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."
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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:
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
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 &
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.
The recordings 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 office.
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.
Spalding's Remington recordings:
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
Brahms: Hungarian Dances with
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..
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.
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."
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.
Brahms: Violin concerto
in D major Op. 77, with the Austrian Symphony Orchestra and Wilhelm
In 1980 Tom Null released the performance of the Brahms Concerto in
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
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
Text (c) Rudolf A. Bruil. Page first published June 21, 2002