On this day in classical music: Distinguished string bass player and conductor Serge Koussevitzky was born in Russia in 1874. He joined the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra at age 20, succeeding his teacher Josef Rambusek. Koussevitzky moved to Berlin not long after the turn of the 20th century and studied conducting with Arthur Nikisch. In 1908, Koussevitzky made his professional debut conducting the Berlin Philharmonic in Rachmaninoff’s “Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor,” with the composer as soloist. In 1920, Koussevitzky left the Soviet Union. From 1921 to 1929, he organized the Concerts Koussevitzky in Paris, performing new works by Prokofiev, Stravinsky and Ravel. Koussevitzky succeeded Pierre Monteux as music director of the Boston Symphony in 1924. During his 25-year tenure in Boston, Koussevitzky continued his practice of introducing new works to the orchestra and public, among them, Ravel’s “Piano Concerto in G,” Gershwin’s “Second Rhapsody,” Prokofiev’s “Symphony No. 4,” Hindemith’s “Concert Music for Strings and Brass” and Stravinsky’s “Symphony of Psalms.” Koussevitzky also commissioned Ravel to create an orchestral arrangement of Mussorgsky’s piano suite “Pictures at an Exhibition.” While many other versions of “Pictures” have been written, Ravel’s orchestration is the most often performed and recorded. The Boston Symphony’s summer home, Tanglewood, in western Massachusetts, became a haven for aspiring conductors. Among Koussevitzky’s students there were Leonard Bernstein, Samuel Adler and Sarah Caldwell. Koussevitzky died in Boston in 1951. Listen to Koussevitzky and the Boston Symphony perform Beethoven’s “Egmont Overture.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXGeWN3_gQU&feature=results_video&playnext=1&list=PL8026A0CBA570FB3C
On this day in the musical theatre: Hollywood director Blake Edwards was born in Tulsa in 1922. He began his career as an actor but soon shifted his focus to directing and producing. He first gained significant attention for his 1961 film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” Edwards is perhaps best known for his “Pink Panther” films starring Peter Sellars. From 1969 until his death in 2010, Edwards was married to Julie Andrews. She appeared in several of her husband’s films, including “Darling Lili,” “10” and “Victor/Victoria.” Edwards adapted “Victor/Victoria” for the stage in 1995. The production, which featured music by Henry Mancini and Frank Wildhorn, marked Andrews’ return to Broadway, her first since starring in “Camelot” 35 years earlier. The show ran just short of two years.
Musical musings: When Julie Andrews was the only cast member nominated for a Tony Award in 1996, she made headlines when she took herself out of contention. Following a Wednesday matinee, Andrews explained her decision: “I have searched my conscience and my heart and I find that sadly I cannot accept the nomination. I prefer to stand instead with the egregiously overlooked.” Andrews considered “Victor/Victoria” an ensemble show, many of whom she felt deserved to be nominated: “ ‘Victor/Victoria’ is a collaboration: designers, choreographers, directors, cast and crew, an extremely happy and successful family, which makes it especially sad that so many of my colleagues have been ignored by this year’s nominating committee. I could not have done this alone.” Despite her decision, Andrews’ name remained on the voting ballot. It’s also likely she would have won the award. Donna Murphy won for her role as Anna Leonowens in “The King and I.”