top of page

Selected Historical & Rare Recordings

As Composer and Performer

As Composer and Performer

Nocturne (1942)

Nocturne (2nd Mvt Only)College of Music Symphony Orchestra
00:00 / 05:54

Nocturne was one of Gunther’s earliest compositions written in 1942 (at the age of 17) for horn and piano. By 1945, it eventually “found its way into” the 2nd movement of his first major orchestral work Concerto for Horn and Orchestra which was premiered that spring by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra with the composer as its featured soloist under the direction of conductor Eugene Goosens. However, the 2nd movement (the Nocturne movement) was left off the bill due to an already previously scheduled lengthy program. Only the first and third movements were performed.

Gunther did have a chance to perform the 2nd movement ten days later (April 17, 1945) when the College of Music Symphony Orchestra (Cincinnati) under the direction of conductor Walter Heermann presented a tribute concert to the recently deceased President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Nocturne was included in the All-American program along with works by Chadwick, Griffes, Gould and Gershwin, among others.

Here we have the composer performing his own composition from a surviving 78 acetate disc complete with clicks and scratches. This may be the earliest recorded example of the dual talents of Gunther as player as well as composer.

As Composer

As Composer

String Quartet No. 1 (1957)

String Quartet No. 1The Composer's String Quartet
00:00 / 17:15

Schuller’s String Quartet No. 1 was commissioned by the University of Illinois School of Music and The Fromm Music Foundation for the 1957 Festival of Contemporary Music, held on the campus of University of Illinois during March of that year.

The Walden Quartet (Homer Schmitt, Bernard Goodman, violins; John Garvey, viola and cellist Robert Swenson) premiered the work during the festival on March 29, 1957 and subsequently released a live version of that performance on a rare 3-LP set (consisting of various selected commissioned works from the festival). Schuller’s string quartet received its European premiere later that year by the Ortleb Quartet (members of the Berlin Philharmonic) at the famous (or possibly infamous) Darmstadt Festival.

Twenty years later, The Composers String Quartet (Matthew Raimondi, Anahid Ajemian, violins; Jean Dane, viola and cellist Michael Rudiakov), while in residence at the New England Conservatory of Music, recorded the same piece for the Golden Crest label (NEC series) along with works by Cowell, Stravinsky, Swift and Carter. It is presented here in three movements without interruption.

Woodwind Quintet (1958)

Schuller - Woodwind QuintetThe New York Woodwind Quintet
00:00 / 11:43
1. Lento
2. Moderato
3. Agitato

Schuller’s Woodwind Quintet (composed in 1958) was premiered by the New York Woodwind Quintet in Cologne, Germany for the Westdeutsch Rundfunk. It got its first NYC performance in March 1959 (see program below) and was probably recorded for the Concert-Disc label around 1961 or 62. Members of the New York Woodwind Quintet at that time included Samuel Baron, flute; Ronald Roseman, oboe; David Glazer, clarinet; John Barrows, horn; and Arthur Weisberg, bassoon.

Lines and Contrasts (1960)

Lines and ContrastsThe Horn Club of Los Angeles
00:00 / 10:14

Schuller’s Lines and Contrasts for 16 Horns (completed in 1960) was premiered by the Horn Club of Los Angeles on Oct 23, 1960. However, only the first movement was performed due to the late arrival of the second movement parts and lack of adequate rehearsal time. The complete work was recorded a decade later for Angel Records. Schuller conducted his own piece as well as Alec Wilder’s Nonet for Brass (which was included on the Angel LP release). The Horn Club is made up of members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and other professional orchestras and studio musicians based in Southern California.


Note that the piece is divided into two parts: 1) Lines 2) Contrasts.

Night Music (1961)
Densities 1 (1962)

Night Music
00:00 / 04:57
Densities I
00:00 / 04:52

Eric Dolphy was an important contributor to several of Schuller’s Third Stream concerts during the early 60s. His versatility alone as a multi-instrumentalist coupled with a sizable palette of improvisational and reading skills was truly unmatched even amongst some of the major jazz practitioners of his day. He was indeed a triple threat and a restless investigator of both jazz and classical concepts and beyond. Tragically cut short due to an undiagnosed illness by the early summer of 1964, his legend was immediate and forever lasting.


Schuller wrote Night Music and Densities I in 1962...the former written specifically for Dolphy to showcase his prowess on the bass clarinet. It was premiered on March 10, 1962 by a hybrid ensemble of jazz and classical musicians sponsored by The Syracuse Friends of Chamber Music under the direction of legendary violinist Louis Krasner. The program included works of Mozart, Ives, Gabrieli, and Stravinsky followed by several of Schuller’s Third Stream compositions (see program below). The concert was recorded and Night Music was later released on GM Recordings under the title Vintage Dolphy. Schuller also arranged Night Music for big band to be performed by none other than The Benny Goodman Orchestra for their six-week state department tour of the Soviet Union later that spring of 1962. It’s unknown if the work was ever performed or even attempted in rehearsal. It took another 26 years for the big band version to be dusted off, formally recorded by an augmented Orange Then Blue (normally a 12-piece ensemble) and subsequently released on GM Recordings under the title Jumpin’ in the Future. 


Densities I was to be the first of a series of proposed small ensemble examinations dealing with certain types of musical densities and textures, but Schuller perhaps got caught up with other commitments before he could return to his original intended proposal. Written in 1962 for a quartet of clarinet, vibraphone, harp and bass, it was premiered with Dolphy on March 14, 1963 during one of Schuller’s Twentieth Century Innovations concerts held at Carnegie Hall (also released on Vintage Dolphy). 


Recorded in the first half of 1965, Dedicated to Dolphy was one of the first album tributes to Eric released the following year for the Cambridge Record label (based in Framingham, MA). However due to its low visibility on a label known more for its classical and baroque leanings, it hardly got noticed. It was conductor and percussionist Harold Farberman’s idea to bring together many of NYC’s finest studio and working musicians (including those that performed in John Lewis’ Orchestra USA) to record original works to reflect Dolphy’s recent impact on the contemporary jazz and classical scene. With contributions by Lewis, Farberman and William O. Smith (aka Bill Smith who also had the inevitable task of channeling Dolphy as the lone clarinetist and bass clarinetist on three of the tracks), only Schuller’s works were previously composed with Dolphy in mind while he was still alive. 


Besides Smith on bass clarinet, Night Music features guitarist Jim Hall, both bassists Richard Davis and George Duvivier along with drummer Mel Lewis. For Densities I, vibist Harold Farberman joins harpist Gloria Agostini and Davis with Smith on clarinet. 

As Conductor

As Conductor

Arnold Schoenberg – Suite, Op. 29 (1925)

1. Ouverture [Overture]
00:00 / 09:43
2. Tanzschritte [Dance steps]
00:00 / 08:05
3. Thema mit Variationen [Theme with variations]
00:00 / 05:59
4. Gigue [Gigue]
00:00 / 08:28

Schoenberg Suite Op. 29 (composed in 1925) was written for a septet of clarinets, strings and piano recorded in 1954 for the Period Record label which produced mostly classical and operetta in its varied catalog, but also featured jazz and popular music during the 1950s. This version of the Suite may have been the first American recording issued even though a Los Angeles ensemble led by Robert Craft had apparently recorded their own a year before for Columbia, but not released until 1956. 


Directed by Gunther Schuller, the personnel for the Period session included Jack Kreiselman, Eb clarinet; Irving Neidich, clarinet; Sidney Keil, bass clarinet; Victor Aitay, violin; Godfrey Layefsky, viola; Tony Sophos, cello; and Russell Sherman, piano. This might have been Schuller’s first commercial recording as conductor, and the first time Russell Sherman and Schuller recorded together. 


Note: The origins of this recording and how it came about are sketchy at best, but indications point to a connection (according to Schuller) to Peter Bartok, Bela’s son, who ran a studio on 57th St (NYC) during those years and mastered recordings with the initials PB stamped in runouts (as is stamped on this particular Period LP). 

As Performer

As Performer

Early Recordings (1944)

The following three excerpts are believed to be the earliest recordings of Gunther's horn playing (at age 18) as a member of the Cincinnati Symphony (first horn). These chamber music arrangements are probably from a radio broadcast (May 23, 1944) during the annual May Festival in Cincinnati with members of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra including Walter Heermann (cello) and his brother, Emil Heermann (violin). The other members of the sextet might have included violinist Reuben Segal and pianist Laverne Gustafson. No guess as to the violist present on these recordings. 

The excerpts were transferred from a fragile Presto glass base acetate with an unfortunate nagging crack for a minute and a half on each side (especially during the first portion of the Overture).

1) Excerpt of Felix Mendelssohn's Overture from A Midsummer Night's Dream.