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Albert Spalding (1888-1953)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the cover of R-199-144

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

Spalding and Loibner play Brahms on Remington

R-199-145

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 
Recital recording of Albert Spalding with Anthony Kooiker at the piano

R-199-23

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Albert Spalding and Ernst von Dohnanyi play Brahms Sonatas 2 and 3 on Remington

R-199-49

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hungarian Dances 'old' and 'new'

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On HALO 50296 Albert Spalding plays a recital with pianist Jules Wolffers and announces Maleguena and Pièce en forme de habanera

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Search The Remington Site

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See for more violinists:

The World Violinists Links.

 

"Albert Spalding was not only the first, but one of the few American violinists to attain a reputation of world importance. He was a composer of note, author of two books and, in two wars, undertook extremely important and delicate missions abroad."

These are the first lines of Albert Spalding's biography on the back of R-199-144, the recording of Spalding's performance of Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61 of Ludwig van Beethoven, performed with the Austrian Symphony Orchestra conducted by Wilhelm Loibner. These lines describe in a nutshell the personality and character of this famous American violinist, composer, author and - in times of war - intelligence officer.

When Albert Spalding died on the 26th of May 1953 when dressing up for dinner, the music world lost "the first great instrumentalist this country has produced" as Walter Damrosch had described Spalding several years earlier. And Fritz Kreisler had said, in a tribute to Albert Spalding, in 1951: "He never fails to play on the heart strings of the listeners (...)."

The truth of Fritz Kreisler's words is evident in Spalding's Remington recording of the Beethoven Concerto. His ease and naturelness, which show that he masters the instrument and the essence of the music -even at a high age- are remarkable. It is the same quality that can be found in Enrico Mainardi's cello playing of the Bach Suites, for instance, and above all in the performances of Bach's Sonatas and Partitas played by George Enesco.

Albert Spalding's image on Remington record cover
Albert Spalding
Picture edited by R.A.B., taken from the back of an early REMINGTON cover.

Albert Spalding was born on August 15th 1888, in Chicago. His father was J. Walter Spalding, a well-to-do businessman and a partner in the known sporting goods firm. His mother was a pianist and a contralto. After initial studies in Chicago, young Albert spent most winters in Europe with his family in Florence. Already at the age of 14 he graduated at the Bologna Conservatory.

He continued studying in New York with Juan Buitrago, and in Europe with Ulpiano Chiti in Florence, and with Augustin Lefort in Paris. He was one of only three foreign born students to be admitted to the Paris Conservatory, the other two being Fritz Kreisler from Austria and Eugene Ysaye from Belgium.
It was in Paris where Spalding made his debut in 1905 and his superior talent and style were immediately recognized by the great and famous of those days. He met Saint-Saëns and played for the great Joseph Joachim in Berlin. When on tour in Finland, Spalding met with Jean Sibelius.

During World War I 26 year old Spalding enlisted in the army and was active in the secret service. After the war he returned to the US and married. Mary Vanderhoef Pyle.
In the nineteen twenties and thirties he traveled to the world's famous concert halls to perform Bach, Beethoven and Brahms with the great conductors and orchestras of that era. He was invited by Ernst von Dohnányi to perform in Budapest and was admired for his soulful playing. By the end of the nineteen forties he was to meet Dohnányi again in Florida, and together they recorded for the Remington label.

In an article with the heading "Violinist or Fiddle" published in The Etude Music Magazine of November 1934, Albert Spalding talks to R.H. Wollstein about the obligation of the artist to present those works of which he believes that the hearers will enjoy as much as he himself will. He also talks about what distinguishes the style of one violinist from that of another.


"The vibrato is, perhaps, the most personal element of the violinist's playing, the most important factor influencing the character of his tone, in giving it individuality. Just as the great master-painters can be recognized without the signature on their canvasses, by distinctions of line and composition, so, I believe, our great violinists can be distinguished by the peculiar quality of their vibrato." - Albert Spalding

When World War II broke out Spalding again enlisted in the army. After the war he picked up his bow to concertize and to teach. In 1947 he retired. His farewell concert took place in the Lewisohn Stadium in New York where he played before an audience of 20.000 people. After retiring he gave masterclasses at the University of Florida at Tallahassee during the winter months.

Albert Spalding is the composer of two violin concertos, a string quartet and various pieces for violin and piano. The liner notes on R-199-144 state that he wrote in all sixty works for the violin, twenty-five for piano, thirty for voice, four for chamber ensembles, and four for full orchestra.
Albert Spalding also wrote two books, one is his autobiography "Rise to follow", which was first published in 1943.

Before he made his Remington recordings, Albert Spalding recorded for Edison and for Victor. He made the bulk of his recordings in the shellac era. The 1942 and 1948 editions of 'The Gramophone Shop Encyclopaedia of Recorded Music' list the following recordings:

Cassado: Danse du Diable Vert - 10" - Victor V-12914
Händel: Sonata Op. 2 No. 9 with William Primrose (viola) and André Benoist (piano) - Victor V-18241
Mozart: Sinfonia Concertante in E flat major with William Primrose (viola) New Friends of Music, Fritz Stiedry conductitng - Victor 4 12" VM 838
Spohr: Concerto for Violin No. 8, Op. 47 (In Form einer Gesangsszene) with the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Eugene Ormandy - Victor 2 12" VM 544
Spalding: Dragon Fly, A study in Arpeggione (unaccompanied) - Victor 10" V-12914
Spalding: Wind in the Pines with André Benoist - Victor 10" V-1881
Spalding Transcriptions: Valse/Waltz Op. 69 No. 2 (Chopin) - Victor V 1703; and "Hark, Hark, the Lark" (Schubert) - Victor V-1667
Tartini: Devil's Trill (Il Trillo del Diavolo) with André Benoist (piano) - Victor 1x12" & 1x10" V-14139 & 1787.

Since Spalding was not under contract with a major label, Don Gabor arranged to make recordings with Spalding at the end of the nineteen forties and later when Laszlo Halasz had become Remington's Recording Director and was going to supervise recordings in Europe, the rare opportunity presented itself to make recordings with the great violinist in Vienna, Mr. Halasz's first assignment so to speak.
Picture of Albert Spalding published in High Fidelity Magazine of September-October 1953.
Image of Albert Spalding published in the Record Section of High Fidelity Magazine of September-October 1953

The recordings of the Beethoven and Brahms concertos were made in 1952 in the Brahms Hall (Brahmssaal) of the Musikverein in Vienna, where also English DECCA (US London) made quite a number of recordings. These recordings were the first to be done in the MUSIRAMA technique using the multiple microphone placement.

One could say that, despite his age, Spalding's performances are strong in character. He plays with determination and sensitivity - especially in the second movement of the Beethoven Concerto - and his Brahms is virtuosic and passionate. And Wilhelm Loibner is an able conductor. It is not sure whose cadenzas Spalding plays in the concertos. They are probably his own.
Making recordings in Vienna - "the fountain-head of music" - and in the Brahmssaal, had given him great joy, he said afterwards when visiting the Remington office in New York.

Critic Paul Affelder reviewed the Brahms recording in High Fidelity Magazine of September-October 1953:

Review of Spalding in High Fidelity magazine  1953
"Though it does not say so on the jacket, this disk was undoubtedly issued as a memorial to the eminent American violinist, Albert Spalding, who died suddenly May 26. His last musical likeness shows him as a sincere artitst, with a commanding style and a tone warmer than I ever remembered having heard from him on the concert stage."

Affelder also noticed "some faulty intonation". The true collector of old recordings of violin music will certainly show understanding.

Earlier, Spalding recorded for Remington "Hungarian Dances" by Brahms, Sonatas by Bach, Sonatas by Corelli and Tartini, accompanied by pianist Anthony Kooiker. And with Ernst von Dohnanyi he played the Three Brahms Sonatas. All of these recordings are cherished by the true collector of historical performances of great violinists.

Albert Spalding's Remington recordings:

R-199-23 Tartini: Sonata in G minor, Corelli: Sonata in A, Sonata in D "La Folia" (arr. Spalding) and Bach: Prelude in F Sharp Minor (arr. Spalding) with Anthony Kooiker, piano

R-199-24 Brahms: Hungarian Dances with Anthony Kooiker, piano.

R-199-49 Brahms: Sonata No. 2 in A major, Op. 100 ("Thun") for Violin and Piano, and Sonata No. 3 in d minor Op.108 for Violin and Piano with Ernst von Dohnanyi, pianist..

Spalding and Dohnanyi play Brahms Sonata No. 1x

R-199-84 Brahms: Sonata No. 1 ("Regen") Op. 78 with Ernö Dohnányi, piano (The liner notes, written by Edward Tatnall Canby, suggest that these performances with Spalding were recorded in the fall of 1949 when Dohnanyi came to New York when visiting the United States, just before he took up the post of professor at the Florida School of Music, Talahassee.) Coupled with Hungarian Dances Nos 8,9 ans 17, with Anthony Kooiker at the piano from the selection of R-199-24. The cover was designed by Alex Steinweiss.

R-199-144 Beethoven: Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61, with the Austrian Symphony Orchestra and Wilhelm Loibner conductor.

NOTE On the Bearac Reissues website one can read:
"(...) on R-199-144 (Beethoven) the introductory soft timpani taps were cut off (a gross negligence even for Remington standards!) and we had to restore them from later in the piece, otherwise your Beethoven would open on the oboe tune."

However, when transferring the Beethoven to the digital domain, the technician certainly must have taken the soft tapping for some sort of rumble or surface noice in the record. In the Remington pressings of Spalding's Beethoven Concerto which I have heard, the soft tapping of the timpany is definitely not eliminated.

Albert Spalding's recording of Beethoven's Violin Concerto on Remington with conductor Wilhelm Loibner

R-199-145 Brahms: Violin concerto in D major Op. 77, with the Austrian Symphony Orchestra and Wilhelm Loibner.

In 1980 Tom Null released the performance of the Brahms Concerto in the Remington Series on his Varèse-Sarabande label.
The liner notes give the following information about this recording:


(...) Released in 1953 as Remington records R-199-145, this performance and the simultaneously-taped Beethoven, represent the only non-78 RPM concerto recordings made by Albert Spalding in what were, in fact, his last recording sessions. This release is the first to utilize the original 30 inches-per-second mastertapes - Remington's practice having been to produce their records from 15 i.p.s. copy. The added clarity provided by working from the well-preserved mastertapes has been further "focused" through the application of modern equalization mastering techniques. This was one of the label's first recordings to employ the "Musirama" multiple microphone (four) technique. This "close up" sound admirably captures Spalding's tone and, conversely, also reveals various extraneous orchestral noises, someone's (soloist's or conductor's) occasionally tapping foot, and some bad moments of ensemble and intonation. The latter maybe partly acounted for by the headlong intensity of the performance and by the apparent fact that each movement was recorded complete in one "take". - Tom Null

Albert Spalding can also be witnessed on ALLEGRO 1675 with Bach's Chaconne (from Solo Partita 2), and Beethoven's Kreutzer Sonata with Jules Wolffers at the piano. His unrestrained playing - a tradmark of the violinist - was also engraved on HALO 50296 on which he announces Malagueña and Pièce en forme de habanéra (Ravel). The accompanist on that recording is also Jules Wolffers. On ALLEGRO ELITE 4118 the same gems can be found: Claire de Lune, Ave Maria, The Londonderry Air, Habanera, and Hungarian Dances Nos. 1, 2, 8, 9 by Brahms. A bootleg of the Halo recording? Or vice versa?

Text (c) Rudolf A. Bruil. Page first published June 21, 2002

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