This Day in UMS History: Albert Spalding (March 16, 1936)
Monday, March 16, 1936
Albert Spalding, violinist
André Benoist, accompanist
This concert caught my eye as having an eerie similarity to the senior recital I just gave a couple weeks ago, on which I played both the Brahms d minor sonata and Corelli’s La Folia, in addition to another Mozart piece in A major (although a sonata, not the concerto…the differences in concert programming between today and the early 20th century could make up an entire blog entry). Albert Spalding was one of those violinists whom I had sort of heard of, but never really knew much about him, so it was interesting to research him.
First, to dispel confusion: he is not the Albert Spalding who was a Hall of Fame baseball pitcher and who founded the sports equipment company. That Spalding (the pitcher) was Spalding’s (the violinist) uncle.
Spalding was American, born in Chicago in 1888, although during his adolescence, his family wintered in Florence. Until the First World War, he followed the typical path of a violinist: studies at the Bologna and Paris Conservatories; the de rigueur meeting with Joseph Joachim; solo performances throughout Europe and the United States. The outbreak of the war caused him to cancel plans for a tour to South America. Instead, he enlisted in the army, serving in Italy and the doing secret service work in Spain. After the war, he returned to the states and married.
However, it’s an episode during the Second World War that really highlights both Spalding and the power of music. During an aerial bombardment of Naples, in which thousands of terrified refugees were huddled in a cave, Spalding “borrowed a violin from a symphony musician he observed in the crowd. As the first the tones of Beethoven Concerto floated unaccompanied through the shelter the cries and moans ceased instantly. By the time the concerto was ended, peace, calm and quiet had been brought, if only for a brief space, to the wretched and unhappy people. Persons present on that occasion have written and stated that they had never heard such a great performance nor had they ever seen the power of music so convincingly illustrated.” (From the liner notes of Albert Spalding Plays Beethoven “Kreutzer” Sonata and Bach Chaconne)
If you’d like to see the original concert program pages, click the thumbnail, which will direct you to the recently launched UMS digital archive hosted by the Ann Arbor District Library. Here you’ll find over 100 years of programs and photos from UMS.
Corelli: La Folia [Sonata in d minor, Op. 5 #12]
Mozart, Concert in A [#5, K. 219, “Turkish”]
Brahms: Sonata in d minor, Op. 108
Spalding: Prelude (“Wind in the Pines”)