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
edited by R.A.B., taken from the back of an early REMINGTON
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
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.
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"
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.
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
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.
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:
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
Spalding Transcriptions: Valse/Waltz Op. 69 No. 2 (Chopin)
- Victor V 1703; and "Hark, Hark, the Lark" (Schubert) -
Tartini: Devil's Trill (Il Trillo del Diavolo) with André
Benoist (piano) - Victor 1x12" & 1x10" V-14139 &
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.
of the Beethoven and Brahms concertos were made in 1952 in the Brahms
Hall (Brahmssaal) of the Musikverein in Vienna, where later also English
DECCA (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
Critic Paul Affelder reviewed the Brahms recording in High
Fidelity Magazine of September-October 1953: "(...) 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". But the true collector of old recordings of violin
music certainly shows 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.
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
Hungarian Dances with
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..
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.)
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
Beethoven: Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61, with the Austrian
Symphony Orchestra and
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."
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
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
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
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