RRC Blog

You don't play jazz? -George Walker makes his own path

Posted by Claire Thai, student archives assistant on 9/27/21 1:45 PM

ph2_walker.george.02retouchedAs a young musician, Pulitzer Prize winning composer George Walker was dead-set on becoming a concert pianist. He had found his love for the piano at age 5 and by the time he was 15, was given a scholarship to the Oberlin Conservatory. After obtaining his bachelor’s degree at 18, he began his studies at the Curtis Institute of Music with legendary pianist Rudolf Serkin. But Walker often disagreed with Serkin’s approach:

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Topics: Curtis Archives and Library, History, Alumni

Edna Phillips cracks the glass ceiling at the Philadelphia Orchestra

Posted by Claire Thai, student archives assistant on 8/18/21 3:49 PM

ph2_phillips.ednaEdna Phillips had only been playing the harp for five years when her teacher, Carlos Salzedo, decided it was to be her who would take the audition for the second harp position in the Philadelphia Orchestra. Reluctant, as she was neither the most experienced nor advanced harpist in his studio, she eventually agreed and began preparation. The audition took place at Salzedo’s apartment in January of 1930 in secret— not only because the second harpist was not to know he was being replaced until the end of the season, but because she was a woman granted the rare opportunity of breaking into an all-male ensemble. She began her audition with Debussy’s Danses Sacree et Profane for an emotionless Leopold Stokowski, who only gave her a simple nod at the conclusion of each piece. After only hearing two of her four prepared works, he got up, thanked Edna for her performance, and left the apartment.

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Topics: Curtis Archives and Library

David Arben (Chaim Arbeitman)- Life is my specialty

Posted by Claire Thai, student archives assistant on 7/1/21 4:44 PM

ph1_00522.15.arbeitman.heimThrough the loss of his family at the hands of Nazi Germany and his own imprisonment in various concentration camps, violinist David Arben (born Chaim Arbeitman) remained incredibly resilient and grateful for his chance at life after the war. In an interview with his biographers, he summarized his outlook on life—“Life is my specialty. I am in love with life. It is fantastic. Freedom to breathe, freedom to talk, freedom to stand up, freedom to walk, freedom to move. I cherish this kind of freedom because I know the opposite.”

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Topics: Curtis Archives and Library, History

Richard Stöhr: composer and refugee

Posted by Claire Thai, student archives assistant on 6/1/21 3:57 PM

Austrian composer Richard Stöhr (originally Richard Stern) was born on June 11th, 1874 in Vienna. Richard showed an aptitude for composition at a young age and began writing music at the age of 6. His father, Samuel Stern, was the professor of medicine at the University of Vienna and young Richard followed in his footsteps, graduating with an MD from the University of Vienna in May of 1898. Immediately upon graduation, he decided to pursue music with great conviction. In an 1897 entry from his annual diary summaries, he wrote: “When I now state that I am driven to music, I do not deliberate. My ambition alone is already big enough to be the guiding principle.” It was during this time that Richard converted from Judaism to Christianity and changed his name from Stern to Stöhr.

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Topics: Curtis Archives and Library

Bernstein at the '75 Golden Anniversary Banquet: a challenge for values

Posted by Barbara Benedett on 4/23/21 11:36 AM

[pictured: Bernstein, back row, 2nd from left, with classmates in Counterpoint and Harmony class, taught by Richard Stöhr]New in the digital library: an excerpt from Curtis's 1975 Golden Anniversary Banquet which includes an address by Leonard Bernstein. Introduced by fellow conducting alum Boris Goldovsky, Bernstein recounts the bright and dark points of his time at the institute. Seen as "too Harvard" and a "smart-aleck", Bernstein had difficulty fitting in with Curtis's more insulated, conservatory-minded culture. His experience at Harvard had fostered his interest in world affairs, political and
philosophical debate, and campus activism. At Curtis, he did not initially find like-minded students, many of whom were much younger than he. Bernstein often gravitated to friendships with faculty, including director Randall Thompson. Interestingly, Thompson also clashed with the institute for his interest in instilling a more holistic, inclusive curriculum. Bernstein remarked,

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Topics: Curtis Archives and Library