Kind of confusing isn't it? - while some urge us to celebrate Mozart by ignoring him others are showering us with free MP3s and podcasts.
Following Danish Radio with their free downloads of the symphonies we now have Swedish Radio launching 25 hours of podcasts of Mozart performed by Swedish artists. The first programmes feature archive recordings from the Royal Opera House, Stockholm recorded during the 1940's and 1950's starting with a 1943 Don Juan sung in Swedish and conducted by Herbert Sandberg with Sigurd Björling in the title role.
My reservations about the potential impact of free downloads have been aired here many times, but if you are going to do it archive recordings seem to be a less damaging way. With authentic performances all the rage it is worth remembering that my passion for Mozart was sparked by Bruno Walter's lovingly performed, but now politically incorrect, LPs of the late symphonies made with the Columbia Symphony Orchestra in the early 1960s.
Free downloads are what technolgy strategists call a disruptive technology - they force change right across the recording, performing and distribution sectors. But we should not forget that MP3s and podcasts are certainly not the first disruptive technology to disturb the comfortable complacency of the major record companies. Below is an interesting overgrown path from the indispensable Bach Cantatas web site about the arrival of that disruptive technology stereo recording, which resulted in the formation of the Columbia Symphony Orchestra and the recording of my treasured set of the Mozart symphonies. It all reminds me that Bruno Walter once said: "Music springs from and is replenished by a hidden source which lies outside the world or reality" - perhaps he had a premonition about the internet?
Bruno Walter (below) had retired at age 80 after a very successful career recording with the New York Philharmonic, where he served as Musical Advisor from 1947 to 1949, and as a frequent guest conductor over the following seven years. In 1957, while living in California, he was approached by Columbia's executives with a new proposal. Told of the advent of stereo recording and the threat that it constituted to the future sales of monaural records, Bruno Walter was asked to undertake a new series of recordings in stereo to preserve his interpretations in the most modern sound possible, and to allow them to reach new generations of listeners.The result was a new Columbia Symphony Orchestra, chosen specifically by and for Bruno Walter. This group was an ensemble of 50 to 70 members, assembled from the best freelance musicians on the West Coast, many of whom typically never took on orchestral work, but made the exception to work with Bruno Walter. It was one of the best recording orchestras ever assembled in the USA, incorporating many of the best characteristics of the Wiener Philharmoniker and the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig - which Bruno Walter had conducted in Austria and Germany during the 1920s and 1930s - as well as the New York Philharmonic. This orchestra recorded much of the core Classical and Romantic repertoire under Bruno Walter's baton, including the late Mozart symphonies, Mahler's symphonies Nos. 1 and 9, the four Brahms symphonies, Dvorak's Symphonies Nos. 8 and 9, Schubert's Ninth, the Wagner orchestral music, and the complete Beethoven symphonies.
With thanks to Bach Cantatas web site for the extract above, and also to Adam Bowie's fine blog for the heads up on Swedish Radio
The Swedish Radio podcasts are on their web site.
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Image credits: Mozart Podd Radio from Swedish Radio, Bruno Walter from Bruno Walter home page
Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk. Image owners - if you do not want your picture used in this article please contact me and it will be removed.
If you enjoyed this post take An Overgrown Path to BBC Scottish Symphony on a roll