Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari's "I Quattro Rustgehi" (The Four Ruffians) and David Tamkin's "The Dybbuk", just to mention a few. These operas were new to the New York opera loving public. Various operas by Gian Carlo Menotti were produced which in those days were rather modern and marked a new era.

Gian Carlo Menotti and Thomas Schippers discuss a score.
Image taken from the Angel LP release of The Unicorn, short opera by Menotti.

The company also brought Carmen with Jennie Tourel as Carmen and with Regina Resnik who would later be Carmen herself in the performance with conductor Thomas Schippers as recorded by the Decca/London label.

Other titles were Mignon, Luise and La bohème (all conducted by Morel).

Well known are the productions and various premieres of William Grant Still's opera "Troubled Island" for which funds were often insufficient available.

Mr. Halasz was noted for his sound financial management of the company and on many occasion was hailed for it by critic Virgil Thomson of the New York Herald Tribune. The costs of the productions were a fraction of the amounts spent on productions by The Metropolitan Opera

While on a tour  to Canada, Laszlo Halasz had met renown cellist Suzette Forgues who had studied with Emanuel Feuermann from 1938 until 1942. She became the first cello player of the orchestra and also his wife.
New York's mayor La Guardia loved music and insisted on conducting the orchestra himself, just once, to proof that conducting was not at all that difficult. It was a memorable event.

Laszlo Halasz on the cover and on the pages of LIFE Magazine, 11 April, 1949, amidst his stars. Clockwise starting from bottom left: An Ayars, Dorothy MacNeil (next to Laszlo Halasz), Frances Bible, Virginia Haskins, Wilma Spencer, Marguerite Piazza and Brenda Lewis (as Salome). 

For more than 7 years, until 1952, Laszlo Halasz was the company's music director and producer and shared the baton with fellow conductors Jean Morel and Joseph Rosenstock, while young Thomas Schippers was assistant.

Despite a long period of financial and artistic successes, the board differed with Halasz on several issues. To demonstrate their views the post of director was offered to Jean Morel. Out of protest to the way Halasz was treated, Morel wanted to resign. His resignation was refused by the board but when it was clear that the board could be accused of breaching the agreement with Halasz, the contract was ended.

Jean Morel, who was a conductor at the New York City Opera from 1944 until 1951, is seen here training Dorothy MacNeil and Francis Bible (New York City Centre Opera production of Carmen).
Picture from the April 11, 1949 edition of Life Magazine, submitted by Herb Depke, nephew of Virginia Haskins. Picture restored and edited by Rudolf A. Bruil.
Virginia Haskins, the beautiful soprano, photographed in the dressing room.

From 1949 till 1971 Jean Morel taught at the Juilliard School of Music and many well known names studied under him: Herbert Blomdstedt, Leonard Slatkin, Leif Segerstam, James Levine. Morel is most certainly the conductor on Remington R-149-51 which features Debussy's "Prélude a l'après-midi d'un faun" and Cesar Franck's "Symphonic Variations" with Viennese pianist Frieda Valenzi as soloist.
When Halasz did not get his financial and artistic freedom he left the New York City Opera Company and Joseph Rosenstock finally took over.

The New York City Opera Company conducted by Laszlo Halasz can be found on a 10" MGM disc with excerpts from Gounod's Faust with Frances Yeend, Rudolph Petrak, Norman Scott, Frances Bible and Walter Cassel - MGM E-553.

Although many times a production asked for a compromise, Laszlo Halasz always recognized that real quality was important. 
When working with the New York City Opera Company near the end of World War II, a young woman auditioned. Halasz immediately recognized the talent of this young soprano and he gave her over 200 hours of free lessons and introduced her to the New York audience in 1946. The young star was Camilla Williams, the black soprano who 5 years later was to sing the best Bess ever in Lehman Engel's famous Columbia recording of Gershwin's opera Porgy and Bess, produced by Goddard Lieberson. Under Laszlo Halasz she sang Cio Cio San in the New York City Opera production of "Madame Butterfly". 

"The make-up artist did a wonderful job by making her really look like a Japanese", Mrs. Halasz told me. There was however quite some animosity because of the fact that (for the first time) a black woman was performing in a "white" opera. There were anonymous letters containing a threat to shoot the conductor in the back during the performance. But Laszlo Halasz said that he was not afraid and declared that it was not color but a voice that he had hired.

He also engaged Todd Duncan who had already made his name in the first production in 1935 of Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess". But now he was to sing in a "white" opera too, the role of Tonio in "I Pagliacci" (Leoncavallo), in 1945. These performances by Duncan and the later appearances of baritone Lawrence Winters, did not bring about much opposition.

Halasz conducted when Albert Spalding was performing in Carnegie Hall and as a conductor he accompanied other famous artists like tenor Richard Tucker, violinist Joseph Szigeti, pianist Arthur Rubinstein and in the beginning of his career he had performed with cellist Emanuel Feuermann.

In Europe he accompanied French pianist Samson François in a memorable concert in Paris. Prokofiev's 3rd Concerto was on the program. Samson François played at a very high tempo, because he seemed more interested in showing off his virtuosity than giving a balanced interpretation. The performance became quite a tour de force for pianist, musicians and conductor, Mrs. Halasz remembered.

Laszlo Halasz also conducted in St. Moritz, Milan and in London at Covent Garden.

Before deciding to become a conductor, Laszlo Halasz studied piano with Ernst von Dohnányi. When Laszlo announced that he wanted to become a conductor, Dohnányi was furious because Laszlo was a talented student who as a pianist could have a great career ahead of him. Dohnányi said he would never speak to him again and threw him out.

But fate decided otherwise. Ernö Dohnányi, who had been working in Hungary during World War II, left his native land when the communists took over. He fled to South America. He apparently was not happy with his move and came to the US where he made a few recordings for Columbia. He only would be allowed to stay if he was assured of a job.

Pianist Edward Kilenyi told Laszlo Halasz that there was a vacancy as a piano teacher in Florida. When the matter was discussed with the management of the Florida Music School, the board said that Dohnányi certainly was too expensive to be on the payroll. But they received assurances from both Halasz and Kilenyi that anything they were willing to pay would be OK. And thus Ernst von Dohnányi finally came more or less face to face with his former pupil Laszlo Halasz whom he never wanted to see again.
The renewed contact in 1949 eventually resulted in Dohnányi's recordings for the Remington label.

Laszlo Halasz' involvement with Remington records had more or less started in the early nineteen forties when Donald Gabor and Halasz recorded Bela Bartok at his home. See the paragraph about the Bartok recordings.
His involvement with Remington records resulted in several recordings of complete operas, recordings with the Cincinnati Symphony, the RIAS Symphony, with pianist Jorge Bolet, Alec Templeton, Sari Biro, Sylvia Marlowe, and more artists. His commitment ended when the label ceased to make new recordings around 1957 and the label was finally discontinued by 1958 when Gabor concentrated on the Palace, Paris, Webster, Buckingham, and other labels.

While producing and concertizing in Europe, Mrs. Halasz accompanied her husband. Mrs. Halasz also told me that, when she was expecting, she did not want her child to be born in the Germany of right after the war. Her husband suggested that they would stay in the south of France where they often spent the summer with Mrs. Halasz's sister. And it was there that their son, George, was born. Several years later daughter Suzanne was born.
In Europe the last recordings that were made were with the Hamburg Philharmonic Orchestra and the Dusseldorf Symphony Orchestra, and with conductors Heitor Villa-Lobos, Otto Matzerath, Eugene Senkar and Leopold Ludwig.
After that the collaboration between Laszlo Halasz and Don Gabor ended. George Halasz, son of Laszlo and Suzette Halasz, said that his father considered Don Gabor the best colleague he ever had.

After Remington, his career as a conductor continued and knew many milestones. Mr. Halasz traveled all over the world. Many times to South America, often to Europe too, and he again gave concerts in Canada and of course in the US. His Mahler performances won great acclaim. And Wagner was also a favorite composer to whom he had a great affinity. He directed many opera  performances and he worked also with many a singer of the younger generation; with Theresa Stratas, for instance and he taught conducting at various schools of music and to many upcoming musicians.

Laszlo Halasz conducting and Tamas Vasary playing Rachmaninoff

Frank Rocca, who was a student from 1959 to 1963 at the Peabody Conservatory of Music (now called the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University) recollects:


In 1959 Laszlo Halasz was asked to form an opera company that would admit to performance opera singers who were on the verge of careers, but needed a showcase to demonstrate their talents. It was called the Peabody Art Theater. (...) I played principal viola for two seasons. We did Rossini's "The Turk in Italy", Puccini's "La Bohème" (in which the great basso buffo, Salvatore Baccalone performed), Bizet's "The Pearl Fishers" and the operas of Menotti "The Old Maid and the Thief" (in which Claramae Turner played and sang the lead) and "Amahl and the Night Visitors" (which Herbert Grossman conducted and Laszlo Halasz produced).(...)

Menotti was always present when his operas were performed and sometimes had a difference of opinion with Halasz about tempo. Menotti was a very civilized human being and always courteous and respectful to Halasz, calling him Maestro, as we all did. Halasz had a profound respect for composers and he, as is said of Toscanini, took their indications of how something should sound to the limit. He did not believe in "interpretation" as an excuse to change something and often said so. But one time, as I recall, Menotti's disagreement with him about a certain passage (maybe it was in "The Old Maid and the Thief") came to a head publicly. Menotti expressed his frustration. "You are surely the Maestro," he said, "and you should run this performance as you see fit. But you are playing that passage too fast." Halasz gave him a dignified look of disgust, then said, "Gian Carlo, you are dee composer, so I will do as you wish. However, you are not dee first conductor who has done foolish teengs with his own music." The maestro then turned to the orchestra and led us through the passage exactly as Menotti had suggested.

Halasz was a martinet who demanded attention to detail, but playing under Halasz was the best musical experience I could have had, because he demanded perfect ensemble playing and he got it. I have heard it said that a great conductor draws from his players a higher level of performance than they could draw from themselves. The concertmaster was a very talented Hungarian named Zoltan Szabo. A truly gifted musician, Zoltan sometimes played passages as he felt them and, when a solo was required, he would occasionally get very romantic. This happened once in rehearsal. Halasz stopped the orchestra and had a quick exchange with Zoltan in Hungarian. Zoltan replied in a respectful tone, but apparently not to Halasz's satisfaction. Halasz muttered something under his breath, also in Hungarian, then turned to the orchestra and, as he raised his hand for the downbeat, said aloud to the general public, "You are all too young to have opinions. You haven't lived long enough!" Down came the hand and off we sped.

I deeply respected Halasz, even when he yelled at me or at my section for screwing up some passage or for coming in at the wrong spot. He had a funny way of pronouncing his Rs. It must have been a natural speech issue for him, because I heard him speak at least four or five languages during the time I played in the Art Theater, English, Spanish, Italian, Hungarian and French. I believe he also spoke German, because he carried on conversations with Birgit Nilsson in that language, when he was preparing a monumental performance of Tristan and Isolde with the Baltimore Civic Opera Company. (...) Rosa Ponselle was the Artistic Director of the Civic Opera. During one of the rehearsals, she sat in a box and shadowed the arias, moving her hands dramatically during Isolde's death scene. Apparently, she'd always wanted to sing Wagner, but never got the chance. At least, that was the story back then.
Halasz was a precise conductor who cued entrances as required, but he said more than once that he did so as a convenience to us because we were too young and inexperienced to know how to count to four. He liked it when students smiled or laughed quietly at his witticisms. - Frank Rocca

In the nineteen seventies Halasz taught conducting at the Manhattan School of Music. He had many students like now famous composer Lowell Liebermann and conductors Tania León, Richard Pittman, Ronald J. Gretz.and Michael Webster
Another pupil, Eric Schiller, wrote:


Laszlo Halasz was a fascinating man who taught me all of my baton technique and introduced me to the operatic repertoire. I will always remember his steadfast dedication to his art. - Eric Schiller

And Gary Hal recollects:


In 1964, I was a freshman student at the Peabody conservatory majoring in Percussion. I attended one rehearsal under Maestro Halasz and did not even get a chance to play. I forget what piece we were doing I think it was a classical symphony with a long adagio introduction and I was busy counting rests. After the movement ended I was poised at the timpani ready for the second movement. Just prior to the down beat, Maestro Halasz stopped the rehearsal and asked: "Who are you?", pointing his baton at me. I said that I was a freshman timpanist.
His response: "Get out, no freshman in my orchestra."
I never played for him again.
I do recall a wonderful performance that he gave of the Brahms Requiem which received local and national acclaim. However, I also remember that the Maestro was always in trouble for bringing in professional "Ringers" to make the student orchestra sound better. If he had one fault it would be that he neglected his role as teacher and mentor. I do not bear grudges and even married a woman of Hungarian origin, but I left the music world long ago. - Gary Hal

In 1971 Laszlo Halasz became conductor of the newly founded Concert Orchestra and Choir of Long Island. Under his musical and artistic direction memorable performances were given: "Tosca" with Richard Tucker, Menotti's "Amahl and the Night Visitors", Verdi's "Requiem", Berlioz' "Samson and Delilah", Mozart's "Don Giovanni" and a "Gershwin Memorial Concert" which drew no less than 8300 visitors.
On Cambria CD-1100 Laszlo Halasz conducts his orchestra in Eugene Zador's "Christopher Columbus" with various soloists and the Concert Choir of Long Island. Narrator is actor Lionel Barrymore. (The disc also contains "Studies For Orchestra" performed by the Westphalian Symphony Orchestra and Paul Freeman, conductor.) Halasz' recording was made in 1975. 

The year 1974 marked his debut with the Frankfurt Opera in Strauss's "Frau ohne Schatten" and soon he was invited again by the Frankfurt State Opera in 1975 to give an all-Wagner concert with Birgit Nilsson.

Maestro Laszlo Halasz conducting once more the NY City Opera in the nineteen eighties.


There are relatively few artists who are contracted by a record label and attain recognition through their recordings. Many artists however give performances of the same high standard as recording artists can achieve, but they are only heard live in the concert halls and impress the audiences in the many music centers. Not to have recording obligations gives freedom in the sense of just performing as it is meant to be, namely in front of an audience and experiencing the interaction.

There are but a few recordings that witness Laszlo Halasz's insights. There is the recording he made for Remington Records around 1951 of Zoltan Kodaly's 'Hary Janos Suite' taken from the complete work which Halasz had introduced to the American public a few years earlier. Apparently Halasz went to Vienna to supervise Kilenyi's early solo recordings for the Remington label which were produced by Marcel Prawy, possibly together with Don Gabor and with Jean Paul Morel who conducted Franck and Debussy released on R-149-51. Laszlo Halasz recorded the Suite from Zoltan Kodaly's 'Hary Janos' in Vienna, released on R-149-44.
Even though the quality of matrix and pressings of R-149-44 are poor, one can hear the approach which only full blooded Hungarians do have. The interpretation of March, Glockenspiel and Battle and Defeat of Napoleon has well chosen tempi and well phrased are the slow sections like The Fairy Tale Begins and Song. As so often, also here the low quality of the recording is a mayor obstacle.

Click here for a Sound Clip of The Fairy Tale Begins from Hary Janos Suite.

Halasz can also be heard with the RIAS Symphony on a 10" record released by "Bertelsmann Schallplattenring" conducting Hungarian Dance No. 6. But it is not sure if this was not Karl Rucht. What is sure is that Laszlo Halasz supervised many recordings made with the RIAS Symphony Orchestra and with the Teatro la Fenice. - R.A.B.

Laszlo Halasz and his wife still lead a happy life in which music, the cello lessons given by Mrs. Halasz and the daily reading of The New York Times by the maestro in order to keep up with events, play the leading roles.

*) The complete Aida recording can be found on Preiser Records PSR 20027 (2x CD), released in November 2003.

Text written by Rudolf A. Bruil, and first published on the Internet in November, 2000.

 

The New York Times of October 31st, 2001, reported that Laszlo Halasz, the first music director of the New York City Opera, died on Oct. 26 at his home in Port Washington, NY. Newspapers in the USA and abroad published an obituary on Laszlo Halasz.

Port Washington News, edition of January 7th, 2005, remembered cellist/music teacher Suzette Forgues Halasz who had died one month earlier on December 8th, 2004. See: Port Washington News.


TOP OF PAGE

CONTACT

Copyright 1995-2011 by Rudolf A. Bruil