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Jonel (Ionel) Perlea (1900-1970)






























































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Although Jonel Perlea made the bulk of his recordings for the RCA and Vox labels, his appearances on Remington Records are noteworthy. He conducted the RIAS Symphony Orchestra in works of Tchaikovsky, Saint-Saëns, Debussy, and he accompanied pianist Edward Kilenyi in Brahms and in outstanding performances of works by Liszt.

His understanding of various styles and his versatility with all sorts of music was also illustrated in the recordings of works by Dane Rudhyar, Peggy Glanville-Hicks, Ulysses Kay. Kay's Concerto for Orchestra was written in Italy, in 1948, and premiered in Venice by the Teatro La Fenice Orchestra conducted by Perlea in 1954.

According to the liner notes on Remington R-199-166 Perlea mastered more than eighty operas and about six hundred and fifty symphonic works.
Critics hailed his exact rendition of complicated scores and his phrasing and rhythmic elasticity which made him at ease both with opera and ballet music.

Jonel Perlea (Photo Vox/Orbis/Parnass)

Jonel Perlea was born in Ograda (Romania) on December 13th 1900, of a German mother, Margarethe Haberlin, and a Rumanian father Victor Perlea. That Jonel was talented was already clear when he was still a young boy and was sent to Munich where he received his musical education, studying with the German pedagogue Anton Beer-Walbrunn (1864-1929), and at the Leipzig Conservatory of Music (Leipziger Musikhochschule) with Paul Graener (1872-1944) and Otto Lohse (1858-1925), all three were strongly interested in opera.

In 1934 Perlea was appointed General Manager and Musical Director of the Bucharest Opera, he gave concerts with the Bucharest Philharmonic Orchestra and was a professor in composition at the Royal Academy of Music of Rumania. At the same time he toured Europe as a guest conductor of the major orchestras.

When attempting to travel to France with his wife, he was arrested and interned in a concentration camp. After World War II he settled down in Italy. First he conducted the Santa Cecilia Orchestra. Later he was appointed at La Scala, Milan, where he conducted a wide variety of operas.

In 1949 he made a successful debut at the Metropolitan Opera, New York, conducting Wagner's 'Tristan und Isolde'. A season with the San Francisco Opera Company, several broadcasts of concerts as a guest conductor of the NBC Symphony Orchestra and the musical directorship of the 1951 Grand Opera Festival at San Antonio, Texas, followed. In 1952 he was appointed to the Manhattan School of Music and was soon invited by Laszlo Halasz to make recordingens for Remington.

A recording of works by Tchaikovsky (Nutcracker Suite) and Grieg (Peer Gynt) conducted by Jonel Perlea, made by VOX, was released in his homeland Romania on the Electrecord label.

In 1955 he made his debut as conductor of the Connecticut Symphony and two years later took up the post of principal conductor of that orchestra. He led the Connecticut Symphony for ten years. His contract was not renewed. Jonel Perlea had become partially paralyzed from a stroke, and was forced to conduct with his left hand. The main reason for his leaving the orchestra however was the financial situation of the Connecticut Symphony Orchestra which was then renamed Greater Bridgeport Symphony.
On July 29, 1970, Jonel Perlea died at the age of 69 in New York.

Jonel Perlea's Remington recordings were made under the supervision of Laszlo Halasz and on several occasions by Don Gabor as well. Perlea made recordings for Remington probably already in the Fall of 1953 and were contnued in 1954, all prior to Perlea's appointment in Connecticut.

These are the recordings made by Jonel Perlea for the Remington label:

R-199-159 - La boîte à joujoux - The Box of Toys (Debussy) - RIAS Symphony Orchestra, Berlin.
In High Fidelity - Magazine for Music Listeners - of September 1954, reviewer James Hinton, Jr., wrote: "This obscure ballet score by the great French Impressionist dates from 1913. Jonel Perlea directs a sensitive performance and we get some really excellent orchestral sound from Remington."

R-199-160 - Carnival of Animals - Carnaval des animaux (Saint-SaŽns) and Excerpts from Swan Lake (Tchaikovsky). These are beautiful, spirited and balanced performances, well recorded. The cello solo in The Swan is most certainly by Heinrich Köhler, first cello player in the Rias Symphony, and the violin solo in Swan Lake is no doubt by Rudolf Schulz. Also these performances show that Perlea is an excellent conductor and his interpretations benefit from the fact that he is also an opera conductor who knows how to present exciting, dramatic and lyrical performances.

R-199-164 - Piano Concerto No. 2 (Brahms) - Edward Kilenyi, pianist and Jonel Perlea conducting the RIAS Symphony Orchestra (the only recording of Kilenyi of this concerto).

R-199-166 - Piano Concerto No. 1 and Totentanz/Todtentanz - Variations on Dies Irae (Liszt) - Edward Kilenyi, pianist and Jonel Perlea conducting the RIAS Symphony Orchestra. Performances in the same vein as Kilenyi's 1936 French Pathé recordings.

R-199-173 - Concerto for Orchestra - Toccata; Arioso; Passacaglia (Ulysses Kay) - Jonel Perlea, conducting the Teatro La Fenice Orchestra (later reissued by Tom Null on Varèse-Sarabande VC 81047). On R-199-173 the Concerto for Orchestra is coupled with Normand Lockwood's 'Concerto for Organ and Brasses', performed by Marilyn Mason (organ) and John Ware and Nathan Prager (trumpets) and Gordon Pulis and Lewis Haney (trombones), conducted by Thor Johnson; and 'Quiet Design' performed by Marilyn Mason at the organ. Released in May 1955. Recorded in the series of American Composers Alliance. The recording was released in the course of 1954, probably in the Summer of that year. Alfred Frankenstein reviewed this Remington release in High Fidelity Magazine of July 1954:

Ulysses Kay's Concerto for Orchestra is a robuts, vivid, intensely polyphonic composition that fills one's ear, entraps one's mind, and lifts one's spirits in a fashion not unlike that of Hindemith, with whom this composer has studied. Norman Lockwood's Concerto for Organ and Brasses is a bold, monumental baroque inspired work written in honor of the celebrated organist, E. Power Biggs, and well worthy of the purpose for which it was created.The Lockwood side is filled with a Quiet Design for organ solo composed expressly with the concerto on this record. The Kay performance is excellent and the Lockwood performance is superb; both recordings are first rate, with sonorous organ and clangerous brasses. - Alfred Frankenstein, High Fidelity, July, 1954.

R-199-188 - Sinfonietta (Rudhyar), Gymnopedia (Glanville-Hicks) - Jonel Perlea conducting the RIAS Symphony Orchestra (coupled with Henry Brant's Saxophone Concerto performed by Sigurd Rascher with the Cincinnati Symphony conducted by Thor Johnson). Released in the course of 1956. A recording in cooperation with the American Composers Alliance.

For 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. However Schwann Long Playing Record Catalog Artist Listing 1956 lists this recording as being conducted by Laszlo Halasz. See Opera on Remington.

The breach of contract with the Bertelsmann firm prevented the replacement of the earlier anonymous recording by conductor X, with Beethoven's Symphony No. 1, Jonel Perlea conducting the Teatro la Fenice. This recording was made at the time when Lucia di Lammermoor and music by American composers were taped. The Beethoven Symphony was released in Germany on Tefi Schallbänder (See for the Tefifon Schallband label / Sound Film RIAS Symphony Orchestra - Tefifon).

Rudolf A. Bruil, September 2002

NOTE As so many conductors also Jonel Perlea composed.
On The Romanian Blogspot Dedicated to Ionel Perlea the following works are listed (no longer in English but in Romanian).

Drei Lieder (Three Songs) Op. 10 for Voice and Piano
Der Fischer (The Fisherman) on a Poem by Wolfgang von Goethe Op. 15 for Voice and Piano
Piano Sonata Op. 12
Song without Words (Lied ohne Worte) for Piano
Sonata for Violin and Piano in One movement
Seven Variations for Piano
Ein heiteres Quartett (A debonair Quartet) Op. 10 No. 2
Adagio for Orchestra
Don Quixote (Symphonic Poem)
Variations on an original Theme for Orchestra
Symfonia Concertante for Violin and Orchestra
Three Etudes (Studies) for Orchestra
Symphony No. 1 in C for Orchestra (transcription of String Quartet Op. 10 No. 2)

R.A.B. 2013



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