Thursday, June 13, 2013

Tchaikovsky: Fifth Symphony (Rodzinski)

In 1939, Columbia Records, under the new ownership of CBS, began a serious push to compete with RCA Victor in the field of orchestral recording.  At this time Victor had the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Boston Symphony, and  its own NBC Symphony under Toscanini.  Columbia, which hitherto had been content to import orchestral recordings from Europe (particularly Beecham's and Weingartner's), saw this source of supply threatened by the onset of war, and began signing up orchestras all over America.  In short order they  acquired the Chicago Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Minneapolis Symphony, the New York Philharmonic, and the Pittsburgh Symphony for the Masterworks line.  Except for the Pittsburgh, none of these orchestras were new to records, but the contracts they had with other companies (chiefly Victor) had been allowed to lapse.  Several of the conductors involved, however, were new to records, among them Minneapolis' Mitropoulos, Pittsburgh's Reiner, and Cleveland's Polish-born firebrand Artur Rodzinski (1892-1958), whose recording career began in December 1939 with several major works - Strauss' "Ein Heldenleben", Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade" and this exciting reading of Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony:

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64
Cleveland Orchestra conducted by Artur Rodzinski
Recorded December 13, 1939, and January 8, 1940
Columbia Masterworks set MM-406, five 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 103.87 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 55.42 MB)

Anyone interested in Columbia's classical 78 sets owes it to themselves to check out Sam Hopper's online Columbia Masterworks 78rpm Album Discography, which I have just stumbled across.  This is a first-rate piece of research, some four years in the making, and I cannot recommend it too highly.


  1. Beautiful transfer! Nothing like having the original "liner notes" to put into context the Cleveland Orchestra and Artur Rodzinski in 1940. A delightful recording doing double-duty as a time capsule!

  2. I found this recording via a link in an article in the NYT about past conductors of the Cleveland Orchestra. That lead me to this website.
    Thank you so much for making this material available. I had never heard anything by Rodzinsky and not sure I would have otherwise. Very suspenseful interpretation; impulsive and rubato-woozy, yet all together. Romanticism embodied. Amazing.
    The performance as captured makes me wonder whether the Cleveland Orchestra might have begun to develop its exceptional ensemble character under ARodz, i.e., before Szell who generally gets the credit for starting it. If anyone can direct me to additional links that would help answer this question please do so.

    The link above to the flac file download appears to be inactive. Has it been removed?

    thanks again!

  3. correction to above. The embedded link takes me to FileFactory but the download doesn't succeed despite that fact that I signed up to the site. Looks like my computer gets hung up on all the ads en route to the download file transfer.