BSO Radio Broadcasts During the Koussevitzky Era (1924-1949)
The BSO was heard on radio for the first time in concerts broadcast live from Symphony Hall during the second half of the 1925-1926 season, between January 23 and May 1, 1926. Broadcasts were privately funded by Winfield S. Quinby and continued through the 1927-1928 season.
January 23, 1926
First time on the air
On its very first broadcast, the BSO deals with the copyright issues that come with radio. There is also great interest in the technical side of production.
The inaugural series was renewed in the fall of 1926, adding New York station WJZ to the broadcast relay.
October 4, 1930
A special broadcast by WEEI and the NBC network to honor the Tercentenary of Massachusetts Bay Colony, includes a BSO performance.
NBC continues to broadcast concerts for portions of the 1932-1933 and 1933-1934 seasons. As of October 1935, the BSO is back on NBC with regular Saturday night concerts.
January 23, 1935
During RCA Victor’s recording session, there is an hour-long broadcast on WBZ and the NBC Network to promote the company’s BSO recordings.
Barred from the Airwaves
The American Federation of Musicians makes it more and more difficult for the BSO, still a non-union orchestra, to be heard on the airwaves. Following the BSO’s August 4, 1938, Tanglewood Music Shed inaugural broadcast, the BSO is effectively barred from the airwaves.
December 26, 1942
The BSO returns to the airwaves on NBC’s Blue Network, having reached an agreement with the AFM.
During WWII, the Armed Forces Radio Service pressed thousands of transcription discs (recordings of broadcasts) and sent them to stations in Alaska and the Panama Canal Zone, including performances by the BSO.
In October 1943, as a result of a court order to prevent an NBC monopoly, the Blue Network becomes the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), which continues to carry a one-hour portion of BSO concerts from Symphony Hall and Tanglewood through August 1948. NBC then broadcast some rehearsals and Tanglewood performances during the 1948-1949 season.
Listen: Excerpt of Serge Koussevitzky conducting the BSO and Jan Smeterlin in Chopin's Piano Concert No 2 on February 8, 1936 (transferred by Ward Marston and soon to be released on www.marstonrecords.com)
BSO Commercial Recordings during the Koussevitzky Era (1924-1949)
November 13, 1928"Symphony's Playing Is Captured in Wax" News, Hamilton, Ontario, November 24, 1928
First recording sessions in Symphony Hall for Victor Talking Machine (later RCA Victor); Koussevitzky’s first recording session with the BSO; and BSO’s first ever electrical recording; Koussevitzky chooses works by living composers for his inaugural recordings.
BSO makes more recordings in Symphony Hall with the newly merged RCA Victor.
The economic depression nearly wipes out the record industry. RCA doesn’t renew its contract with the BSO.
In an effort to recruit the BSO, Columbia records the BSO’s February 2, 1934 performance of Roy Harris’ Symphony No. 1 in Carnegie Hall for release. The BSO is not satisfied with the sound.
RCA Victor and BSO sign a new contract; RCA returns to Symphony Hall with improved recording technology, ushering in a period of regular recording sessions and releases. During RCA Victor’s recording session on January 23, 1935, there is an hour-long broadcast on WBZ and the NBC Network to promote the company’s BSO recordings.
The BSO is banned from making commercial recordings because of its status as a non-union orchestra.
The BSO joins the American Federation of Musicians.
November 22, 1944
The BSO’s first RCA Victor recording session following unionization.
Though no longer Music Director of the BSO, Serge Koussevitzky spends the summer at Tanglewood and records Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf with Eleanor Roosevelt as narrator.
Last recording made with the BSO before his death on June 4, 1951.