Everything Old Is New Again – Leonard Slatkin Plays Them Again

Written by: Leonard Slatkin

Among the summer activities that I most enjoy is my association with the Hollywood Bowl. There are so many memories from my childhood and adolescence, ranging from hearing the likes of Heifetz, Ormandy and Solti, to the dancing waters that would emanate from the fountains during the intervals of the concerts.

But there were also those moments that were preserved on vinyl. Capitol Records produced a series of recordings with the orchestra and used the slogan, “Symphonies Under the Stars”, for advertising purposes. This was also the catch phrase for the concerts as well. I visited the museum that is on the premises that houses a treasure-trove of memorabilia. One can see programs, videos of Schoenberg, Bruno Walter and Koussevitzky working with the orchestra, and a complete catalog of Hollywood Bowl recordings.

In looking through some of this material, I realized that there is a whole repertoire that was widely performed during the 1940s, 50s and early 60s that has virtually disappeared from the concert stage today. Much of it was relegated to the amorphous category of ‘Pops’, but today that type of program usually contains Broadway, motion-picture soundtracks or artists from the popular idioms of our time.

So what happened to this once-often-played music?

Well, you can still here some of it on the radio. Some of you might still own recordings that you treasure. But for the most part, the music has fallen into performance neglect. This is sad because there are so many pieces deserving not only of resurrection but of regular hearings in concert.

To that end, I am devoting one entire program this summer to pieces that we might call, “ah-ha” works; compositions which may not be recognizable by title, but elicit the above response when a few bars are heard. Among the works on this program are the Zampa Overture by Hérold, the Warsaw Concerto of Addinsell, Sarasate’s Zieguenerweisen and Dance of the Hours by Ponchielli.

I suppose each of you reading this will have your own list of pieces that you would like to see returned to performance status. Please let us know. With British composers alone, when was the last time you were in the concert hall and presented with a work of Eric Coates or Albert Ketèlbey? Perhaps many of these pieces may not be the supposed high art that, say, a Bruckner symphony aspires to, but they have a place in the repertoire. Just because it has a good tune and is memorable does not disqualify a work from regular presentation.

And remember, even though some of you will know lots of these kinds of pieces, there is at least a generation that will encounter them for the first time. Perhaps the new audience will help preserve traditions that do not deserve to linger, gathering dust, on the record shelf.

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