Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Edith Lorand

Edith Lorand was a Hungarian violinist, singer, and conductor born (in Budapest) on December 17, 1898.  She is remembered for the great number of recordings she produced for German labels of the 1920s and 30s – Odeon, Parlophone, and Beka.  Her specialty was salon music of that era – it included opera music arrangements, dance music, popular songs, and light classical pieces.  That was during a time when live music was played at the more elegant hotels and restaurants all over Europe.  Up to a point, her biography reads somewhat like Alma Rose’s.  She studied to be a concert violinist but her ambition (and abilities) took her in a different direction.  Though her mother was an accomplished pianist, her father was not a musician.  Her first public performance was at a charity concert in Budapest at age six.  Lorand graduated from the Royal Music Academy in Budapest where she studied with Jeno Hubay.  She also later studied with Carl Flesch – either in Berlin or Vienna.  She made her debut in Vienna and Berlin in 1920.  She was 22 years old.  One source states that critics of the day compared her to Fritz Kreisler and Pablo Sarasate.  Lorand also became fluent in French, Italian, and English.  She made Berlin her home and base of operations until 1934.  After her debut, Lorand played as a concert soloist a few times and founded and recorded with a quartet and a trio (which included Gregor Piatigorsky, the cello player) but soon found her calling as conductor of a 15-piece all-male orchestra called the Edith Lorand Orchestra.  The orchestra, but especially Lorand, enjoyed great success throughout Europe.  They made regular radio broadcasts in Holland, Austria, Sweden, Germany, and England, and even appeared in movies.  The orchestra performed in the most important theatres as well, not just hotels.  It has been said that she became a symbol of female emancipation.  By the late 1920s, she was one of the top stars of the record industry.  In France, she was known as the Queen of the Waltz and in England as the Female Johann Strauss.  On April 1, 1930, she signed a three year recording contract with Lindstrom AG, which called for her to produce at least 144 tunes per year, averaging six two-sided records per month, with a fee of at least 36,000 Marks per year (about $107,000 in today’s dollars.)  Despite her great popularity and success, she had to flee Germany for Hungary in 1934.  In Hungary, she organized her All-Gypsy Orchestra which toured as far as the U.S.in 1935, where one of her concerts took place in Carnegie Hall.  In December 1937, she had to flee Hungary for the U.S., where she established herself in Woodstock, New York.  She was 39 years old.  Her orchestra in the U.S. (with different musicians, of course) was called the Viennese Orchestra.  Her success here did not come close to what she had in Europe but she managed, playing as far afield, in September of 1939, as the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, where composer Ingolf Dahl became her pianist for a short while.  She had a reputation for being demanding and autocratic.  In 1945, she was engaged to play in Vienna for an extended time but returned to the U.S. afterward.   In May 1960, she returned to Berlin, intending to resettle and restart her career.  However, on November 23, 1960, she died in New York, at age 61.  Many of her recordings are easily found on the internet and a very old video of her conducting a fast rendition of a famous waltz is available here.  Lorand played a 1744 Guarneri Del Gesu which later ended up (for 15 years) in the hands of Richard Burgin (of the Boston Symphony) and is now in Europe.  She must have taken very good care of that violin because it has been described as being in stunning condition and appearance.  A 1775 Guadagnini was also hers for a while.  That violin is now being played (though not owned) by Seattle violinist Maria Larionoff. 

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