Wieniawski: Violin Concertos [Z6597]
Mitch Miller: conductor
The London Symphony Orchestra
Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major, Op. 6
Allegro maestoso - Cadenza. Sauret
2. II. Adagio
3. III. Rondo - Allegro spiritoso
Violin Concerto No. 2 in D Minor, Op. 22
4. I. Allegro moderato
5. II. Romance - Andante non
6. III. Allegro moderato - a la Zingara
George Gershwin: An American in Paris, Rhapsody
in Blue, Concerto in F [Z6587]
Mitch Miller: conductor
The London Symphony Orchestra
1. An American in Paris
Concerto in F
2. I. Allegro
Andante con moto
4. III. Allegro agitato
Rhapsody in Blue
In Honor of Mitch
Miller by Mark
I think that for everyone who had the privilege of
knowing Mitch, the actual experience of meeting him was
my case it was 1971, I was seventeen and a student at
day, my teacher – the now-legendary Dorothy DeLay – told me I
should go play for the conductor Mitch Miller, that he might
have some performance opportunities for me, playing the
Mendelssohn Concerto. I had never studied the Mendelssohn, but
I made an appointment to meet Mitch in about a week, and
started practicing hard.
What I knew about Mitch was sketchy at best.
At that time “Sing Along With Mitch,” was a part of
American culture, even if the actual TV show had ended several
years previously, and everyone knew the title of the show and
more or less what it was about.
(Or at least they thought they did
– I later heard Mitch many times wonder why Sing Along
With Mitch was so often associated with a “bouncing ball,”
when the show had never used the gimmick of a bouncing ball.)
I mentioned to my parents that I would be playing for
Mitch, and my mother surprised me by mentioning that he was an
That was relatively specialized knowledge: my mother
was a piano teacher but had studied oboe as her second
instrument during her years at school, which must have been
around the height of Mitch’s days as an oboe virtuoso and
principle oboist for the CBS Symphony Orchestra.
Well, the day came, and I had really no idea what to
expect – a typical conductor, a typical oboist or a typical TV
star? What I
didn’t know, of course, was that Mitch was not a typical
knocked on the door and was swept off my feet by a warm,
extravagant and heavily accented welcome from Olga, Mitch’s
Hungarian assistant. She took me in to see Mitch, who was on
the phone. “What
do you mean, ‘If it
goes over well,’” he was bellowing into the phone.
love you! Can’t ever doubt yourself!”
I don’t know who was on the other end of the line, but
it was only the first of many times hearing this sort of
encouragement from Mitch.
We dug right away into the Mendelssohn. It obviously
was an audition, but it didn’t feel like one – Mitch seemed to
simply assume that it was going to be great and that we would
be doing his upcoming tour together.
Mitch was putting together a multi-week tour of the US,
and was doing it all himself: not only choosing the soloists
but also choosing the bus company, approving every single
hotel, picking personnel for the orchestra, doing every
audition himself and signing contracts with the orchestra
players entirely at his own financial risk.
The Mendelssohn Concerto was still very new for me, and
I wasn’t playing especially well, but Mitch stopped me after a
page and said, “Hey, you know how to phrase so naturally – and
how old are you?
It took me years to learn that stuff!
But that’s the thing – people teach music all wrong!
I bet you don’t really listen to your teachers, do you?
Yeah, I thought not, that’s why you play so
was hard to get a word in edgewise, and I had only the vaguest
idea what he was talking about, but the funny thing is that as
we went through the score I found I was playing better and
better. In his own
very unconventional way, Mitch was a great teacher.
In that first meeting I saw so many of the things that
made Mitch a wonderful person to know and to be around.
He was of course an amazing musician.
But beyond that he was also a source of inspiration for
others, and knew instinctively how to help people do their
best. He emanated
an infectious positive energy to a degree I have never seen
equaled. Later I
was to see how Mitch was also a profoundly loyal person –
loyal to friends, to colleagues, to family, and to causes.
Since not everyone lived up to his standards, sometimes
his loyalty was not repaid in full; when that happened he’d be
disappointed – but still would maintain the loyalty.
His loyalty could extend to objects and businesses, as
well as people. He
was loyal to an old leather shoulder-bag that he used for
decades, until it was finally beyond repair.
Same with an ancient Volvo.
In cities where he performed regularly, he would be
loyal to specific hotels and restaurants, even long after they
had ceased to be comfortable or convenient to him.
When at home in New York he was loyal to his favorite
Chinese restaurant, and we went there practically weekly.
He loved (and was loyal to) a few specific dishes
there, and he loved the way the owner mangled the
pronunciation of the name Miller.
When the restaurant moved from Chinatown to New Jersey
there was simply no question: we had to drive to New Jersey –
there were obviously no Chinese restaurants in New York!
But, back to the tour:
this was a strenuous four weeks with nightly
performances – and one day each week was a “double-header,”
with also a matinee.
We played in big halls in big cities, and small halls
in tiny towns – wonderful concert halls and also high school
gyms with terrible acoustics.
Once we came to a hall where Mitch loved the sound so
much that he took out his oboe to play a concerto; it was my
conducting debut, and probably the last time Mitch played the
oboe in public.
The orchestra on the bus became a close-knit little
community, one where time seemed to run faster: there were
couples who fell in love and then broke up shortly after – a
year’s romance compressed into a mere few weeks.
We got to know our
colleagues and their individual peculiarities very well, and
all kinds of little personal details emerged; I listened as
one violinist talked passionately for hours on the bus of his
“method” for getting rich on the commodities market – I’ve
sometimes wondered if he ever succeeded. . .
We shared many triumphs and also one tragedy: one
night, an orchestra member was struck down by a drunk driver
while walking back to the hotel after a late-night snack.
Through it all, Mitch provided unflagging leadership
and strength. And
vitality! No matter how tired we all were, Mitch would find
the sparkle and energy to conduct and to entertain his
audience, and he seemed like a man in his 30’s.
If we came to a town where people were talking about a
specific restaurant, Mitch would treat the whole orchestra.
Once it was a place with 20-ounce steaks, and we could
barely walk for two days afterwards.
Mitch’s tour was my first taste of night-after-night
performing, and it was a heady and exhausting experience as
well as a profound education compressed into a short time.
I saw in a direct way how thirsty audiences are for
live music, how that music can nourish their souls. . .
And beyond all these things, the tour also provided
countless amazing stories to entertain friends for years to
That tour was just the beginning of many wonderful
Beyond his warmth and the force of his personality, Mitch
provided very real and practical support in starting my
concert career. He
would engage me as a soloist when he was performing as a guest
conductor with major orchestras – later I found out that often
my fee came out of his own pocket.
In a profession where even good friends are often a bit
resentful of each other’s successes, Mitch stood out for his
I remember that after we performed together with the
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, they actually re-engaged me
before Mitch, and he was so delighted with this that he
boasted of it to everyone for years.
Mitch introduced me to orchestras, conductors,
managers, and he was amazingly generous in his help when it
was time for me to purchase a fine violin.
He also single-handedly sponsored and promoted a series
of New York concerts at Alice Tully Hall for my trio with
David Golub and Colin Carr. . . and so on; the list is
started as a professional relationship became also a great
friendship, but in such an organic way that the boundaries
between professional and personal were often blurred.
In many ways, Mitch treated me as a member of his own
extended family; he assumed the role of an extra father – and
one I could talk with about many things I might not feel
comfortable discussing with my real father.
This recording of Paganini and Wieniawski concerti grew
out of the many concerts Mitch and I gave of those works.
Wherever we performed them, it was inevitable that some
people would ask if we had recorded them.
I had my own answer to those questions: “Well, maybe
someday,” I’d say. “I’m not in a hurry, and besides I don’t
know much about the recording business.”
But for Mitch it was different: He always was in a
hurry, and one of the things he really
did know about was
the recording business!
He had made records that sold millions of copies, he
had friends who were record producers and engineers, others
who owned record companies
He had been part of the recording world both as an
artist and as a record company executive on the highest level.
And yet Mitch had not made a recording of core
classical repertoire since his days as an oboist.
For me, this recording project was a wonderful chance
to make my first concerto CD; for Mitch it was a chance to
return to classical music recordings – this time as a
conductor whose name was known around the world.
For both of us it was an adventure, a sort of toast to
music and life.
Mitch financed the whole thing himself, as if that was the
most natural thing in the world.
We made the recording in London – three days of intense
work followed by many hours in New York listening to the
session tapes and then listening yet again as Ward, the
producer, did the editing.
Of all the recordings I’ve made, this was without doubt
the most fun, the one with the greatest sense of excitement
I hope that these things – the joy of friendship and
music-making, and the amazing force of life that was in
everything Mitch did – I hope these come across to you now
when you listen!