The New York Philharmonic

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Artur Rodzinski


b. Split, Croatia, January 1, 1892
d. Boston, November 27, 1958

Beginning his conducting career as an opera conductor, Artur Rodziński would later be known as an orchestra builder. In the 1920s, he served as assistant conductor to Leopold Stokowski at The Philadelphia Orchestra. From 1929 to 1933, he was music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, after which he spent 10 years building The Cleveland Orchestra into one of the nation’s leading ensembles. Rodziński also prepared the NBC Symphony Orchestra for Arturo Toscanini, selecting its members, training them, making its first recordings, and conducting its first concerts.

After several seasons of guest conducting at the New York Philharmonic, he began his tenure as musical director in 1943. The newly created position entrusted him with the responsibility not only for the quality of the Orchestra, but for the season programming and its overall structure. He promptly dismissed 14 players, including the concertmaster. This increased tension between him and Arthur Judson, the Philharmonic’s manager (their relationship during Rodziński’s four-year tenure was often stormy), but it also resulted in an orchestra that played with renewed brilliance.

Rodzińskifavored a clean sound, and his podium gestures were straightforward, streamlined, and modern. This suited his choice of repertoire, and he often championed new American music. During his brief tenure, 19 American compositions were given their World Premieres, including works by Roy Harris, Walter Piston, William Grant Still, and Lukas Foss. Rodziński also had a fondness for American popular music. He conducted the premiere of the Violin Concerto by Vladimir Dukelsky (aka Vernon Duke) and commissioned and premiered Jerome Kern’s Scenario for Orchestra on Themes from Show Boat.

During Rodziński’s tenure, the New York Philharmonic’s budget first topped $1 million. The Orchestra also expanded its CBS radio broadcasts to include the summer months, making them a household event every Sunday afternoon of the year. Following his departure from the Philharmonic, Rodziński worked with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, stunning audiences with recordings of Tristan und Isolde and Tannhäuser, among other operas.

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