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 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.
Dominguez (picture taken from her Deutsche Grammophon recital recording).
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 (as
portrayed on Columbia Odyssey 32160377)
cover of Life Magazine from April 11, 1949, featuring Laszlo Halasz
and his stars of the NYCO Company
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.
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
in 1962 with Támás Vásáry in the Royal
Festival Hall: Tchaikovsky (Romeo and Juliet), Rachmaninoff (2nd Concerto)
and the New World Symphony (Dvorak).
Schallplattenring 8135 a variety of Remington artists can be heard:
Wolfgang Sawallisch, Alexander Jenner, Karl Rucht and Laszlo Halasz.
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
Spalding, and in Berlin with the
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.
Gabor sent the following text to the "Ladies and
Gentlemen of the Press" (as
reprinted in High Fidelity Magazine of March-April, 1953):
great pleasure to announce that Laszlo Halasz is now Executive
Director of Remington Records not just "Artistic
Director" of Remington, but director."
used to go to the City Center for a good opera performance
and I told myself, 'This Is what I mean about Music for
Millions' great performance for a low price. Then
I saw that they let Mr. Halasz go. I thought this is a
very bad incident because it hurts the Music for Millions
program to lose one of its most ardent fighters in the
opera field. I didn't know Mr. Halasz then, but I understood
what he stood for. If I was able to see The Love for Three
Oranges, the Meistersinger or Salome for $3.60 in orchestra
seats, that was easy enough to understand for me. This
Is the same way Remington Records is going. I give to
the public Beethoven's Eroica with Fritz Busch, conductor,
on a Long Playing record. This is the same principle .
. . the Henry Ford principle. When Henry Ford wanted to
sell automobiles cheap everybody thought he was crazy
and he would ruin the industry. When Remington started,
I decided that we will pass on part of the profits to
the public and put out a product which will be a tremendous
value. And I am right, I guess. I sell symphonies and
I sell operas and I sell Gypsy music. I sell American
recordings and I sell European recordings just like anyone
else. I sell big name artists and smaller name artists
BUT I sell them for $2,49 and the others sell them
for $5.45* I don't make as much on each record
but I sell a lot. And everybody screams."
after I have been doing this for three years, others announce
low-price lines. Now they think they almost meet me on
price. "But there is a difference: Remington is my
best. I say to my Remington artists, "You are my
best." They say - (I don't know how they say it to
their artists) - You are not our best but, look, you don't
cost as much either."
now I admit I have got new competition. I cannot cut my
price because already I have built a new factory and I
have already improved the quality of my disks.
The plant at Webster, Massachusetts, had thirty-four new
machines that press only 80% vinyl records, etc., etc."
I improve my catalog, I ask myself? And I say that Mr.
Halasz can improve anybody's catalog. IF HE CAN BUILD
THE NEW YORK CITY OPERA WITHOUT ANY MONEY AND WITH A BOARD
OF DIRECTORS I THINK, WHERE WOULDN'T HE GO WITHOUT
A BOARD OF DIRECTORS AND MORE MONEY?"
know I can't lay my hands on every one of the greatest
artists. The big record companies have a lor of them tied
up. That was as I used to watch Halasz's opera
company abour the same problem: the Met had the
names but Halasz went out and scratched for the young
voices and the young looks."
Mr. Halasz and I began to talk. I want him to be Direcror
of Remington. Pretty quick and I am definite on that.
After seeing Halasz at work, I see that he is not only
a musician but an organizer, an executive. The number
of interviews he can conclude conclusively in one day
is amazing to me and I am a business man."
have many other things to settle because we are
both very serious. I have told him to go through the whole
Remington catalog and throw out everything he does not
think is up to the standard he wants for Remington
and then to make new records as fine as he wishes and
as fast as he can. I will undertake to sell them for him."
Halasz is now the Director of Remington Records
without a Board of Amateurs as the Director's Director.
I trust that his first records will be a fitting continuation
of the last operas he produced for the City."
S. My purpose in doing this project is to make good music
available for the masses for a price that everybody can
afford. Because of price, I missed much good music for
a great part of my life. I hope to help the present and
coming generations in America to a greater enjoyment of
fine music than I was able to indulge when I was a boy."
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
Laszlo Halasz Presentation" should have been printed
on more than just this cover of Jorge Bolet's performance
of the Four Scherzos of Frederic Chopin.
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.Under the supervision of Laszlo Halasz many Remington
Musirama recordings were made of the RIAS Symphony with various
conductors and soloists, and four important opera productions
were taped in Venice.
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.
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).
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.
the performance of Lucia di Lammermoor was recorded with
singers Renata Ferrari Ongaro, Giacinto Prandelli, Filippo (Philip)
Maero, Norman Scott, Tosca Da Lio, Uberto Scaglione, Luigi Pontiggia,
and the Chorus and Orchestra of the Teatro La Fenice but now conducted
by Laszlo Halasz himself. Remington R-199-200/3.
a long time I presumed that the complete recording of Lucia di
Lammermoor performed by the Teatro la Fenice on Remington R-199-200/3
was conducted by Jonel Perlea. This record set was never encountered
by me. Schwann Long Playing Record Catalog Artist Listing 1956
lists this recording as being conducted by Laszlo Halasz.
Halasz who accompanied her husband during the recordings, among
those made in Venice, Italy, told me the following anecdote.
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
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 may have bought tapes from the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation
the recordings made in Berlin and also in the USA, Mr. Halasz had
a contract that stated that his name would be printed on the covers
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
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
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.
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.
1928 he received the Coolidge Prize of the Elisabeth
Sprague Coolidge Foundation which promotes contemporary chamber
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.
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
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 "Giovinezza", the fascist hymn, for dictator
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
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.
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".
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".
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 went to see his elder fellow countryman on a social visit
but it is found that he was not involved in the making of 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
Bartók by making these recordings and paid him generous
the war Laszlo Halasz conducted 300 concerts for the US troops.
All these successes added up to his experience and to his reputation.
New York mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia signed this photograph:
"To my colleague and bartatom Laszlo Halasz, from F.H.
is reported that Laguardia spoke seven languages fluently, including
Hebrew and Yiddish.
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 Halasz 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 City Center Opera 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.
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.
Carlo Menotti and Thomas Schippers discuss a score.
Image taken from
the Angel LP release of The Unicorn, short opera by Menotti.
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
titles were Mignon, Luise and La bohème
(all conducted by Morel).
known are the productions and various premieres of William Grant
Still's opera "Troubled Island" for which funds
were often insufficient available. Nevertheless
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. Virgil Thomson wrote in The New York Herald edition of Sunday,
Nomber 11, 1951:
Halasz, artistic and musical director of the City Center
Opera Company, has his fall season of six and a hal weeks
produced two contemporary works, and made a success out
of both . Both, by the way, were given in English. Wolf-Ferrari's
"Four Ruffians", produced late in the season,
has had so far only two performances, but it will stay
in the repertory, probably opening the spring season on
March 15 David Tamkin's "The Dybbuk" had five
performances in four weeks, two more than were originally
planned, all of them completely sold out, and it is much
if demand on the forthcoming four week tour of the company
to Detroit, Chicago and near-by points.
Center finances are a miracle operated by Morton Baum.
(...) and Mr. Halasz, experts both in trimming budgets.
The Center has no capital and no endowment. (...) "The
Dybbuk" production, a very distinguished one, cost
13.000 dollars (it would have cost 60.000 at the Metropolitan)
and is already paid back into general funds.(...) just
what America needed - a popular-price opera company of
real artitistic distinction. It works without subsidy,
moreover, is genuinely self supporting;(...) At this moment
your commentator, happy about a particularly brilliant
fall season, is inclined to put the City Center Operas
Company and Laszlo Halasz, the man who made it all out
of nothing, at the top of his Thanksgiving list. May both
be preserved to us! - Virgil Thomson.
there was a conflict with the Board of Directors. The most important
reason was that Halasz himself wanted complete freedom to manage
on a tour to Canada, Laszlo Halasz had met renown cellist
Forgues who had studied with Emanuel Feuermann from
1938 until 1942. She became the first cello player in the orchestra
and she also became 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.
Halasz on the cover and on the pages of LIFE Magazine, 11
April, 1949, amidst his stars. Clockwise starting from bottom
An Ayars, Dorothy MacNeil (next to Laszlo Halasz), Frances
Bible, Virginia Haskins, Wilma Spencer, Marguerite Piazza
and Brenda Lewis (as Salome).
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.
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.
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
Haskins, the beautiful soprano, photographed in the dressing room.
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
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
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.
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
and Bess, produced by Goddard Lieberson. Under Laszlo Halasz she
sang Cio Cio San in the New York City Opera production of "Madame
"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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Halasz' involvement with Remington records did not start in the early
nineteen forties when Donald Gabor recorded Bela Bartok at his home.
As the Press Release at the beginning of this page shows Gabor said
that he did not know Halasz before his leaving the New York City Opera.
See also the paragraph about the
involvement with Remington records from 1953 on 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.
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.
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
Halasz conducting and Tamas Vasary playing Rachmaninoff
who was a student from 1959 to 1963 at the Peabody Conservatory
of Music (now called the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins
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
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.
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.
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, 2006
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:
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.
Gary Hal recollects:
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, 2006
1971 Laszlo Halasz became conductor of the newly founded Concert Orchestra
and Choir of Long Island. Under his musical and artistic direction memorable
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.
Halasz when he revisited the Salzburg Festivals (Salzburger
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.
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.
Laszlo Halasz conducting once more the
NY City Opera in the nineteen eighties.
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.
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
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
for a Sound Clip of The Fairy Tale Begins from Hary Janos
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
Orchestra and with the Teatro la Fenice. - R.A.B.
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
*) The complete
Aida recording can be found on Preiser Records PSR 20027 (2x CD),
released in November 2003.
by Rudolf A. Bruil, and first published on the Internet in November,
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 obituaries on Laszlo Halasz. See New
York Times Obituary by Allan Kozinoct from October 31, 2001.
Washington News, edition of January 7th, 2005, remembered cellist/music
teacher Suzette Forgues Halasz who had died one month earlier on December