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Russian Symphony Orchestra Society


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« on: April 03, 2017, 05:16:01 pm »

An established orchestra[edit]

By the end of the 1906 season, the Russian Symphony Orchestra was an established part of the New York music scene. In all, the New York Times counted six New York premieres by the Russian Symphony Orchestra as such in 1906, and three more by the New Music Society.[36] On May 25, the Society announced that Altschuler would be retained as Director for three more years, with Russian Ambassador Baron Roman Rosen continuing as honorary practitioner.[37] Looking forward to the 1906-1907 musical season, the Times counted them among the city's major orchestras, along with the New York Philharmonic, New York Symphony Orchestra, Peoples' Symphony Concerts, and Sam Franko's American Symphony.[38]

The 1906-7 season saw an appearance by pianist and composer Alexander Scriabin under the baton of his (and Altschuler's) conservatory teacher Vasily Safonov. An anonymous New York Times review praised Scriabin's playing, while finding him immature as a composer. The same reviewer panned Alexander Glazunov's Third Symphony, which had its American premiere on this occasion: "[W]hat Russian music the conductor's of the more cosmopolitan orchestras have left for the Russians to put down on their programmes as given 'for the first time' may have been rejected rather than overlooked."[39] Apparently undaunted by that criticism, the orchestra announced two days later that its concert of January 17 would feature American premieres of Rachmaninoff's Spring cantata and Jean Sibelius's Karelia overture,[40] though apparently Rimsky-Korsakov's Antar was substituted for the Rachmininoff.[41] The Times doubled down in its criticism: "[M]any of the things by the Russian composers that we do not know seem upon presentation hardly worth knowing. … Antar … is no symphony by any recognized definition of the term… This would be nothing against the music if it could win acceptance for itself as music, which it did not last evening."[41] While continuing its skepticism toward recent Russian music, the Times had high praise for soloist Fannie Bloomfield Zeisler's February 7, 1907 performance of Anton Rubenstein's already well-known D Minor Concerto (No. 4), though suggesting that the orchestra "show[ed] a lack of rehearsal with the pianist."[42] The fifth of six concerts that season on February 28, featuring a return by pianist Josef Lhévinne, consisted entirely of Russian pieces performed for the first time in America, although they were not recent works. The orchestral introduction of Mussorgsky's The Fair at Sorochyntsi and Rubinstein's Caprice Russe were both by composers who had died before the turn of the century. Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov's Iveria Suite (1896) and Alexander Scriabin's First Symphony (completed 1900), while also not particularly recent, were at least by then-living composers, and Scriabin was present for the occasion.[43]

That summer, Altschuler traveled to Europe to engage soloists for the 1907-1908 season,[44] which began with a special concert November 10 at their largest venue to date: accompanying violinist Jan Kubelik at the New York Hippodrome.[45] (A similar performance was given the following year, March 15, 1908.[46]) Four days later they began their regular season at Carnegie Hall with Russian ambassador Baron Rosen in attendance, and with a program consisting largely of American premieres of Russian pieces: Alexander Glazunov's Symphony No. 8, composed roughly two years earlier; arrangements of Russian folk songs by Glazunov, Anatoly Lyadov, and Rimsky-Korsakov; and Mussorgsky's "Great Gate of Kiev". The program also featured the American debut of young Russian violinist Lea Luboshutz (listed at the time as Laya Luboshiz),[47] who received eight curtain calls for her solo on Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto.[48] She was not the only notable female soloist to play with the orchestra that season: on February 13, 1908, cellist May Muklé performed Karl Davydov's Cello Concerto No. 2 in A minor.[49]
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