Sunday, June 23, 2013

Scipione Guidi

Scipione Guidi was an Italian violinist born (in Venice) on July 17, 1884.  He is one of many outstanding violinists who established themselves in Hollywood as studio musicians – players such as Louis Kaufman, Israel Baker, Heimo Haitto, Toscha Seidel, Felix Slatkin, Paul Shure, Eudice Shapiro, and Joseph Achron.  He is known among cognoscenti and music specialists, especially because of his extraordinary recording of Richard Strauss’ Ein Heldenleben tone poem, but most everyone else is not at all familiar with him.  The famous recording was done in December of 1928 with the New York Philharmonic and Willem Mengelberg, the conductor to whom Ein Heldenleben was dedicated.  Between November, 1905 and January, 1929, Mengelberg performed the Strauss work no fewer than 21 times with the philharmonic.  Guidi was the soloist for almost all of these performances.  Guidi studied at the Royal Conservatory in Milan.  At what age he began his studies is unknown to me.  He is said to have begun teaching at the same school later on.  However, he soon moved to London where he formed a trio.  I do not know whether it was a string or a piano trio.  From London he moved to New York.  In New York, he was hired (in 1919) as concertmaster for the National Symphony of New York.  He was 35 years old.  In 1921, when the National Symphony of New York was absorbed by the New York Philharmonic, he stayed on as concertmaster.  Willem Mengelberg had been the conductor of the National Symphony and was then hired as conductor of the restructured New York Philharmonic.  Guidi formed the New York Trio in 1919 (with Clarence Adler, piano, and Cornelius Vliet, cello) but had to leave the trio in 1923 because he simply became too busy with orchestral work.  Louis Edlin took his place as violinist.  As far as I know, Guidi first soloed with the New York Philharmonic on November 26, 1922, playing Max Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy.  Josef Stransky conducted.  Guidi went on to appear at least 12 times as soloist with the orchestra.  Among the works he played were Beethoven’s concerto, Bruch’s g minor concerto, Mendelssohn’s second concerto, Saint Saens’ third concerto, Beethoven’s triple concerto, and Brahms’ double concerto (with Alfred Wallenstein on cello.)  In 1928, the New York Philharmonic merged with the New York Symphony, another New York orchestra.  Guidi retained his post as concertmaster.  In 1931, one year after the ill-tempered Arturo Toscanini took over the orchestra as permanent conductor, Guidi moved to St Louis.  He was 47 years old.  In St Louis, Guidi served as concertmaster of the St Louis Symphony, under conductor Vladimir Golschmann.  On December 7, 1934, Guidi played the Sibelius concerto with the orchestra, with Golschmann conducting.  That was the first performance of the concerto in St Louis.  American violinist Maud Powell had premiered the Sibelius concerto on November 30, 1906 - apparently, it took 28 years for the work to travel from New York to St Louis.  It has been said that it was Golschmann who recruited Guidi for the concertmaster job.  It has also been said that Golschmann later fired him in the middle of a rehearsal in 1942, during a disagreement about how a passage should be played.  Guidi went to Los Angeles after losing his job in St Louis and played in Hollywood studio orchestras.  He also became conductor of the Glendale Symphony.  After Guidi passed away, his spacious home just off Sunset Boulevard was purchased by harmonica virtuoso, George Fields.  Later on, for almost two years, Fields used part of the house as his personal recording studio.  He said Guidi’s inscribed photos of many of his famous colleagues on the walls of his study – Bruno Walter, Jascha Heifetz, Antal Dorati, Igor Stravinsky, Pablo Casals, Arturo Toscanini, Yehudi Menuhin, Fritz Reiner, Wanda Landowska, Wilhelm Backhaus, Willem Mengelberg, Walter Damrosch, Vladimir Horowitz, and Wilhelm Furtwangler among others - were “formidably inspiring.”  Among Guidi’s violins was a 1772 Guadagnini, purchased in 1930.  Guidi died (in Los Angeles) on July 7, 1966, at (almost) age 82.  His Guadagnini is now very valuable but I do not know what became of it.  

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