Fabien Sevitzky

Fabien Sevitzky, like his uncle, Serge Koussevitzky was a double bass player and conductor. A Time magazine article in 1931 notes that Sevitzky left Russia for the USA around the time of the Revolution, carrying a double bass which had been a gift from his uncle. He joined the Philadelphia Orchestra, and around 1925 he founded the Philadelphia Chamber String Simfonietta, a group of about 18 Philadelphia Orchestra members, with whom he toured giving performances of rarely heard music for strings. With them he recorded Bloch’s Concerto Grosso No.1 and Arensky’s Variations on a Theme of Tchaikovsky, as well as some shorter works.

Sevitzky came to prominence with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, with whom he made recordings of a number of unusual works between 1941 and 1953 (Tchaikovsky’s Manfred, for example), but for now, I have transferred an uncommon Haydn item, which he recorded with the ISO.

Arensky – Variations on a Theme of Tchaikovsky, Op.35a
Philadelphia Chamber String Sinfonietta, Fabien Sevitzky

Mediafire link for Arensky – Variations on a Theme of Tchaikovksy – Sevitzky

(This is an mp3 file – left click the link, download the file)

RCA Victor Red Seal DM 896 (11-8155/6)
Matrices 056558 7, 056559 1, 056560 1A4, 056561 10 (11-8155/6 auto, 11-8153/4 manual)
Recorded 1942

Part 1 – Variations 1 and 2
Part 2 – Variations 3 and 4
Part 3 – Variations 5 and 6
Part 4 – Variation 7 and Finale

Album notes:

Arensky – Variations on a Theme of Tchaikovsky, Op.35a

Anton Arensky was one of the most distinguished Russian composers of his period. Endowed with a natural facility of musical diction, a tenderness of feeling and a gift for simple and beautiful melody, Arensky soon won the warm friendship of his older and greater contemporary, Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky. A word concerning the cordial relationship between the two men is in order, for it is a melody by Tchaikovsky which forms the basis for the variations by Arensky recorded here. Tchaikovsky found in Arensky “a man of remarkable gifts” (as he expressed it in a letter to Mme. von Meck), not the least of which was an impeccable technical equipment in the craft of composition which, in Tchaikovsky’s words, “deserves unqualified praise.” As an older and more experienced composer, Tchaikovsky occasionally felt called upon to criticize certain aspects of Arensky’s music. The criticism was kindly but firm, and, in one instance at least, reveals perhaps more about Tchaikovsky than it does about Arensky. Arensky had submitted a work (Marguerite Gautier) based on the famous La Dame aux Camelias of Dumas fils – the work which served Verdi as the foundation for his La Traviata. Tchaikovsky disapproved, failing to see how “an educated musician” could have chosen so trivial a work when such authors as Homer, Shakespeare, Dante, Pushkin, Gogol, Tolstoy were available as sources of inspiration. But Tchaikovsky could be extraordinarily kind as well. He put himself to considerable trouble to gain Arensky a hearing. He recommended Arensky’s book on musical theory to Jurgenson, the publisher. He wrote to Rimsky-Korsakoff asking as a favor that one of Arensky’s works be performed at one of his concerts. The manner in which the favours was asked is unique in the history of the friendship of composers, and indicates how much faith Tchaikovsky had in his friend’s talent. He proposed to Rimsky-Korsakoff that his own Rome overture be replaced by a composition of Arensky’s, arguing that where all Russian composers find a place, room should be made for Arensky. Arensky indicated his veneration for his friend by dedicating several of his compositions to Tchaikovsky. The present series of variations – originally a part of his string quartet, Op.35 – takes as its theme a song by Tchaikovsky.

In brief, the main outlines of Arensky’s biography follow. He was brought up amidst eminently musical surroundings. His father, a doctor, played the ‘cello, and his mother was reputed to have been an accomplished pianist. Arensky supplemented his early musical training with a course of study at the Petrograd Conservatory under Rimsky-Korsakoff. Following the completion of his studies – he graduated with honors – he was appointed professor of harmony and counterpoint at the Imperial Conservatory in Moscow in 1882. In 1889 he became a member of the Council of the Synodal School of Church Music at Moscow, a post which he held until 1893. For seven years he was conductor of the Russian Choral Society. In 189 he succeeded Balakirev, upon the latter’s own recommendation, as director of the Imperial Chapel at Petrograd. This post he resigned in 1901. He died in Terijoki, Finland, on February 25, 1906 following a long illness.

Haydn – L’Isola Disabitata – Overture
Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Fabien Sevitzky
RCA Victor 11-8487
Recorded January 29th 1942, Murat Theatre, Indianapolis
Tchaikovsky – Manfred Symphony Op.58
I. Lento lugubre (Andante) (4 sides)
II. Vivace con spirito (3 sides)
III. Andante con moto (3 sides)
IV. Allegro con fuoco (4 sides)
Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Fabien Sevitzky

Available to download from Historic Recordings

RCA Victor Red Seal DM940, records 11-8338/44 (auto coupling – standard coupling on 11-8331/7)
Matrices: 071331/071344
Recorded 27th – 28th January 1942, Murat Theatre, Indianapolis

This stretched to fourteen sides, some of them very full, with three of them longer than five minutes (though conversely, the shortest side is less than three minutes long). The total performance time is just under an hour. The original liner notes for this album can be found here.

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