The Philharmonic Symphony Society of New York
Concert Program, 94th Season, December 15, 1935
Symphony No. 2 in C Minor
for Orchestra, Soprano, Alto, and Mixed Chorus
Composed by Gustav Mahler
Conducted by Otto Klemperer
Susanne Fisher, soprano
Enid Szantho, contralto
Fine / Pristine Condition. No discernible signs of any wear. Rare to find in such exceptional condition. No rips, no chips, no stains, no fading, no creases.
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This concert program is an early performance of Mahler's 2nd Symphony, conducted by one of the great interpreter's of Mahler's music, Otto Klemperer. Symphony No. 2 is arguably Mahler's most well known and highly regarded work. It was the first of Mahler's compositions that received positive praise upon premiere, one critic calling it "the most masterly work of its kind since Mendelssohn." It was also the first of Mahler's works to be commercially recorded by Oskar Fried in 1925. This recording on eleven 78rpm shellac discs is quite rare and highly sought after by collectors. Otto Klemperer's 1963 recording of Symphony No. 2 for Columbia Records is also a highly collected pressing, and one of the best selling Mahler and classical albums of all time.
Gustav Mahler (July 1860 – 18 May 1911) was an Austro-Bohemian Romantic composer, and one of the leading conductors of his generation. As a composer he acted as a bridge between the 19th century Austro-German tradition and the modernism of the early 20th century. While in his lifetime his status as a conductor was established beyond question, his own music gained wide popularity only after periods of relative neglect, which included a ban on its performance in much of Europe during the Nazi era. After 1945 his compositions were rediscovered by a new generation of listeners; Mahler then became one of the most frequently performed and recorded of all composers, a position he has sustained into the 21st century. In 2016, a BBC Music Magazine survey of 151 conductors ranked three of his symphonies in the top ten symphonies of all time. Born in Bohemia (then part of the Austrian Empire) to Jewish parents of humble origins, the German-speaking Mahler displayed his musical gifts at an early age. After graduating from the Vienna Conservatory in 1878, he held a succession of conducting posts of rising importance in the opera houses of Europe, culminating in his appointment in 1897 as director of the Vienna Court Opera (Hofoper). During his ten years in Vienna, Mahler—who had converted to Catholicism to secure the post—experienced regular opposition and hostility from the anti-Semitic press. Nevertheless, his innovative productions and insistence on the highest performance standards ensured his reputation as one of the greatest of opera conductors, particularly as an interpreter of the stage works of Wagner, Mozart, and Tchaikovsky. Late in his life he was briefly director of New York's Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic. Mahler's œuvre is relatively limited; for much of his life composing was necessarily a part-time activity while he earned his living as a conductor. Aside from early works such as a movement from a piano quartet composed when he was a student in Vienna, Mahler's works are generally designed for large orchestral forces, symphonic choruses and operatic soloists. These works were frequently controversial when first performed, and several were slow to receive critical and popular approval; exceptions included his Second Symphony, Third Symphony, and the triumphant premiere of his Eighth Symphony in 1910. Some of Mahler's immediate musical successors included the composers of the Second Viennese School, notably Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg and Anton Webern. Dmitri Shostakovich and Benjamin Britten are among later 20th-century composers who admired and were influenced by Mahler. The International Gustav Mahler Institute was established in 1955 to honour the composer's life and achievements.
Otto Nossan Klemperer (14 May 1885 – 6 July 1973) was a German-born orchestral conductor and composer, described as "the last of the few really great conductors of his generation." Klemperer went on to hold a number of positions, in Hamburg (1910–1912); in Barmen (1912–1913); the Strasbourg Opera (1914–1917); the Cologne Opera (1917–1924); and the Wiesbaden Opera House (1924–1927). From 1927 to 1931, he was conductor at the Kroll Opera in Berlin. In this post he enhanced his reputation as a champion of new music, playing a number of new works, including Janáček's From the House of the Dead, Schoenberg's Erwartung, Stravinsky's Oedipus rex, and Hindemith's Cardillac. When the Nazi Party gained power in 1933, Klemperer left Germany shortly afterwards, first to Austria then to Switzerland. He had previously converted to Catholicism, but returned to Judaism at the end of his life. In 1935, he migrated to the United States, residing in California after being appointed music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. While in Los Angeles, he began to concentrate more on the standard works of the Germanic repertoire that would later bring his greatest acclaim, particularly the works of Beethoven, Brahms and Gustav Mahler, though he gave the Los Angeles premieres of some of fellow Los Angeles resident Arnold Schoenberg's works with the Philharmonic. He also visited other countries, including the United Kingdom and Australia. While the orchestra responded well to his leadership, Klemperer had a difficult time adjusting to life and climate in Southern California, a situation exacerbated by repeated manic-depressive episodes, reportedly as a result of severe cyclothymic bipolar disorder. He also found that the dominant musical culture and leading music critics in the United States were largely unsympathetic to modern music from Weimar's Golden Age, and he felt both the music and his support of it were not properly appreciated. Klemperer hoped for a permanent position as principal conductor in New York or Philadelphia, but in 1936 he was passed over for both – first in Philadelphia, where Eugene Ormandy succeeded Leopold Stokowski at the Philadelphia Orchestra, and then in New York, where Arturo Toscanini's departure left a vacancy at the New York Philharmonic but John Barbirolli and Artur Rodziński were engaged in preference to Klemperer. The New York decision was particularly galling, as Klemperer had been engaged to conduct the first fourteen weeks of the New York Philharmonic's 1935–6 season, and Toscanini himself had suggested Klemperer as a possible replacement. Klemperer's bitterness at this decision was voiced in a letter he wrote to the Philharmonic's manager, Arthur Judson: "that the society did not reengage me is the strongest offense, the sharpest insult to me as artist, which I can imagine. You see, I am no youngster. I have a name and a good name. One could not use me in a most difficult season and then expell me. This non-reengagement will have very bad results not only for me in New York but in the whole world... This non-reengagement is an absolutely unjustified wrong done to me by the Philharmonic Society."