Author Topic: Performances and The Persistence of Memories  (Read 1860 times)

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Offline ChopinBroccoli

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Re: Performances and The Persistence of Memories
« Reply #20 on: September 24, 2019, 10:50:53 AM »
I can agree with all of this.  For me at least, Ormandy for a long time was over-shadowed by his flashier Columbia compatriots (Lenny, Szell, and Walter), but recently I've revisited a lot of his recordings, and invested in a few of those cheapie Sony white box sets.  In general, I've been very pleased (it's hard not to smile while listening to the sound of that orchestra), particularly with his Sibelius set, which is outstanding. 

You're right about the Russians -- Ormandy's Shostakovich is excellent, as is his Tchaikovsky (and I'm not generally all that into Tchaikovsky).  Now they just need a box collecting all of his Rachmaninov recordings; I would definitely snap that up...


I've been slowly working my way through this... lots of good stuff in here....




You said it... the quality of that playing and the sound of that orchestra was a real pleasure no matter what they played ... all the while the same fellow was in the podium ... can't be just a coincidence
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Offline j winter

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Re: Performances and The Persistence of Memories
« Reply #21 on: September 24, 2019, 11:28:05 AM »
Agreed, though I think we also have to remember that many elements of that "Philadelphia Sound" were inherited from Stokowski.  Still, as you say Ormandy was there for many years, and had a huge role in both refining and maintaining that sound. 

Compare that sound to any of Riccardo Muti's recordings in Philadelphia after Ormandy left -- the sound of the orchestra was quickly "modernized" in the ensuing years.  Whether that was a good thing or not is another whole can of worms, and probably a topic for another thread...
The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils.
The motions of his spirit are dull as night,
And his affections dark as Erebus.
Let no such man be trusted.

-- William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

Offline ChopinBroccoli

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Re: Performances and The Persistence of Memories
« Reply #22 on: September 24, 2019, 12:31:01 PM »
Agreed, though I think we also have to remember that many elements of that "Philadelphia Sound" were inherited from Stokowski.  Still, as you say Ormandy was there for many years, and had a huge role in both refining and maintaining that sound. 

Compare that sound to any of Riccardo Muti's recordings in Philadelphia after Ormandy left -- the sound of the orchestra was quickly "modernized" in the ensuing years.  Whether that was a good thing or not is another whole can of worms, and probably a topic for another thread...

Absolutely, Stokowski was the originator but Ormandy basically eliminated the free-bowing style while still keeping that same lush tone... no mean feat

I have gathered that a lot of close followers of the Orchestra blame Muti for it falling in stature (though recent recordings I've heard with Yannick suggest to me that the old Philadelphia sound lives again) ... in his defense, I'd say that while I haven't heard a lot of his recordings with that orchestra, I thought their Scriabin cycle was terrific
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Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: Performances and The Persistence of Memories
« Reply #23 on: September 24, 2019, 12:41:50 PM »
Agreed, though I think we also have to remember that many elements of that "Philadelphia Sound" were inherited from Stokowski.  Still, as you say Ormandy was there for many years, and had a huge role in both refining and maintaining that sound. 

Compare that sound to any of Riccardo Muti's recordings in Philadelphia after Ormandy left -- the sound of the orchestra was quickly "modernized" in the ensuing years.  Whether that was a good thing or not is another whole can of worms, and probably a topic for another thread...

I freely admit that I like the Muti/Phila. recording of Berlioz's Roméo et Juliette very much.
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Offline ChopinBroccoli

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Re: Performances and The Persistence of Memories
« Reply #24 on: September 24, 2019, 01:08:34 PM »
I freely admit that I like the Muti/Phila. recording of Berlioz's Roméo et Juliette very much.

I'll give it a listen!
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Offline aukhawk

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Re: Performances and The Persistence of Memories
« Reply #25 on: September 24, 2019, 11:35:35 PM »
When George Szell or Fritz Reiner or Rudolf Kempe conduct Till Eulenspiegel or Don Juan, they're interpreting the music of a man they actually knew personally ... Mravinsky knew Shostakovich, he knew Prokofiev... They didn't see these people and their compositions under glass in a display

This is why I've always loved this cover photo:



As well as the definitive recordings it fronted, of course. 

This is completely co-incidental to the thread having turned into an Ormandy/Philadelphia love-in, by the way.

Offline some guy

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Re: Performances and The Persistence of Memories
« Reply #26 on: September 25, 2019, 01:02:55 AM »
I freely admit that I like the Muti/Phila. recording of Berlioz's Roméo et Juliette very much.
The various recordings of this have long been interesting to me. I never liked Davis' first one, the only Davis performance of Berlioz that I didn't like. And for a long time, the Monteux was only available in a very (s)crappy recording (since cleaned up very nicely--you can't even find that earlier version any more). And the Monteux has yet to be beat, I think.

Before the cleaned up recording of Monteux, I spend many years trying to/failing to find an equally superb performance of i]Roméo et Juliette.[/i] One of Davis' later recordings came pretty close (the one with Borodina, Moser, and Miles), but I think Muti's is the closest to Monteux's at being wholly satisfying. It is, I think, a perfect piece (if there can be such a thing*), but it is also a tricky piece to pull off--you also have to perform it perfectly. I also couldn't believe that Muti (Muti?) could have done such a thing, and so I kept listening to it, wondering what was wrong with it and what was wrong with me that I liked it, hahaha.

And now, there is a Berlin Philharmonic performance of this (with some guy named Harding) which, if the various snippets of the five minute trailer are any indication, will rival and even surpass Monteux's. I can't believe I'm saying this. But those snippets are perfect. Later today, I'll be buying a ticket for the streaming and will listen to the whole thing. So later today (or tomorrow), I'll come back and report. (I'm in Sofia, which is GMT +3 at the moment.)

*Of course there cannot.
« Last Edit: September 25, 2019, 01:05:22 AM by some guy »

Offline Biffo

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Re: Performances and The Persistence of Memories
« Reply #27 on: September 25, 2019, 02:19:55 AM »
The various recordings of this have long been interesting to me. I never liked Davis' first one, the only Davis performance of Berlioz that I didn't like. And for a long time, the Monteux was only available in a very (s)crappy recording (since cleaned up very nicely--you can't even find that earlier version any more). And the Monteux has yet to be beat, I think.

Before the cleaned up recording of Monteux, I spend many years trying to/failing to find an equally superb performance of i]Roméo et Juliette.[/i] One of Davis' later recordings came pretty close (the one with Borodina, Moser, and Miles), but I think Muti's is the closest to Monteux's at being wholly satisfying. It is, I think, a perfect piece (if there can be such a thing*), but it is also a tricky piece to pull off--you also have to perform it perfectly. I also couldn't believe that Muti (Muti?) could have done such a thing, and so I kept listening to it, wondering what was wrong with it and what was wrong with me that I liked it, hahaha.

And now, there is a Berlin Philharmonic performance of this (with some guy named Harding) which, if the various snippets of the five minute trailer are any indication, will rival and even surpass Monteux's. I can't believe I'm saying this. But those snippets are perfect. Later today, I'll be buying a ticket for the streaming and will listen to the whole thing. So later today (or tomorrow), I'll come back and report. (I'm in Sofia, which is GMT +3 at the moment.)

*Of course there cannot.

Shows how tastes vary - Davis' 1st one is probably my favourite though this might be a case of 'first recording syndrome'. However, the first CD mastering of it is not up to the standard of the LPs. It sounds like I should investigate the Monteux.

Back in the early 80s EMI had the bright idea of adding stupid bleeping noises at the beginning and end of each cassette side. There was some pseudo-technical garbage explaining why. I bought the Muti/Philadelphia R&J on cassette and was horrified to find that the rapturous Love Scene died away into a burst of high-tech bleeping. I took it back to the dealer who gave me a full refund. His only comment was 'EMI used to be the best, now they are the worst'. I now have the Muti on CD, must give it a spin soon.


Offline Cato

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Re: Performances and The Persistence of Memories
« Reply #28 on: September 25, 2019, 02:37:09 AM »
Agreed, though I think we also have to remember that many elements of that "Philadelphia Sound" were inherited from Stokowski.  Still, as you say Ormandy was there for many years, and had a huge role in both refining and maintaining that sound. 

Compare that sound to any of Riccardo Muti's recordings in Philadelphia after Ormandy left -- the sound of the orchestra was quickly "modernized" in the ensuing years.  Whether that was a good thing or not is another whole can of worms, and probably a topic for another thread...

Besides the "unsynchronized" bowing of the strings, there was an innovation from Ormandy (I believe) of having extra violas at times double the second violins.  Are there not also more first violins than in other orchestras?

Try this for an example:

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/Uc8Ex_Wnmpg" target="_blank" class="new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/Uc8Ex_Wnmpg</a>
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Offline Biffo

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Re: Performances and The Persistence of Memories
« Reply #29 on: September 25, 2019, 03:15:39 AM »
Besides the "unsynchronized" bowing of the strings, there was an innovation from Ormandy (I believe) of having extra violas at times double the second violins.  Are there not also more first violins than in other orchestras?

Try this for an example:

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/Uc8Ex_Wnmpg" target="_blank" class="new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/Uc8Ex_Wnmpg</a>

I listened to the CD rather than the embedded example. I found the swimming bath acoustic of the Broadwood Hotel very off-putting and thought the pieces recorded in the Town Hall, Philadelphia (Grieg, RVW) showed the orchestra to better effect.

The original jacket has a diagram showing a rather idiosyncratic layout for the orchestra. It has the basses at the front to the conductor's right with the cellos behind them and the violas behind them. The violins are in one body to the conductor's left. The photo of the orchestra on the Bartok disc shows a more conventional layout.

Offline Jo498

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Re: Performances and The Persistence of Memories
« Reply #30 on: September 25, 2019, 03:39:59 AM »
My first recording of the Eroica, Kletzki on LP had the funeral march split (as usual) and also a scratch in the last movement. I didn't listen often enough or remember well enough for the split in the marcia funebre  to remain in my mind but for years afterwards I half expected several loud klicks in a certain passage in the finale. I think it was the first fugato but I am not sure, mercifully the memory got overwritten by listening to other recordings on CD without strange noises.

Another odd memory: My first LP with Tchaikovsky's 1812 was a Soviet era recording (Melodiya Eurodisc) that changed the tsarist hymn at the end to some other tune. So I got imprinted on this and was seriously surprised when I heard another recording (I think the second one was Karajan with Wellington's victory on the flip side, I loved that battle stuff at 15...).

Last year or so I listened to Gounod's Faust for the first time. I was surprised to re-encounter a soldier's choir I had completely forgotten about but that was a favorite before I even got into classical music because as a ~ elementary school kid I liked some bits of a "famous opera choruses" LP my parents hat. Other favs were the sailors/ghosts from Flying Dutchman and the gipsies from Il trovatore but I had not forgotten about these pieces the way I totally forgot Gounod's March and Chorus.
Struck by the sounds before the sun,
I knew the night had gone.
The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drums of dawn.
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Offline ChopinBroccoli

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Re: Performances and The Persistence of Memories
« Reply #31 on: September 25, 2019, 04:21:05 AM »
This is why I've always loved this cover photo:



As well as the definitive recordings it fronted, of course. 

This is completely co-incidental to the thread having turned into an Ormandy/Philadelphia love-in, by the way.
Yes! Exactly

My favorite Shostakovich 1st
"If it ain't Baroque, don't fix it!"
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Offline some guy

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Re: Performances and The Persistence of Memories
« Reply #32 on: September 25, 2019, 10:00:04 AM »
Update on the Berliner Philharmoniker performance of Berlioz:

Well, it's good. In places, it's very good. (The five minute clip--as I strongly suspected, but didn't want to believe--was very cleverly confined to just the very good places.

I'm not going to forget Harding's name, though. If he records this for CD, say, I'll be interested. But the performance here in Berlin is marred most by simply being too cautious. It is a very timid performance, technically polished but not quite music. But I think he's got a good sense of the piece, even though that does not come through in this performance except in brief flashes. Well, oh well. We still have Monteux. We still have Davis. And we still have Muti.

We should try to be less greedy, I guess.

So much for high hopes.... ;D

But back to Ormandy. One thing hasn't been mentioned yet and that is Ormandy's talent for playing modern music well. Bernstein gets a lot of credit there, but at the end of the day, I can't help thinking that Bernstein performed modern pieces out of a sense of obligation, and Ormandy performed modern pieces because he liked them. I don't really have any evidence for that, nothing to point to, anyway. Just a feeling. And feeling's aren't very reliable. But Ormandy's performances of Nielsen and Ives and Bartok are very fine--no one's done Nielsen's sixth so well. And he's got several nice recordings of Prokofiev and Shostakovich, as we know.

Offline ChopinBroccoli

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Re: Performances and The Persistence of Memories
« Reply #33 on: September 25, 2019, 12:51:36 PM »
Update on the Berliner Philharmoniker performance of Berlioz:

Well, it's good. In places, it's very good. (The five minute clip--as I strongly suspected, but didn't want to believe--was very cleverly confined to just the very good places.

I'm not going to forget Harding's name, though. If he records this for CD, say, I'll be interested. But the performance here in Berlin is marred most by simply being too cautious. It is a very timid performance, technically polished but not quite music. But I think he's got a good sense of the piece, even though that does not come through in this performance except in brief flashes. Well, oh well. We still have Monteux. We still have Davis. And we still have Muti.

We should try to be less greedy, I guess.

So much for high hopes.... ;D

But back to Ormandy. One thing hasn't been mentioned yet and that is Ormandy's talent for playing modern music well. Bernstein gets a lot of credit there, but at the end of the day, I can't help thinking that Bernstein performed modern pieces out of a sense of obligation, and Ormandy performed modern pieces because he liked them. I don't really have any evidence for that, nothing to point to, anyway. Just a feeling. And feeling's aren't very reliable. But Ormandy's performances of Nielsen and Ives and Bartok are very fine--no one's done Nielsen's sixth so well. And he's got several nice recordings of Prokofiev and Shostakovich, as we know.

Excellent point!  Stokowski too was undeterred by modern composers... Bernstein (likely from Copland's influence) was almost patronizing of Ives, like he was some goofball eccentric and Bernstein was doing him a favor by performing his music.  Well, my ears have always found Ives startlingly original (even works I don't care for) and I think his music holds up better all these years after the fact than Copland's.  Some insist Copland's music is the quintessential "American" classical music but to me it's always sounded like a detached academic's idea of what "American" constitutes (just my opinion; no offense to Copland fans)

Ormandy's recordings of Ives show real enthusiasm for the material ... I think his account of the first symphony is brilliant
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Offline Cato

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Re: Performances and The Persistence of Memories
« Reply #34 on: September 25, 2019, 01:08:44 PM »
My first recording of the Eroica, Kletzki on LP had the funeral march split (as usual) and also a scratch in the last movement. I didn't listen often enough or remember well enough for the split in the marcia funebre  to remain in my mind but for years afterwards I half expected several loud klicks in a certain passage in the finale. I think it was the first fugato but I am not sure, mercifully the memory got overwritten by listening to other recordings on CD without strange noises.

Another odd memory: My first LP with Tchaikovsky's 1812 was a Soviet era recording (Melodiya Eurodisc) that changed the tsarist hymn at the end to some other tune. So I got imprinted on this and was seriously surprised when I heard another recording (I think the second one was Karajan with Wellington's victory on the flip side, I loved that battle stuff at 15...).

Last year or so I listened to Gounod's Faust for the first time. I was surprised to re-encounter a soldier's choir I had completely forgotten about but that was a favorite before I even got into classical music because as an elementary school kid I liked some bits of a "famous opera choruses" LP my parents had. Other favs were the sailors/ghosts from Flying Dutchman and the gipsies from Il trovatore but I had not forgotten about these pieces the way I totally forgot Gounod's March and Chorus.

Was it replaced with Hooray for Stalin!   ??? ;)  or the Internationale?  I have never heard of such a replacement before by Soviet orchestras!

And many of us liked classical music instinctively without knowing what it was supposed to be.  8)  Fortunately my city's public library had a good amount of classical music and I discovered that part of the library fairly early!
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Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: Performances and The Persistence of Memories
« Reply #35 on: September 25, 2019, 02:01:25 PM »
The various recordings of this have long been interesting to me. I never liked Davis' first one, the only Davis performance of Berlioz that I didn't like. And for a long time, the Monteux was only available in a very (s)crappy recording (since cleaned up very nicely--you can't even find that earlier version any more). And the Monteux has yet to be beat, I think.

Before the cleaned up recording of Monteux, I spend many years trying to/failing to find an equally superb performance of i]Roméo et Juliette.[/i] One of Davis' later recordings came pretty close (the one with Borodina, Moser, and Miles), but I think Muti's is the closest to Monteux's at being wholly satisfying. It is, I think, a perfect piece (if there can be such a thing*), but it is also a tricky piece to pull off--you also have to perform it perfectly. I also couldn't believe that Muti (Muti?) could have done such a thing, and so I kept listening to it, wondering what was wrong with it and what was wrong with me that I liked it, hahaha.

And now, there is a Berlin Philharmonic performance of this (with some guy named Harding) which, if the various snippets of the five minute trailer are any indication, will rival and even surpass Monteux's. I can't believe I'm saying this. But those snippets are perfect. Later today, I'll be buying a ticket for the streaming and will listen to the whole thing. So later today (or tomorrow), I'll come back and report. (I'm in Sofia, which is GMT +3 at the moment.)

*Of course there cannot.

Most interesting, thanks.
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
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nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Offline some guy

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Re: Performances and The Persistence of Memories
« Reply #36 on: September 25, 2019, 10:36:14 PM »
...many of us liked classical music instinctively without knowing what it was supposed to be.
My experience of it exactly. I just took to it, even while continuing to enjoy the Hollywood music I was surrounded by.

My experience of twentieth century music, though it came much later, when I was a much more experienced and sophisticated listener, was much the same--liking it instinctively and viscerally, even while continuing to enjoy the classical music I had surrounded myself by.

Offline Jo498

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Re: Performances and The Persistence of Memories
« Reply #37 on: September 25, 2019, 10:42:31 PM »
No, the Soviets were still too fond of Russian culture (overall the Soviets cared much more for traditional Russian culture than most Western governments nowadays care for their respective cultural history). It's a tune from Glinka's "A life for the tsar" ("Ivan Susanin" during Soviet times) that also glorifies the tsar. For whatever reason this was deemed less obviously tsarist.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOEAtiBNMvc

at ca. 12:50, I think. I still like it at least as much as the original because I simply prefer that tune.
Struck by the sounds before the sun,
I knew the night had gone.
The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drums of dawn.
(Bob Dylan)

Offline Biffo

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Re: Performances and The Persistence of Memories
« Reply #38 on: September 25, 2019, 11:44:23 PM »
Update on the Berliner Philharmoniker performance of Berlioz:

Well, it's good. In places, it's very good. (The five minute clip--as I strongly suspected, but didn't want to believe--was very cleverly confined to just the very good places.

I'm not going to forget Harding's name, though. If he records this for CD, say, I'll be interested. But the performance here in Berlin is marred most by simply being too cautious. It is a very timid performance, technically polished but not quite music. But I think he's got a good sense of the piece, even though that does not come through in this performance except in brief flashes. Well, oh well. We still have Monteux. We still have Davis. And we still have Muti.


We should try to be less greedy, I guess.

So much for high hopes.... ;D

But back to Ormandy. One thing hasn't been mentioned yet and that is Ormandy's talent for playing modern music well. Bernstein gets a lot of credit there, but at the end of the day, I can't help thinking that Bernstein performed modern pieces out of a sense of obligation, and Ormandy performed modern pieces because he liked them. I don't really have any evidence for that, nothing to point to, anyway. Just a feeling. And feeling's aren't very reliable. But Ormandy's performances of Nielsen and Ives and Bartok are very fine--no one's done Nielsen's sixth so well. And he's got several nice recordings of Prokofiev and Shostakovich, as we know.

I also listened to the Harding R&J yesterday and have mixed feelings. I would use the word 'bland' rather than 'timid'. Harding got off to a cracking start in the Prologue with brilliant playing from the Berliners but after that I have reservations. It was all beautifully played and sung but lacked character and the performance as a whole seemed to lack forward momentum. By the Finale I was losing concentration and found myself thinking 'Does Friar Lawrence's narration really last as long as this'. I have Monteux and Boulez in my Spotify library and have briefly sampled them. The sound quality of the Monteux is a bit dated but I will have to give it a more extended play.

I have little experience of Daniel Harding, only a rather dull Mahler 6.

Offline Cato

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Re: Performances and The Persistence of Memories
« Reply #39 on: September 27, 2019, 03:45:18 PM »
No, the Soviets were still too fond of Russian culture (overall the Soviets cared much more for traditional Russian culture than most Western governments nowadays care for their respective cultural history). It's a tune from Glinka's "A life for the tsar" ("Ivan Susanin" during Soviet times) that also glorifies the tsar. For whatever reason this was deemed less obviously tsarist.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOEAtiBNMvc

at ca. 12:50, I think. I still like it at least as much as the original because I simply prefer that tune.

Aha!  Many thanks!

Today I was remembering my first hearing of the Sibelius Second Symphony: Anthony Collins conducting the London Symphony Orchestra.  I heard it during the afternoon of a hot summer day, some hours after my mother had said that it was too hot to listen to Schoenberg's String Quartets #3 and 4 and told me to turn the stereo off or find something else to play!

The stereo had speakers the size of my hands, so the sound was not too large, but Sibelius saved the day.  I suppose his music felt "cooler" to my mother.   0:)
"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

- Brian Aherne introducing Rosalind Russell in  My Sister Eileen (1942)