Saturday, September 22, 2012

Shostakovich: Sixth Symphony (Reiner)

Cover design by Alex Steinweiss
Well, Shostakovich's birthday is upon us again, on Tuesday (I first celebrated it on this blog two years ago, with Efrem Kurtz's 1947 recording of his Ninth Symphony).  Here is Fritz Reiner's only commercial recording of a work by Shostakovich, which happens to be my favorite of his 15 symphonies, primarily because it's the first major Shostakovich work I ever came to know, through this very set:

Shostakovich: Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 54
Kabalevsky: Colas Breugnon - Overture
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra conducted by Fritz Reiner
Recorded March 26, 1945
Columbia Masterworks set MM-585, five 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 95.39 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 50.5 MB)

This set was issued in direct competition with Stokowski's 1940 recording, with the Philadelphia Orchestra, on Victor, and was then reissued on LP (unlike Stoki's).  Incredibly, the next version of the Shostakovich Sixth wasn't made until 1958 (a fine one, by Sir Adrian Boult, on Everest), by which time this Reiner version had been deleted!

This is the second copy of MM-585 that I have owned, thanks to Ken Halperin of Collecting Record Covers.  The first I purchased as a lad of almost twelve, from a wonderful shop in downtown Decatur, Ga., called Clark Music, at 115 Sycamore Street.  I could write a book about this place, which was so important to me during the 1970s.  It was, among other things, the site of my first summer job.  Clark's was a mom-and-pop operation opened in 1945 by Mayo and Mary Clark, which originally sold both sporting goods and musical merchandise.  Mr. Clark oversaw the former, and Mrs. Clark the latter.  They apparently never sent back to the manufacturers anything they couldn't sell, for when I discovered the store in 1973, the back wall was crammed with 78s, classical and popular, in brand-new condition.  Mrs. Clark also insisted the prices were the same as in the late 40s, and I know now that she was right, but for one of my limited means, these were still expensive!  This Shostakovich set cost $7.25, and I remember that after buying it, I had to call a neighbor for a ride home, for I had miscalculated the sales tax, and ended up a penny short of the 15-cent bus fare!  Clark's finally closed its doors in 1990, shortly after Mrs. Clark died, and I miss it still.  I found some wonderful treasures there.

Photo courtesy of the blog Next Stop...Decatur


  1. Your account of Clark's is I think a common one. When I began collecting during the late 1950s there were lots of strange little stores tucked away in the odd corners of Philadelphia with 78s that no one wanted - well, I'm glad YOU wanted them. Our good fortune. A store in Worcester, Mass, during the late 1970s had tons of black-label Mercury LPs. Oh, said the owner, no one wants them, I can't sell them. I bought about 75 of them for maybe $25. So many thanks for bringing these good things to us. I appreciate it.
    Tx from Edward

  2. Edward, I'm sure you're right, at least in the Northeast where a culture existed for buying classical records that wasn't so much the case here in the South. Come to think of it though, we did have another store in Atlanta, Jim Salle's Record Shop, which like Clark's had begun in 1945, but by the time I found it (early 80s), there were no 78s left, however he had several bins of classical 45s which had been unsalable for 30 years! (Clark's also had their share of these.)

  3. Bryan, thank you very much from Russia!

  4. Bryan:

    When I was about 13, I found a single disk of the Ravel Rapsodie Espagnole by Stokowski on Victor 12" Red Seal (movements 1, 2) which I picked up, to my delight, for a quarter: brand new and unplayed, at an old radio repair store that, like you describe your adventure, had ORIGINAL untouched, unsold stock from the forties (and probably earlier.) For some years afterward, I couldn't get used to the idea that the piece had MORE music than this...

    Incidentally, I had asked a question about a DS Sym recording in an earlier thread, and you gave no answer--possibly you did not see it. I repeat it again, as it is relevant to this post of DS 6:


    Well, I continue to be thrilled with your uploads of masterful performances. Do you by any chance have William Steinberg's Pittsburgh Sym. recording of Shostakovich's Sym 1 (Command Lp)? I used to think it was the wittiest and warmest one I'd ever heard, and I'd dearly like to experience it again. I am asking you FIRST since your blog offers, IMO, the most technically adept and scrupulous job of any I've investigated. I'm batting a thousand so far, as your uploads of Feuermann (Schelomo) and Dorati (Spirituals), requested by me, have been MAGNIFICENT.

    Yours admiringly,
    Steve - retired recording engineer, SF bay area

    1. Steve - I only today saw this comment, as it had, inexplicably, somehow ended up in my spam comments, which I check about twice a year. In any case, I am sorry to say I do not have that Steinberg DSCH 1, though I have a similar memory of it to yours; in fact, the same neighbor that I mention above (the one who had to give me the ride home) DID have it, and let me listen to it....

  5. Thanks! I love everything about this post: the recording, the album cover and the record store memories.