Text Box: Conductor autographs


Price: $175.00


Autographed octavo one page letter to the wife of Broadway script writer, actor and costumer Louis Simon, Hotel Astor, New York City, June 6, 1930.  The letter follows his final performances as Music Director of the Philadelphia Civic Opera.  We offer with a vintage sepia 8” x 10” period press photograph holding a pipe suitable for display.


Dear Mme. Simon,

Just a few words to thank you - belatedly—for your kind telegram.  Kindest greetings to yourself and Louis.


Alexander Smallens

June 30, 1930

Smallens (1889-1972) was born in St. Petersburg in 1889 and brought with his family to the United States a year later.  He trained at the Institute of Musical Art in New York City, which later became The Juilliard School, followed by further training at the Paris Conservatoire.  From 1909-1911 he was an assistant conductor at the Boston Opera, becoming a staff conductor in 1911.  He toured with Anna Pavlova as her conductor after in 1914 through 1919 when he took a staff conductor position with the Chicago Opera.  He conducted every performance of the first run of Prokofiev’s “The Love For Three Oranges” after the World Premiere which was conducted by the composer.  He remained until 1922.  He was appointed Music Director of the Philadelphia Civic Opera from 1924-1930.  Whilst in that position he was also a staff conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra and later from 1935 their Summer concerts at Robin Hood Dell.  During those first few years of 1930 he often conducted radio performances in New York City as well as Ballet performances.  In 1933, Virgil Thomson presented Smallens with an opportunity to conduct a ground breaking opera he had written with an all African-American case entitled “Four Saints in three Acts”.  The opera due to the racism of the time could not find an opera company to perform the work, so the ground breaking work was scheduled for a less judgmental Broadway theatre.  The first performance was on a preview run at the Wadsworth Athenaeum in Hartford, Connecticut on February 7, 1934 with several performances to follow and 48 performances which followed at the 44th Street Theatre in New York City.  When Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” was cast late in 1934, a few members of the cast of “Four Saints”, some of the production team and Smallens were hired for the premiere run of the opera.  From the Boston preview, the World Premiere on September 30, 1935, through the Broadway run at the Alvin Theatre starting on October 10, 1935, Smallens was long associated with the opera, including the initial run of 124 performances and the National tour, the 1942 Broadway revival of 286 performances and the 1953 run at the Ziegfeld of 305 performances. There was also an international tour of “Porgy” in 1956 led by Smallens. The conductor was also Music Director of Radio City Music Hall from 1947-1950.   Smallens retired in 1958 and moved to Sicily and eventually he fully retired in Tuscon, Arizona.


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