Launched in 2015, The Boston Symphony Orchestra Archives preserves the orchestra’s rich history with documentation in the form of concert programs, press clippings, posters, photographs, letters, broadcast tapes, and recordings, as well as the BSO’s collection of historic instruments.
Committed to making the collection more readily available to researchers, the BSO is in the process of building up its digital holdings, which can be accessed by anyone with an Internet connection.
A separate performance history site nicknamed HENRY (after the founder of the BSO, Henry Lee Higginson) contains all documented concerts of the orchestra beginning with 21 October 1881 through the current season. The search function provides access to the performance history of every work, and of all artists–conductors, ensembles, and soloists–who have performed with the orchestra.
Above, in a photograph from the Archives, Pierre Monteux rehearses Stravinsky’s Le scare du printemps; below, Seiji Ozawa conducts the BSO in the finale of Bartók’s Concerto for orchestra.
A piano prodigy at an early age, Seiji Ozawa’s virtuoso career was cut short in his teens when he broke two fingers playing rugby. He switched to composition and conducting, and after graduating with honors he left Japan for Europe.
His rise was swift, and in 1973, at the age of 38, he became Music Director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Sporting a Beatles haircut and Nehru jackets, he took Boston’s hyper-traditional classical music scene by storm; overnight, America’s most staid orchestra gained a hip new image.
This according to “Wild card” by Andrew Moravcsik (Opera news LXXIII/6 [December 2008] pp. 32–33).
Today is Ozawa’s 80th birthday! Below, a recording from 1974.
Serge Koussevitsky was a tireless champion of contemporary American composers during his tenure at the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Once he had decided on the value of a new work he was determined to program it, regardless of whether it was long, abstruse, dissonant, difficult to perform, or difficult to comprehend. Often he arranged for the major portion of the week’s rehearsal time to be devoted to perfecting the orchestra’s interpretation of the new work.
This according to “Serge Koussevitzky and the American composer” by Aaron Copland (The musical quarterly XXX/3 [July 1944] pp. 255–269); an appendix lists 123 American works that he programmed during his first 20 years in Boston.
Today is Koussevitsky’s 140th birthday! Below, his recording of Copland’s Appalachian spring.
Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique, which was first performed on 5 December 1830, was originally slated for a concert on 20 May of that year. Musicologists have been trying to piece together the circumstances of the cancelled premiere, but until now two factors have eluded them: the size of the orchestra and the number of rehearsals that were held.
Recently discovered documents shed light on both questions. A prior advertisement from the performance venue called for a specific number of additional string players, settling the first question.
Also, the 1830 register of the Gand instrument firm has been found to include entries for several string instruments rented to one “Mr Berlioz” on 18 and 22 May, establishing these as the dates of the two rehearsals that the work received.
Taken together, these sources indicate that the aborted premiere would have included at least 22 violins, 10 violas, 9 or 10 violoncellos, and four or five double basses.
Below, Charles Munch conducts the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1962 for Marche au supplice, the work’s fourth movement.