The French-born American conductor, Vladimir Golschmann, was born in Paris of Russian parents and as a child he learnt to play both violin and piano; at the Schola Cantorum he studied in addition composition, counterpoint and harmony.
Having started his musical career as an orchestral violinist with the Concerts Rouges under André Caplet, Vladimir Golschmann went on to play in three of the Parisian symphony orchestras. However his ambition was to be a conductor: in 1919 he initiated the Concerts Golschmann, which were given by an orchestra of approximately thirty musicians under his direction, and at which contemporary music was strongly featured, with music by composers such as Ibert, Prokofiev, and Tansman as well as the members of Les Six. He also became the director of music activities at the Sorbonne, at the behest of the French government. In 1920 Diaghilev engaged Golschmann to conduct at the Ballets Russes the first revival in Paris since its premiere in 1913 of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. He also conducted the Popular Concerts in Brussels, and chamber operas by Ibert, Milhaud, Florent Schmitt and others at the Beriza Theatre, Paris, of which he was musical director. For five years Golschmann was chief conductor of the Bilbao Symphony Orchestra, and from 1928 to 1930 of the Scottish Orchestra.
Vladimir Golschmann made his American debut in 1923 as conductor of the Ballets Suédois, and this was followed in 1924 by guest engagements with the New York Symphony Orchestra. After a successful debut with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra in 1931 Golschmann was immediately appointed as its chief conductor, bolstered by strong recommendations from Walter Damrosch and Serge Koussevitzky. He was the longest-serving Music Director of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra. His initial contract was for 3 years, and the successive contracts were renewed yearly. For the last three years of his tenure, he was named conductor emeritus, during their search for a successor music director.His excellent technique helped to develop the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra into a first-class ensemble, if not quite of the same calibre as that of the leading American orchestras, and he remained as its Chief Conductor until 1956, moving permanently to the USA in 1934 and taking American citizenship in 1947. He was initiated as an honorary member of the New Zeta Chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia music fraternity in 1949. Golschmann maintained his connection with Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra as conductor emeritus until 1958, and in 1957 was a visiting professor at the Saint Louis’s George Washington University, which awarded him an honorary doctorate. He also enjoyed a freelance career throughout North and South America and Europe, and continued an active musical career until shortly before his death, as chief conductor firstly of the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra from 1958 to 1961, and then of the Denver Symphony Orchestra from 1964 to 1970.
A strong supporter of contemporary music, Vladimir Golschmann conducted the world premières of Arthur Honegger’s Pastorale d’été (1921), Falla’s El retablo de maese Pedro (1923), Milhaud’s La Création du monde (1923), Ibert’s Divertissement (1930), and Tansman’s Symphony No. 7 (1947). Although by nature a romantic, he possessed the ability to interpret the music of a wide range of composers with sympathy and understanding, as his wide recorded repertoire clearly demonstrates. He was also a first-class accompanist, recording extensively with soloists of the calibre of Glenn Gould, William Kapell, Nathan Milstein, Leonard Pennario and Arthur Rubinstein. His numerous recordings with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra included characterful accounts of Arnold Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht, Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5, Sibelius’s Symphony No. 7, and César Franck’s Symphony in D minor. With the Concert Arts Orchestra of Capitol Records he recorded A. Honegger’s Pastorale d’été, Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin, Samuel Barber’s Adagio, Copland’s Quiet City, Creston’s Two Choric Dances, and Diamond’s Rounds.
Vladimir Golschmann’s most extensive recording relationship was with the Vanguard record label, for which, together with the Vienna State Opera Orchestra, he recorded popular repertoire that included Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, Felix Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4, Johannes Brahms’ Symphony No. 4, Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 ‘From the New World’, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 ‘Pathétique’, Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition and suites from the ballets Gayaneh by Khachaturian and The Comedians by Dmitry Kabalevsky; as well as more adventurous repertoire such as A. Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire, the Violin Concerto and Concerto Symphonique of Ernest Bloch, Roy Harris’ Symphony No. 4 ‘Folksong Symphony’, and an important album of music by Samuel Barber that included his Music for a Scene from Shelley, Essay No. 2, A Hand of Bridge and Serenade. Golschmann was not a conductor to be ranked with the greatest, yet his sure musicality has ensured that his recordings remain stylish and satisfying.