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Bach Samaroff Organ Fugue G minor BWV 578 Samaroff Rec 1930

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Published on Feb 14, 2009

Her name was Lucy Hickenlooper, and she was born in San Antonio, Texas, August 8, 1880. Later, not surprisingly, her manager Henry Wolfsohn thought that a name change was a necessary career move. She chose the professional name of Olga Samaroff from a remote Russian relative.
At the age of 12, she was taken by her grandmother to Europe where she remained until she was 21. Her talents were so impressive that she was given a scholarship in the piano class at the Paris Conservatoire thus becoming the first American woman to be granted that honor. There she studied with among others, Elie Delaborde (the illegitimate son of Charles-Valentin Alkan). Samaroff writes that when she was first introduced to Delaborde, he gruffly ordered her to play. While she played he restlessly beat time with his foot ..muttering to himself a sort of running commentary on Americans and their lack of musical talent. It was the first injustice that I had encountered in life. When Delaborde noticed that her name (Hickenlooper) had a Germanic origin, he suddenly found that her playing had vastly improved. After completing her studies at the Paris Conservatoire, she made a highly successful debut in Paris. Samaroff then married a Russian engineer, Boris Loutzky, and went to Berlin (1898) where she studied with Ernest Hutcheson, Otis B Boise and Ernest Jedliczka (pupil of Anton Rubinstein and Tchaikovsky). During her Berlin years, she met Richard Strauss, Felix Weingartner, Artur Nikisch, and Gustav Mahler among others. Later she performed the Grieg Piano Concerto several times under Mahlers direction in the United States. Her brief marriage to Loutzky was annulled.
Samaroffs American debut took place on January 8, 1905 at Carnegie Hall with the New York Symphony Orchestra. Her debut was a complete success.
About 1908, she met an obscure English organist and choir master who was a recent arrival in New York His name was Leopold Stokowski. Evidently, Samaroffs families (Hickenlooper-Grunewald) were also prominent members of the City of Cincinnati as they were able to secure for the unknown Stokowski the position of conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. (1909- 1912). Thus began the career of a legendary conductor. Samaroff and Stokowski were married in 1911. Their marriage ended in divorce twelve years later.
About 1920, Samaroff performed nearly all of Beethovens keyboard works in several cities. The concertos were, of course, conducted by her husband who by that time was conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra. This project included all 32 of the piano sonatas. (There have been rumors for years that it was Stokowski who pushed Samaroff into giving these recitals. Whatever the truth is, they were enormously significant both musically and historically). Unfortunately, except for Samaroffs recording of the Beethoven-Rubinstein Ruins of Athens Turkish March there are no other compositions of Beethovens music in her discography. (She was asked by RCA Victor to record the Moonlight Sonata. There were four takes. She did not approve any of them).

In 1926, Samaroff suffered an injury to her left arm. She subsequently devoted herself to teaching at Julliard and the Philadelphia Conservatory. She held both positions until her death after a brief illness. She died in her New York apartment on May 17, 1948.

Among her many students were, William Kapell, Claudette Sorel, Rosalyn Turek,Eugene List, Sigi Weissenberg, Raymond Lewenthal, Augustin Anievas and Bruce Hungerford.
Her pupil Claudette Sorell writes, Life with Madam was a continuous series of surprises, adventures and brainstorms. Nobody but Madam would call at 7 a.m. or 12.30 p.m. as she suddenly had decided a certain pupil should demonstrate the Romantic Period at her famous Laymans Music Courses at Town Hall, the following day. She would say, I do not care if you have to stay up all night long, but get it ready. And, invariably, the piece was prepared and the pupil was ready to collapse after the performance.This particular recording introduced me to Olga Samaroff. When I was in high school at Verdugo Hills in the late 1940s, this recording was a part of the schools library. We had a little group that met at lunch time in Ms. DArge music room and never a meeting ended without playing this performance. We thought that this was the non plus ultra of Bach recordings. Do we hear a little bit of "Stoky" in this transcription? Never the less, I love this recording, even though as a musician, I am very aware of "authentic Baroque performance practice."

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