November 6, 2019

RESIDENTS: Alexander Smallens

This entry in our series about notable residents spotlights Alexander Smallens, renowned symphony conductor and Tudor City tenant. Here is his life, in bullet points.

Promoting his NBC radio program in 1937
♯  Born 1889 in St. Petersburg, Russia. Emigrates to NYC as a child, accepted as a student at Julliard, age 11.

♯  Makes his name after being hired by ballerina Anna Pavlova to accompany her on tour. Over the course of his career, he is the conductor/musical director of the Boston Opera, the Chicago Opera, the Philadelphia Civic Opera, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and later in life, Radio City Music Hall. 

♯  Well-regarded in avant-garde music circles: Conducts the world premiere of Virgil Thomson's "Four Saints in Three Acts," as well as the world premiere of George Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess." (He would be much associated with the latter work, conducting it more than a thousand times in many revivals over his lifetime.)

♯  Moves into Tudor City around 1934. The New Yorker shows up for an interview:
We visited Mr. Smallens in his bachelor apartment in Tudor City the other day. He's a massive man, full of energy, with a big nose, a black mustache and a great shock of black hair that stands up on end. No reason it shouldn't. Mr. Smallens hasn't worn a hat since the warm autumn five years ago, and never intends to wear one again. . .
When he's not conducting, he collects stamps, plays bridge, goes to art galleries and movies, and attends musical parties, but a lot of the time he's right in Tudor City, working. During the past few weeks, for instance, he's held auditions for three hundred and fifty aspiring opera singers in his apartment.

There's never a dull moment in Tudor City!

No comments:

Post a Comment