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Carnegie Hall

Marsha Hunt, Walter Damrosch, Olin Downes
Release Date: 11/08/2005 
Label:  Bel Canto Society   Catalog #: 791  
Composer:  Richard WagnerSergei RachmaninovLéo DelibesCamille Saint-Saëns,   ... 
Performer:  Lily PonsGregor PiatigorskyRisë StevensArtur Rubinstein,   ... 
Conductor:  Bruno WalterArtur RodzinskiFritz ReinerLeopold Stokowski
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Philharmonic
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Feature film made in Carnegie Hall, in English. (1947).
144 minutes
PCM audio
DVD Region 0 (all regions)

Edgar G. Ulmer, director. Starring Marsha Hunt, with Walter Damrosch and Olin Downes. Performances by Jascha Heifetz, Harry James, Vaughn Monroe, Jan Peerce, Gregor Piatigorsky, Ezio Pinza, Lily Pons, Fritz Reiner, Artur Rodzinski, Artur Rubinstein, Risë Stevens, Leopold Stokowski, Bruno Walter and the New York Philharmonic.

Original 1947 versions of Carnegie Hall differed from one another. Some were released with certain musical selections abridged or omitted; some omitted portions of dialog. Bel Canto Society pieced together this print from four
Read more sources to include all the material. See track listing below. Additional material includes: M. & W. Portnoff, "57th Street Rhapsody"; Gregory Stone, "Sometime We Will Meet Again"; and portions of Tchaikovsky, Piano Concerto No. 1, First and Third Movements; Schumann, Piano Quintet, Second Movement; Mendelssohn, Midsummer Night’s Dream, "Wedding March"; Beethoven, Fifth Symphony, Second Movement; Haydn, Sonata in F for Piano (Hob. XVI:23); Mendelssohn, Songs Without Words, "Spinning Song." The film includes piano recordings by Nadia Reisenberg, Dorothy Eustis, Walter Gross, David Saperton and Rosa Linda. Popular musicians include: Vaughn Monroe and Sam Coslow, "Beware, My Heart" and Frank Ryerson and William Moore, "The Pleasure’s All Mine"; plus Harry James and Charles Previn, conducted: Hal Borne performing "Brown Danube."

R E V I E W:


CARNEGIE HALL Marsha Hunt ( Nora Ryan ); William Prince ( Tony Salerno ); Frank McHugh ( John Donovan ); Walter Damrosch ( himself ); Edgar Elmer (director) BEL CANTO SOCIETY BCS-D0791 (DVD: 144:00)

Bel Canto’s restoration of this 1947 classic is unique in that it is more complete than other versions. When the film was released there were different versions, with different musical numbers or dramatic scenes edited out to shorten its two-and-a-quarter-hour length. Bel Canto has pieced together its print from four different sources, to include everything. While there are jumps in quality as something from a different version slips in, the overall visual and audio quality is certainly more than adequate for all but those who must have only modern technology.

The film is a classic, and not because of its flimsy storyline. The story is merely a hook on which to hang more than a dozen performances by some of the greatest artists in music at the time, including a complete first movement of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto with Jascha Heifetz and Fritz Reiner, which alone is worth the price of the DVD. Obviously, Bel Canto didn’t think much of the movie beyond its musical content, since except for Marsha Hunt and Walter Damrosch, the company does not list any of the actors. I had to go to the Internet Movie Database in order to find them for the headnote. Truth to tell, Bel Canto is right—this is barely watchable as a story. It deals with an over-the-top mother who works at Carnegie Hall and wants her son to be a classical pianist there, but in fact he prefers jazz. She is appalled, he runs off to play with Vaughan Monroe’s orchestra, but makes a triumphant return to Carnegie Hall as a pianist and composer, with a concoction called Brown Danube , a poor man’s Rhapsody in Blue for trumpet, piano, and orchestra (Harry James plays the trumpet solos). Mother and son reunite.

But the point of the story is merely to permit the music to happen, as mother exposes son to the great musical experiences one could have at Carnegie Hall, in order to prepare him for his career. Bel Canto conveniently inserts chapter points at the beginning of each musical number, so you can even skip the movie’s allegedly dramatic content if you wish. We begin with a good chunk of the Prelude to Die Meistersinger with the New York Philharmonic conducted by Bruno Walter. Then Lily Pons sings Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise (a bit too forcefully) and the “Bell Song” from Lakmé (brilliantly). Gregor Piatigorsky is exquisite with “The Swan” from Carnival of the Animals and Risë Stevens gloriously seductive in arias from Samson et Dalila and Carmen . Artur Rodzinski conducts the finale of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, Artur Rubinstein plays Chopin and Falla with his usual flair, Jan Peerce sings O sole mio , Ezio Pinza elegantly sings Mozart and Verdi, Leopold Stokowski conducts the New York Philharmonic in the slow movement from Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony, and there is the aforementioned Heifetz/Reiner. Most of the performances are complete movements or arias. It is odd to have things like the slow movement of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth played as if it were a complete piece, with audience ovation and bowing by Stokowski after it ends, but one makes allowances. There are other musical snippets along the way that are more integrated into the storyline.

Despite the laughable plot, I sat through the film mesmerized by the level of music-making, and the chance to actually see as well as hear these greats from the 1940s. The highlight is that Heifetz/Reiner performance—mostly for musical reasons, but also for the experience of watching two of the greatest musicians of the 20th century who were also known for their complete unwillingness or inability to ever crack a smile! The film is black and white and the sound, obviously, is monaural. Production is bare bones, with minimal notes, but notes aren’t needed. Just put it in the DVD player, sit back, and be transported to a great era of music-making.

FANFARE: Henry Fogel
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Works on This Recording

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: Act 1 Prelude by Richard Wagner
Conductor:  Bruno Walter
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Philharmonic
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1867; Germany 
Songs (14), Op. 34: no 14, Vocalise by Sergei Rachmaninov
Performer:  Lily Pons (Soprano)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Philharmonic
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1912-1915; Russia 
Lakmé: Où va la jeune indoue? "Bell Song" by Léo Delibes
Performer:  Lily Pons (Soprano)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Philharmonic
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1883; France 
Carnival of the animals: no 13, The swan by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Gregor Piatigorsky (Cello)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Philharmonic
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1886; France 
Samson et Dalila, Op. 47: Mon coeur s'ouvre à ta voix by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Risë Stevens (Mezzo Soprano)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Philharmonic
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1877; France 
Carmen: Près des ramparts de Seville "Seguidilla" by Georges Bizet
Performer:  Risë Stevens (Mezzo Soprano)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Philharmonic
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1873-1874; France 
Symphony no 5 in C minor, Op. 67: 4th movement, Allegro by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Artur Rodzinski
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Philharmonic
Period: Classical 
Written: 1807-1808; Vienna, Austria 
Polonaise for Piano in A flat major, B 147/Op. 53 "Heroic" by Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  Artur Rubinstein (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1842; Paris, France 
El amor brujo: Danza rituel del fuego "Ritual Fire Dance" by Manuel de Falla
Performer:  Artur Rubinstein (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1914-1915; Spain 
'O sole mio by Eduardo Di Capua
Performer:  Jan Peerce (Tenor)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1898; Italy 
Simon Boccanegra: A te l'estremo addio by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Ezio Pinza (Bass)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Philharmonic
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1857; Italy 
Don Giovanni, K 527: Finch' han dal vino [Brindisi] by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Ezio Pinza (Bass)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Philharmonic
Period: Classical 
Written: 1787; Prague, Czech Republ 
Concerto for Violin in D major, Op. 35: 1st movement, Allegro moderato by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Performer:  Jascha Heifetz (Violin)
Conductor:  Fritz Reiner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Philharmonic
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1878; Russia 
Symphony no 5 in E minor, Op. 64: 2nd movement, Andante cantabile by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  Leopold Stokowski
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Philharmonic
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1888; Russia 

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