Serge Koussevitzky

Biography

Born: July 26, 1874; Vyshny Volochyok, Russia   Died: June 4, 1951; Boston, MA  
Sergey Aleksandrovich Kusevitskii (known in the West by the French spelling of his name, Serge Koussevitzky) was one of the great conductors of the twentieth century American orchestral scene and a champion of newer music. Born into a rural Russian-Jewish family of amateur musicians, young Sergei made a little money playing trumpet at weddings and fairs in a small wind ensemble. He moved to Moscow at the age of 14, accepting Christian baptism Read more because Jews were otherwise barred from having careers. Choosing to study double bass, he won a scholarship to the Moscow Philharmonic Society's school and became one of history's great virtuoso double-bassists. He joined the Bolshoi Theater Orchestra in 1894 and began touring as a double bass soloist in 1896. He wrote some compositions to enlarge the small repertoire of solo pieces for the instrument, even enlisting the assistance of Reinhold Gličre to write a concerto for himself. Meanwhile, he closely studied the great conductors he encountered as an orchestra player and at concerts, particularly Arthur Nikisch.

On September 8, 1905, Koussevitsky married Natalya Ushkova, daughter of a wealthy tea merchant. Soon thereafter, he gave up the regular grind of theatrical orchestral playing and toured full time. In 1907, he had his first experience in conducting with a student orchestra. He was satisfied enough with his skill that he hired the Berlin Philharmonic to let him conduct at a public concert on January 23, 1908. The appearance was so successful it led to his engagement as guest conductor.

In 1909, Koussevitzky went into music publishing, establishing the firm known in the West as Editions Russe de Musique, and organized his own symphony orchestra. In 1910, he took the orchestra up and down the Volga River on a chartered steamboat, bringing symphonic music to places where it had scarcely been heard of before, repeating the tours in 1912 and 1914. As a publisher and conductor, he championed the works of Scriabin, Stravinsky, Medtner, Rachmaninov, and Prokofiev.

During the difficult years after the 1917 Bolshevik coup and the subsequent civil war, he continued to conduct in Moscow through 1920, when he permanently left for the West. He presented a series of concerts called Concerts Koussevitzky in Paris, again featuring new music: Ravel, Honegger, Stravinsky, and Prokofiev. These concerts included the world premiere of the Ravel orchestration of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition; it soon became a concert staple in both Europe and America.

In 1924, Koussevitsky was chosen as music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. With the BSO, he continued his tradition of championing the new music he found around him, thus giving vital exposure to great American composers, such as Copland, Barber, Bernstein, Carter, Hanson, Harris, and a host of others over the years. During the 1931 season, he commissioned a series of commemorative works for the orchestra's fiftieth anniversary, yielding a treasury that included Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms and Ravel's Piano Concerto in G. Beginning in 1935, he annually brought the orchestra to the summer Berkshire Festival, organized by Henry Hadley in 1934, becoming its music director and making it part of the BSO's operation. Koussevitzky established the Berkshire Music Center (now Tanglewood Music Center) in conjunction with the festival in 1940, making it into one of the premier American educational institutions where young musicians could polish their craft and network. After his wife died in 1941, Koussevitsky set up a foundation to commission works in her memory. Britten's opera Peter Grimes was one of the first works that resulted.

Until his death in 1951, he continued to direct both the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Berkshire Festival, recording frequently. Read less
Browse 1-25 of 26 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    William Kapell - Complete Recordings 1944-1953
    Label: Rca   Catalog: 5431362 Release Date: 03/25/2014   Number of Discs: 11
    Composer:  Frédéric Chopin,  Felix Mendelssohn,  Robert Schumann,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart  ... 
    Performer:  William Kapell,  Jascha Heifetz,  William Primrose,  Edmund Kurtz
    Conductor:  William Steinberg,  Fritz Reiner,  Serge Koussevitzky,  Antal Doráti  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Robin Hood Dell Orchestra of Philadelphia,  Boston Symphony Orchestra,  Dallas Symphony Orchestra  ... 
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  • 2.
    The Oboe: 1903-1953
    Label: Oboe Classics   Catalog: 2012 Release Date: 10/09/2012   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Anonymous,  Samuel Huguenin,  Georges Guilhaud,  Xavier Leroux  ... 
    Performer:  Caesar Addimando,  Gideon / Eyton,  Joseph Fonteyn,  Louis Gaudard  ... 
    Conductor:  Serge Koussevitzky,  Joseph Szigeti,  Walter Gmeindl
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  • 3.
    Strauss Collection - Early Recordings On 78s (1901-1951)
    Label: Opus Kura   Catalog: 1006/13 Release Date: 04/12/2011   Number of Discs: 8
    Composer:  Johann Strauss Jr.,  Spoken Word,  Josef Strauss,  Johann Strauss Sr.
    Performer:  Irene Eisinger,  Dajos Bela,  Barnabas Von Geczy,  Marcella Sembrich  ... 
    Conductor:  Clemens Krauss,  Howard Barlow,  Erich Leinsdorf,  Harry Horlick  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kölner Klavier-Trio
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  • 4.
    Christmas With Mozart
    Label: Rca Victor Gold Seal   Catalog: 60121 Release Date: 11/01/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Leopold Mozart,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    Performer:  Carl Weinrich,  Gunars Larsens,  Jan Milewski,  Alfred Steinauer  ... 
    Conductor:  Serge Koussevitzky,  Arthur Fiedler,  Rudolf Baumgartner,  Hans-Ludwig Hirsch  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bavarian State Orchestra Chamber Ensemble,  Boston Symphony Chamber Players
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  • 5.
    Tchaikovsky: Symphony No 6 / Koussevitsky
    Label: Rca Victor Gold Seal   Catalog: 60920 Release Date: 10/31/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
    Conductor:  Serge Koussevitzky
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Symphony Orchestra
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  • 6.
    Vaughan Williams, Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky / Koussevitzky, BSO
    Label: Guild   Catalog: 2324 Release Date: 09/18/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ralph Vaughan Williams,  Modest Mussorgsky,  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
    Conductor:  Serge Koussevitzky
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Symphony Orchestra
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  • 7.
    Grieg: Historic Chamber Music Recordings / Budapest Quartet
    Label: Rca Victor Gold Seal   Catalog: 61826 Release Date: 08/06/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Edvard Grieg
    Performer:  Fritz Kreisler,  Sergei Rachmaninov,  Leopold Mittman,  Mischa Elman
    Conductor:  Serge Koussevitzky
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Budapest String Quartet,  Boston Symphony Orchestra
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  • 8.
    Legendary Strauss Recordings
    Label: Rca Victor Gold Seal   Catalog: 60929 Release Date: 08/06/2007   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Richard Strauss
    Performer:  Bruno Jaenicke,  Scipione Guidi,  Alfred Wallenstein
    Conductor:  Willem Mengelberg,  Serge Koussevitzky,  Sir Thomas Beecham,  Leopold Stokowski  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Philharmonic,  Boston Symphony Orchestra,  Philadelphia Orchestra  ... 
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  • 9.
    Legendary Performers - Koussevitzky - Prokofiev: Symphonies
    Label: Rca Victor Gold Seal   Catalog: 61657 Release Date: 07/23/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Sergei Prokofiev
    Conductor:  Serge Koussevitzky
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Symphony Orchestra
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  • 10.
    Live Recordings 1943-1948 / Serge Koussevitzky
    Label: Guild   Catalog: 2321 Release Date: 05/09/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Carl Maria von Weber,  Igor Stravinsky,  Béla Bartók,  Richard Strauss
    Conductor:  Serge Koussevitzky
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Symphony Orchestra
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  • 11.
    The Great Piano Concertos - Beethoven, Etc / Horowitz
    Label: Urania   Catalog: 4253 Release Date: 01/30/2007   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Johannes Brahms,  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky,  Sergei Rachmaninov
    Performer:  Vladimir Horowitz
    Conductor:  Fritz Reiner,  Arturo Toscanini,  George Szell,  Serge Koussevitzky
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra,  NBC Symphony Orchestra,  New York Philharmonic  ... 
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  • 12.
    Koussevitzky Conducts Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, & Shostakovich
    Label: Biddulph   Catalog: 058 Release Date: 02/27/2006   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Sergei Prokofiev,  Dmitri Shostakovich,  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
    Conductor:  Serge Koussevitzky
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Symphony Orchestra
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  • 13.
    Haydn: Orchestral Music And Concertos
    Label: Andante   Catalog: 1180 Release Date: 02/22/2005   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  Franz Joseph Haydn
    Performer:  Wanda Landowska,  Emanuel Feuermann,  Szymon Goldberg,  André Navarra  ... 
    Conductor:  Eugčne Bigot,  Bruno Walter,  Sir Malcolm Sargent,  Walter Susskind  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Pleyel Orchestra,  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  Symphony Orchestra  ... 
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  • 14.
    Great Voices Of The Past - The Sopranos
    Label: Opera D'oro   Catalog: 8013 Release Date: 07/01/2003   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi,  Georges Bizet,  Giacomo Puccini,  Christoph W. Gluck  ... 
    Performer:  Claudia Muzio,  Conchita Supervia,  Magda [Soprano Vocal] Olivero,  Rosa Ponselle  ... 
    Conductor:  Ugo Tansini,  Fritz Stiedry,  Hector Panizza,  Richard Kraus  ... 
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  • 15.
    Great Conductors Of The 20th Century - Serge Koussevitzky
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 75118 Release Date: 06/04/2002   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Roy Harris,  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Franz Liszt,  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky  ... 
    Conductor:  Serge Koussevitzky
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Symphony Orchestra,  London Philharmonic Orchestra,  BBC Symphony Orchestra
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  • 16.
    Koussevitzky Conducts Stravinsky And Mussorgsky-ravel
    Label: Pearl   Catalog: 9020 Release Date: 06/29/2001   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Igor Stravinsky,  Modest Mussorgsky
    Performer:  Jesús María Sanromá
    Conductor:  Serge Koussevitzky
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Symphony Orchestra
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  • 17.
    Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov: Piano Concertos / Horowitz, Et Al
    Label: Music & Arts Programs Of America   Catalog: 4963 Release Date: 11/28/2000   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Sergei Rachmaninov,  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
    Performer:  Vladimir Horowitz
    Conductor:  Serge Koussevitzky,  William Steinberg
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra
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  • 18.
    Ravel: Bolero / Fiedler, Koussevitsky, Munch, Tomita, Et Al
    Label: Rca Victor Red Seal   Catalog: 63670 Release Date: 06/06/2000   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Maurice Ravel
    Performer:  Mario Braggiotti,  Jacques Fray,  Evelyn Glennie,  Morton Gould  ... 
    Conductor:  Eduardo Mata,  Nathaniel Shilkret,  Barry Wordsworth,  Morton Gould  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Dallas Symphony Orchestra,  Nathaniel Shilkret Orchestra,  National Philharmonic Orchestra London  ... 
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  • 19.
    William Kapell Edition Vol 4 - Khachaturian, Prokofiev
    Label: Rca Victor Red Seal   Catalog: 68993 Release Date: 02/08/2000   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Dmitri Shostakovich,  Sergei Prokofiev,  Aram Khachaturian
    Performer:  William Kapell
    Conductor:  Antal Doráti,  Serge Koussevitzky
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Dallas Symphony Orchestra,  Boston Symphony Orchestra
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  • 20.
    Legendary Treasures - Jascha Heifetz Collection Vol 4
    Label: Doremi Records   Catalog: 7725 Release Date: 05/18/1999   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Fritz Kreisler,  Henri Vieuxtemps,  Johannes Brahms,  Felix Mendelssohn  ... 
    Performer:  Jascha Heifetz
    Conductor:  Donald Voorhees,  Serge Koussevitzky
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bell Telephone Hour Orchestra,  Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra
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  • 21.
    Legendary Treasures - William Primrose Collection Vol 1
    Label: Doremi Records   Catalog: 7708 Release Date: 10/20/1998   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Arnold Bax,  Hector Berlioz
    Performer:  Harriet Cohen,  William Primrose
    Conductor:  Serge Koussevitzky
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Symphony Orchestra
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  • 22.
    William Kapell Edition
    Label: Rca Victor Red Seal   Catalog: 68442 Release Date: 09/29/1998   Number of Discs: 9
    Composer:  Frédéric Chopin,  Felix Mendelssohn,  Robert Schumann,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart  ... 
    Performer:  William Kapell,  Jascha Heifetz,  William Primrose,  Edmund Kurtz
    Conductor:  William Steinberg,  Fritz Reiner,  Serge Koussevitzky,  Antal Doráti  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Robin Hood Dell Orchestra of Philadelphia,  Boston Symphony Orchestra,  Dallas Symphony Orchestra  ... 
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  • 23.
    Koussevitzky, Mengelberg, Schuricht Conduct Richard Strauss
    Label: Preiser Records   Catalog: 90337 Release Date: 07/04/1998   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Richard Strauss
    Conductor:  Carl Schuricht,  Serge Koussevitzky,  Willem Mengelberg
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Milan Teatro alla Scala Orchestra,  Boston Symphony Orchestra,  Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
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  • 24.
    Selections From The Heifetz Collection
    Label: Rca Victor Gold Seal   Catalog: 62645 Release Date: 09/13/1994   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky,  Manuel de Falla,  George Gershwin,  Felix Mendelssohn  ... 
    Performer:  Jascha Heifetz,  Brooks Smith,  Israel Baker,  Arnold Belnick  ... 
    Conductor:  Fritz Reiner,  Alfred Wallenstein,  William Steinberg,  Franz Waxman  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chicago Symphony Orchestra,  Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra,  RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra  ... 
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  • 25.
    Historic Strauss Interpretations
    Label: Preiser Records   Catalog: 90090 Release Date: 06/12/1992   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johann Strauss Jr.
    Conductor:  Karl Böhm,  Arturo Toscanini,  Hans Knappertsbusch,  Bruno Walter  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
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