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George Singer (1908-1980)


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Symphony 'From the New World' on five 45 RPM discs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The billboard of the 1943 concert when George Singer conducted the Palestine Orchestra.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beethoven (Coriolan), Mendelssohn (Ruy Blas), Liszt (Les Preludes) conducted by George Singer. The orchestra now named "European Symphony Orchestra" - Merit M1-16.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tchaikovsky's 1812 Festival Overture (Ouverture Solonelle) was issued on 2 x 45 RPM 7" discs with Smetena's Moldau by George Singer (reference RB-4-003).
By mistake the box mentions George Singer as the conductor for the Tchaikovsky piece, whereas the factual conductor was Kurt Wöss.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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He already conducted the Palestine Orchestra (Eretz Israeli Orchestra) before it became the Israel Philharmonic in Tel Aviv. When rehearsing, he would keep much of the energy of the players for the actual performance which would often have great intensity. He was a great conductor which is obvious from his recordings. Daniel Barenboim said in an interview in the April 2000 issue of Gramophone: "He was an undisciplined, fiery personality, but a wonderful musician". Yet an entry in an encyclopedia on George Singer is rarely found. That explains why critic and reviewer Irving Kolodin initially thought that the name George Singer was a pseudonym.

 

Not all artists who appeared on Remington records were really known. Many times record buyers suggested that a name was a fake. One of those "unknown" Remington artists was conductor George Singer who - as research shows - was born in Prague on August 6th, 1908. Singer studied at the Prague Conservatory under Alexander von Zemlinsky (1872-1942), brother in law and teacher of Arnold Schönberg, and under Fidelio Finke (1891-1968). While Zemlinsky fled to the US in 1934, Singer migrated to Palestine in 1939 and on December 5th of that year he conducted Borodin (Symphony No. 2), Dvorak (Serenade for Strings), and Mussorgski (Pictures at an Exhibition). Singer traveled to many European countries to perform. Israel was the country where he died on October 1st, 1980.

George Singer around 1950.

George Singer is specifically known for his recording of Dvorak's Fifth Symphony with the title 'From the New World'. Since the mid nineteen sixties the symphonies of Dvorak were twice renumbered. In the end Symphony No. 2 became the 7th, and the popular Fifth was renumbered Ninth. George Singer conducts the Austrian Symphony Orchestra, also referred to as Viennese Symphony Orchestra and as Niederösterreichisches Tonkünstler (Tonkuenstler/ Tonkunstler) Orchester on Remington R-199-4.
That same performance of 'From the New World' was released on five 45 RPM discs in a handsome box, reference RB-5-002.

But his repertory stretched from Beethoven to Bruckner, from Schubert to Shostakovitch, from Haydn to Mahler, from Franck to Stravinsky, and many names and idioms in between, several Israeli composers included, Paul Ben-Haim, Yehuda Wohl, Menahem Avidom. He accompanied many soloists, Pnina Salzman, Ella Goldstein, Frank Pollak, Josef Kaminski, Josef Bernstein, Yehudi Menuhin, William Primrose, Arthur Rubinstein, Maurice Gendron, Shura Cherkassky, and Michael Rabin.


Conductor George Singer (who was also a composer) led the Opera of Prague, as well as the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and the Orchestra of the Prague Spring Festival. He conducted the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra on a regular basis and also the Hebrew National Opera. He contributed to Israeli culture by premiering several works from contemporary, Israeli composers.

He spent several months of the year outside Israel appearing in front of important European orchestras like the Berlin Philharmonic and the Suisse-Romande Orchestra (l' Orchestre de la Suisse-Romande). He conducted the Santa Cecilia Orchestra of Rome and spent time in Vienna with the Austrian Symphony Orchestra, in Leipzig with the Radio Orchestra (Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Leipzig - MDR - Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk), the Symphony Orchestra of Radio Hamburg (Radio-Sinfonie-Orchester Hamburg) and the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra (Bamberger Symphoniker).

George Singer was the first Israeli conductor to perform in the USSR. He already conducted the Palestine Orchestra (Eretz Israeli Orchestra), long before it became the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. The orchestra was founded by violinist Bronislaw Huberman in 1936 with the support of Arturo Toscanini who conducted the first concert.

The 1939-1940 season of subscription concerts of the Israel Philharmonic Ortchestra, Tel Aviv, with George Singer conducting Borodin, Franck, Dvorak, Gluck, Schubert and Mahler. Right from the start of the orchestra's existence famous conductors and soloists travelled to Yeretz Israel - Mandatory Palestine to give concerts, and national celebrities performed with the orchestra. To mention a few: Arturo Toscanini, Malcolm Sargent, Benno Moiseiwtisch, Jacob Bernstein, Issay Dobrowen, Eugen Szenkar, Oda Slobodskaya, Herman Scherchen, Ignaz Neumark, and George Singer.

Of the many concerts of George Singer, one memorable took place on Monday, June 7th, 1943, in the midst of the Second World War, in the so called Edison Hall. On the program was Beethoven's Prometheus Overture and Pastoral Symphony, and after the break pianist Lance Dossor was the soloist in Brahms's Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat Major. Another memorable concert with George Singer conducting was during the 1963/1964 season. On the program: Paul Ben Haim's 'Dance and Invocation', Brahms's Double Concerto (with Endre Wolf, violin, and Adolfo Odnoposoff, cello), and after the intermission Dvorak's 3rd (7th) Symphony. Singer conducted works of many Israeli composers. Especially known are the performances of the music of Arthur Gelbun (on texts by Leah Goldberg) with the Israel Broadcasting Symphony Orchestra & Choir.

The Remington recordings of George Singer:

R-199-4 Dvorak: Symphony No. 9, 'From the New World, released December 1950 (reissued on Masterseal MSLP 5014 in 1957).

R-149-10 Bizet: Carmen Suite and Smetena: The Moldau - released December 1950.

R-149-11 Rimsky-Korsakov: Le coq d'or (orchestral suite) - released in the Spring of 1951
Music critic Cecil Smith wrote in New Republic that the performance of Rimsky-Korsakov's glittering Suite from "Le Coq d'Or" recorded by George Singer and the Symphony Orchestra of the Viennese Symphonic Society was "a creditable job", which means that the Suite is performed with imagination and nuances.

Liszt's Les Preludes conducted by George Singer were coupled on R-149-47 with Georges Enesco performing his Rumanian Rhapsody No. 1. The Rhapsody was later reissued with Heitor Villa-Lobos conducting the RIAS Symphony Orchestra.

Le coq d'or (Rimsky-Korsakov) conducted by George Singer, coupled with Peer Gynt conducted by H. Arthur Brown.Both suites from Peer Gynt were later released on the Vibraton label and there it is stated that both Suites were directed by Georges Singer.
Seraphim SLP 8036 contains Peer Gynt Suite No. 1 (Grieg) and Suite from the opera Carmen (Bizet) played by the Seraphim Symphony Orchestra. After comparison it was clear that these are recordings of George Singer. On the back of the cover more Seraphim recordings are listed and they all are from the Remington catalog.
It is suspected that Donald Gabor had not registered the label's name and that these recordings were specially manufactured to be sold at gas stations and convenience stores and would not be detected by sales personel in record stores. Angel Records introduced the Seraphim label in September 1966. But Gabor may have used the name Seraphim already before that date.

R-149-47 Liszt: Les Preludes (+ Enesco Rumanian Rhapsody No. 2, George Enesco conducting) (Varèse Sarabande VC 81042 -1978) - released in the Fall of 1951

R-149-48 Mendelssohn: Ruy Blas Overture (+ Beethoven Egmont Overture, Hans Wolf conducting) - released in September of 1952

R-199-51 Beethoven: Symphony No. 4 - released in the Fall of 1951

R-199-55 Rimsky-Korsakov: Le coq d'or (orchesral suite) originally released on a 10 inch disc is now coupled with Tchaikovsky's 'Tempest' conducted by Zoltan Fekete - released in the Fall of 1951

Alex Steinweiss designed the cover for the recording of Dvorak's Slavonic Dances.

R-199-106 Dvorak: Slavonic Dances Op. 46 - Released in April, 1954

R-199-110 Schubert: Symphony No. 3 and Haydn: Symphony No. 93 - Released in February, 1954

R-199-112 Mozart: Symphony No. 29 (+ Weber: Symphony No. 2 conducted by Günther Rabhuber) - Released in May, 1954

R-199-114 George Singer conducting Dvorak (Largo from New World Symphony), Rimsky-Korsakov (March from Le coq d'or), Erasmo Ghiglia conducting Rossini (Barber of Seville Overture); coupled with excerpts from The King and I with Frank Chacksfield and his Orchestra - released in 1954

Mozart: Symphony No. 29 conducted by George Singer and Carl Maria von Weber's : Symphony No. 2 conducted by Günther Rabhuber.
An early release of Le Coq d'Or (Rimsky-Korsakov) conducted by George Singer, coupled with The Tempest (Tchaikovsky) conducted by Zoltan Fekete.

Some of the recordings were released later in different couplings. The best example is the Suite 'Le coq d'or' by Rimsky-Korsakov which was released on R-199-68 together with Peer Gynt Suite No. 1 conducted by H. Arthur Brown.
The release dates of the recordings were taken from Schwann Record Catalog and The Longplayer. In certain instances Schwann listed a recording later than The Longplayer did.

Traverso player Raanan Eylon from Jerusalem played under George Singer. He remembers:


"Singer was Czech - like my mother. He was a fiend at playing scores on the piano - he could read anything. A conductor of great inspiration. The orchestra that I played in for a year when I was 19 - the Israeli Radio Orchestra in Jerusalem - liked only two conductors - George Singer and Carlo Zecchi. Singer because he never had patience for thorough rehearsal. He would always say: "In the evening", meaning that things will work out in the concert. The orchestra played really well for him if compared to the abysmal playing for others. I knew of two people in Israel who were able to put an orchestral score in front of them and play anything and everything on the piano. The composer Yosef Tal (...) was one, and George Singer was the other. Singer's love for Czech composers was legendary, and he would include a Dvorak work in each program, if possible." - Raanan Eylon. 2007.

The archives of the Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk (Radio Central Germany - MDR) contain various recordings. Among these:

Mozart: Sechs deutsche Tänze (Six German Dances) KV 567
Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Leipzig (MDR) - George Singer, conductor - Catalog number: 39851/audio - Date: 1967-03-30.
Studio/Leipzig, Funkhaus Saal 1

In February and March 1960, George Singer conducted performances of OTELLO (Giuseppe Verdi) and La Bohème (Giacomo Puccini) in the Amsterdam Municipal Theatre (Amsterdamse Stadsschouwburg). Stars in Otello were Mimi Aarden, Scipio Colombo and Ramon Vinay (Otello), Angela Vercelli, Leonard del Ferro and Rudolf Knoll (second performer of Otello). In La Bohème were starring Mirella Freni, Marilyn Tyler and Ettore Babini. The picture of George Singer in action appeared in Issue 1960/2 of Dutch Opera Magazine.

There also exists a recording with the Bamberger Symponiker of W.A. Mozart's Rondo for Violin and Orchestra KV 373 with Zvi Zeitlin (violin), George Singer conducting.

And there is a recording with Excerpts from Nabucco (Verdi) with Norma Giusti (soprano), Erika Wien (Mezzo-Soprano), Giuseppe Savio (tenor), Lawrence Winters (baritone), Nicola Rossi-Lemeni (bass), the Radio Chorus and the Hamburg Radio Symphony Orchestra (Radio-Sinfonie-Orchester Hamburg), George Singer conducting.
ETERNA Stereo 825364 (1974)

Text and research Rudolf A. Bruil. Page first published on February 12, 2007


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