Posts Tagged ‘Eli Carmen’

Weber Rondo for Children

I’ve writ­ten pre­vi­ous­ly about the three ear­li­est record­ings of Carl Maria von Weber’s Andante and Hun­gar­i­an Ron­do — two fea­tur­ing Ger­man-Amer­i­can bas­soon­ist William Gruner (1920 and 1926), and one with French bas­soon­ist Fer­nand Oubradous (1938). As a num­ber of peo­ple point­ed out, I left out anoth­er ear­ly record­ing by Eli Car­men from the late 40s. I didn’t have a copy at the time, but I’ve man­aged to get my hands on one now. This one’s a bit of an odd­ball: it’s only the Ron­do, it was record­ed for a children’s record label, and it was released on a vinyl 78rpm disc. As far as I can tell, this record­ing has nev­er been rere­leased, but you can lis­ten to it below.

Eli Carmen Weber Labels

Both labels of my disc — a lat­er Children’s Record Guild release, orig­i­nal­ly record­ed for Young People’s Records.
Click for a larg­er ver­sion.

Eli Carmen

Eli Car­men

Elias Car­men was born in New York in 1912 to Russ­ian immi­grant par­ents. His father was a tai­lor.1 He start­ed on the French sys­tem, but switched to the Ger­man bas­soon when he began stud­ies with Simon Kovar. Car­men and Sol Schoen­bach were the first two Ger­man bas­soon stu­dents at Juil­liard.2 Car­men played with many orches­tras dur­ing his car­er, most notably the Min­neapo­lis Sym­pho­ny, the Cleve­land Orches­tra, the NBC Sym­pho­ny, and the New York City Bal­let. He taught at both the Man­hat­tan School of Music and Yale. Car­men died fol­low­ing an auto acci­dent on Decem­ber 21, 1973.3

Car­men appeared on a great num­ber of orches­tral record­ings with the NBC Sym­pho­ny, as well as record­ings of cham­ber music by Beethoven, Lud­wig Spohr, Arthur Berg­er, and Mel Pow­ell. He also record­ed Vivaldi’s Con­cer­to in G minor, “La Notte” with flutist Julius Bak­er on Odyssey.4 But this par­tial Weber is his only tru­ly solo record­ing.

YPR 1009 Cover

YPR 1009 Cov­er

Young People’s Records was estab­lished in the late 1940s, and sold records on a sub­scrip­tion mod­el. Exist­ing children’s records were meant to be played for chil­dren by their par­ents or teach­ers. But YPR want­ed kids (ages 2 to 11) to actu­al­ly use the records them­selves. To this end, YPR was one of the first com­pa­nies to exclu­sive­ly use the then-new flex­i­ble vinylite for their discs, rather than the old­er and much more frag­ile shel­lac. A large quan­ti­ty of the record­ed mate­r­i­al was writ­ten specif­i­cal­ly for YPR — main­ly songs in var­i­ous styles, but also instru­men­tal works and even mini-operas. YPR’s edi­to­r­i­al board, which includ­ed emi­nent Amer­i­can com­posers and teach­ers Howard Han­son and Dou­glas Moore, no doubt encour­aged the preva­lence of new com­mis­sions. Record­ings of Clas­si­cal or Roman­tic com­posers, such as Weber, com­prised a rel­a­tive­ly small por­tion of YPR’s cat­a­log.5

Records of YPR’s record­ing ses­sion dates evi­dent­ly haven’t sur­vived, but Eli Carmen’s Ron­do was released in Novem­ber 1949. Max Gob­er­man con­duct­ed this and YPR’s oth­er clas­si­cal selec­tions, and what’s billed here as the “YPR Sym­pho­ny Orches­tra” was assem­bled large­ly from Goberman’s own New York Sin­foni­et­ta. YPR empha­sized music’s edu­ca­tion­al and devel­op­men­tal ben­e­fits in both its adver­tis­ing and its pack­ag­ing. The text on this record’s sleeve give a kid-friend­ly expla­na­tion of Ron­do form:

Ron­do for Bas­soon and Orches­tra
by Carl Maria Von Weber (pro­nounced Fon Vaber) 1786 — 1826

When you tell an idea in words, it is called a sto­ry. When you tell an idea in music, it is called a melody. Just as you can tell a sto­ry in many dif­fer­ent ways, so you can tell a melody in many dif­fer­ent ways — and one of those ways is a ron­do. (Oth­er ways are march­es, dif­fer­ent kinds of dances, sonatas, sets of vari­a­tions. None of these ways of telling a melody have words or sto­ries attached to them.)

The ron­do way of telling musi­cal ideas is to keep com­ing back to the first idea, or melody. In this ron­do — its full name is Hun­gar­i­an Ron­do for Bas­soon and Orches­tra — we hear a melody, then a new melody, then the first melody, then anoth­er new melody, then the first melody again. Some­times these melodies are played by the bas­soon alone, some­times by the orches­tra alone and some­times by bas­soon and orches­tra.

And a fur­ther note “To Par­ents” explains why this par­tic­u­lar work was cho­sen for the series:

…Young People’s Records believes the ron­do to be a good form for children’s lis­ten­ing because it is read­i­ly appar­ent and accept­able. The recur­rence of a basic melody is some­thing the child can eas­i­ly fol­low with­out becom­ing lost in intri­cate prob­lems of design and form. We have cho­sen this par­tic­u­lar ron­do for chil­dren because of the appeal of the bas­soon as an instru­ment.…

Hear Eli Carmen’s Ron­do here:

Listen to Eli Carmen - Rondo for Bassoon and Orchestra (1949)

For more about Young People’s Records and the Children’s Record Guild, see David Bonner’s 2008 book Rev­o­lu­tion­iz­ing Children’s Records and his web site: yprcrg.blogspot.com. The Shel­lackophile has also dig­i­tized and post­ed a num­ber of YPR titles, which you can down­load (thanks to him for the image of the cov­er above, as it’s miss­ing from my disc).


  1. 1920 Unit­ed States Fed­er­al Cen­sus, Brook­lyn Assem­bly Dis­trict 2, Kings, New York (Wash­ing­ton, D.C.: Nation­al Archives and Records Admin­is­tra­tion, micro­film pub­li­ca­tion T625, roll T625_1146, page 6A). 

  2. Sol Schoen­bach, “Remem­brances of Eli,” To The World’s Bas­soon­ists 4, no. 1 (Sum­mer 1974),
    http://www.idrs.org/publications/controlled/TWBassoonist/TWB.V4.1/remembrances.html

  3. Mrs. Ivan Kemp­n­er, “Elias Car­men — Farewell,” To The World’s Bas­soon­ists 4, no. 1 (Sum­mer 1974),
    http://www.idrs.org/publications/controlled/TWBassoonist/TWB.V4.1/carmen.html

  4. Don­ald Mac­Court, “Elias Car­men on Record­ings,” To The World’s Bas­soon­ists 4, no. 1 (Sum­mer 1974),
    http://www.idrs.org/publications/controlled/TWBassoonist/TWB.V4.1/elias.html

  5. David Bon­ner, Rev­o­lu­tion­iz­ing Children’s Records: The Young People’s Records and Children’s Record Guild Series, 1946—1977 (Lan­ham, MD: Scare­crow Press, 2008).