The legendary Austrian-American pianist writes a four page letter of recommendation for Fritz Stiedry to become the Music Director of the Cleveland Orchestra, January 26, 1943. The letter is written to retailer Jay Iglauer, who was the Chairman of the Search Committee for the new Music Director. With transmittal envelope, also signed on the verso. The content of this letter is absolutely outstanding!
Doctor Freudenthal told me you might be interested to hear what I know of Doctor Fritz Stiedry's career, and how I think of his work. I welcome this opportunity to express my great admiration for Stiedry's musical activities. My admiration began some twenty years ago. At that time Siedry was first conductor at the Royal Opera in Berlin - a very great honor for a young musician. It was bestowed upon him on account of his brilliant achievements reported from several other German cities. Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss thought very highly of Stiedry's qualifications and helped to accelerate, in the interest of Music, his ascent to the position in Berlin. There he conducted for many years, and always to the satisfaction of his active and passive at the Royal - later State - Opera, at the Municipal Opera, and also many concerts. He left Berlin for the same reason which made many other great men quit this city. He then became for a while Director of the People's Opera in Vienna, his home town. Later he went to Russia, there conducting some operas, but chiefly symphony concerts - innumerable ones - in Leningrad (As leader of the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra), in Moscow and other cities. In 1935 I remember to have heard in Leningrad two unforgettable performances of Bach's St. John's Passion - the first ever given in Russia (and with gospel text absolutely unchanged) In 1937, I believe all foreigners were sent home, or somewhere else from Russia. Stiedry emigrated to U.S.A. He had, in New York City, soon an opportunity to prove his capacity as a musician and an organizer. The New Friends of Music, leading institution for the liberation of music from too much routine, asked him to form an Orchestra. I need not tell you what generally acclaimed success he has fulfilled this task. His orchestra was an elite group of players, their programs and performances established a new standard. Quite recently, as you certainly know, he conducted for the New Opera Company in New York, Verdi's Macbeth, again with the best results. I wish now to add only that, in my opinion, his orchestration of Bach's Art of the Fugue - which is one of the wonders of human kind - means an artistic accomplishment of the highest order, and that Stiedry has also the greatest merits as a champion and interpreter of the most daring contemporary music.
With best regards,
Stiedry (1883-1968) was not awarded the Music Directorship of the Cleveland Orchestra, the position went instead to Erich Leinsdorf. Leinsdorf's tenure only lasted three years, before the great George Szell took over the reins. Stiedry conducted his New Friends of Music Orchestra through 1945 and then concentrated the rest of his career on opera, Conducting the Metropolitan Opera, The Chicago Opera, The San Francisco Opera, the Cincinnati Zoo Opera and other opera festivals. It is thought his time in Russia held him back in the United States, as he was often promoted by leading musicians, even conductor colleagues for various positions throughout the Country.
Perhaps the finest Schnabel content letter to be offered in many years!