Thursday, April 12, 2012

Two American Pictures (Rodzinski, Reiner)

Cover design by Alex Steinweiss
Arguably, two of the most groundbreaking shows in the history of the American musical theatre are Showboat (by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II) and Porgy and Bess (by Gershwin).  And two transplanted American conductors, Artur Rodzinski and Fritz Reiner, recognized their genius and sought to give these works greater permanence by "elevating" them to symphonic form (remember, Porgy was considered a musical rather than an opera in those days).  Rodzinski commissioned Kern to create a "scenario for orchestra" out of Showboat, and Reiner commissioned Robert Russell Bennett (since Gershwin himself was no longer alive to do it) to create a "symphonic picture" out of Porgy and Bess.  Here are the results, conducted by their instigators:

Kern: Showboat - Scenario for Orchestra
Cleveland Orchestra conducted by Artur Rodzinski
Recorded January 29, 1941
Columbia Masterworks set M-495, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 55.09 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 30.41 MB)

Gershwin (arr. Bennett): Porgy and Bess - A Symphonic Picture
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra conducted by Fritz Reiner
Recorded March 27, 1945
Columbia Masterworks set MM-572, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 58.88 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 28.76 MB)

Cover design by Alex Steinweiss
Once again I am indebted to Ken Halperin of Collecting Record Covers for sending me these sets.  The Showboat recording was apparently never reissued by Columbia on LP, and the Porgy only as a ten-incher, as part of Columbia's initial launch of LP in 1948.


  1. Thanks Bryan - these are most interesting sets.

  2. Thanks a million for these two sets. I love them both and now I can hear them in better transfers. They make a nice 45-min. CD.

  3. For more than you'd ever want to know about the "Symphonic Picture"--especially Reiner's role as the person who laid it out, almost measure-for measure (i.e., choosing the selections, cuts, even keys if changed), here's the latest word. (The author is the editor of Bennett's autobiography):

    p.s. And, for decades, everyone has needed to be reminded the "Show Boat" is (for Ferber and Hammerstein and Kern) TWO words...

  4. Can't thank you enough for these posts!

  5. Interesting to hear the Showboat transfer, which has been recommended elsewhere.

    It'd be interesting to know how you do the transfers. Good results can be obtained by recording in stereo, and then using software to filter out the hiss, which in some cases can be reduced to near zero levels.

  6. I have the Porgy and Bess above. I am looking at selling it. Do you have idea of what I should post it for? Any information you have would be helpful.

    1. Well, I was lucky, because I got it for free (or at least for the cost of postage). But I don't think I'd have paid more than $10 for it, and then it would have to be in as-new condition. If you're thinking of putting it up on ebay, I'd say start with a MB of $8 and see where it goes.