Conductor-pianist José Iturbi (1895-1980) broadened the audience for classical music with his appearances in such classic MGM musicals as Thousands Cheer, Anchors Aweigh, Three Daring Daughters, and the Chopin biopic A Song to Remember. Now, Iturbi is the subject of a lavish 16-CD box set from Sony Classical. From Hollywood to the World - The Rediscovered Recordings by José Iturbi features all of the recordings made by Iturbi and his sister Amparo Iturbi (also a pianist) for RCA Victor between 1933 and 1955, including many previously unissued recordings.
Born in Valencia, Spain, Iturbi began his musical studies there before moving to Paris to train with pianist Victor Staub at the Paris Conservatory. By 1911, the teenaged prodigy had begun accompanying violinist Manuel Quiroga on his international tours, an association that was sadly cut short in 1937 when Quiroga was hit by a truck in New York City. Iturbi made his first U.S. appearance in 1929 and debuted as a conductor in Mexico City in 1933. Despite an injury suffered in the 1936 crash of Pan-Am's Puerto Rican Clipper in Port-of-Spain, Iturbi went on to become musical director of The Rochester Symphony Orchestra that same year. He would remain at the podium until 1944.
Having risen to national prominence, Iturbi was signed in 1933 by RCA Victor. Hollywood's glittering MGM dream factory then beckoned, and Iturbi was soon playing himself opposite Frank Sinatra (Anchors Aweigh) and Mario Lanza (That Midnight Kiss). Iturbi's career in Hollywood supported his recording career, and vice versa. When A Song to Remember was released in 1945, his recording of a Chopin Polonaise sold approximately 800,000 records for RCA. Though he made his final MGM appearance in 1949 with That Midnight Kiss, his international popularity endured. Today, he's remembered alongside Oscar Levant as one of a select few performers who memorably brought classical music to the glamorous big screen. This box contains the majority of Iturbi's commercial recordings; though he continued performing onstage into his 80s, he largely retired from recording at the end of the 1950s with most of his discography under one roof at RCA Victor.
From Hollywood to the World - The Rediscovered Recordings by José Iturbi takes the form of a 188-page coffee-table book. It was produced by "The Ambassador for the American Songbook" Michael Feinstein and Robert Russ in collaboration with Donelle Dadigan from the José Iturbi Foundation. All of the painstakingly restored audio for the box has been remastered by lead engineer Andreas K. Meyer with Nancy Conforti and Jennifer Nulsen. The book includes a beautifully written and deeply detailed biographical essay by Feinstein as well as a sessionography, discography, filmography, and loads of photographs and memorabilia facsimiles from the José Iturbi Foundation Archives. The filmography boasts the gorgeous original poster artwork for his MGM musicals while the track listing pages are adorned with reproductions of the eye-popping, colorful RCA jackets. In short, this stunning book would be a worthy standalone tribute to Iturbi. That it's paired with a definitive musical compendium adds up to a complete portrait of this legendary artist.
Jose Iturbi is quoted in the new box: "I feel that classical music should be a more recognizable part of everyone's entertainment. It has been my hope that through live concerts, motion pictures, recordings, international competitions, and interesting public forums, a larger group of people will learn to love classical music and attend live concert performances." One could hardly think of a better introduction to the genre than this lovingly curated and truly comprehensive collection. It's out now from Sony Classical. You'll find order links below.
José Iturbi, From Hollywood to the World - The Rediscovered Recordings by José Iturbi (Sony Classical, 2023) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada)
CD 1: Mozart: Concerto No. 10 for Two Pianos / Piano Concerto No. 20 (1952)
CD 2: Liszt: Piano Concerto No. 1 / Mendelssohn: Piano Concerto No. 1 / Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 3 (1952)
CD 3: Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue (1950) / Chambers / Gould / Reddick / Iturbi
CD 4: Mozart / Chabrier / Iturbi / Debussy / Milhaud / Nepomuceno / Infante
CD 5: Debussy / Liszt / Beethoven / Schumann / Falla / Rachmaninoff / Saint-Saens / Albeniz / Chopin
CD 6: Debussy / Schumann / Chopin / Lopez-Chavarri / Iturbi / Granados / Ravel / Gustavino
CD 7: Mozart: Concerto No. 10 for Two Pianos / Piano Concerto No. 20 (1940)
CD 8: Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 3 (1941) / Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue (1938) / Ravel / Bach
CD 9: Mozart: Piano Sonatas No. 11 and 12 / Chopin
CD 10: Albeniz / Granados / Scarlatti / Paradisi / Iturbi / Beethoven / Lazar / Saint-Saens / Debussy / Infante / Bach / Gould
CD 11: Falla / Debussy / Liszt / Chopin / Schumann / Haydn / Paderewski / Beethoven / Ravel / Rachmaninoff / Infante / Tchaikovsky / Mussorgsky
CD 12: Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 3 "Scottish" / Dvorak: Symphony No. 9 "From the New World"
CD 13: Liszt / Falla / Pallau / Rodrigo / Iturbi / Lopez-Chavarri / Turina / Interviews
CD 14: Granados / Turina / Infante / Albeniz / Cuesta / Lecuona / Griffes / Mozart (Amparo Iturbi)
CD 15: Granados: Goyescas (Amparo Iturbi)
CD 16: Ravel / Chabrier / Schubert / Lopez-Chavarri / Shostakovich / Faure / Mozart (Amparo Iturbi)
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