The Steinberg Years
In its 23 years under the direction of William Steinberg, the PSO remained a superb ensemble and developed an eager and devoted following. By 1961, audiences had increased 250 percent. What's more, in the five preceding years, the PSO was the only American orchestra to sell out all its concerts by season tickets.
Steinberg's talents had long been recognized by some of the world's greatest conductors. As a protégé of Otto Klemperer, Steinberg had a glamorous career in his homeland of Germany before fleeing the Nazis in 1936. Arturo Toscanini invited him to organize the newly formed Palestine Orchestra in Tel Aviv (today's Israel Philharmonic Orchestra) and, in 1937, to become his associate conductor at the NBC Orchestra. Steinberg went on to direct the Buffalo Philharmonic before becoming Music Director of the PSO in 1952. The Boston Symphony Orchestra engaged him as Music Director from 1969 to 1972, a post he held concurrently with his PSO Music Directorship.
On August 14, 1964, the PSO embarked on an 11-week, 24,000 mile tour to 14 nations in Europe and the Near East. Sponsored by the U.S. State Department, the tour earned the Smoky city a reputation for producing more than steel and elevated the image of American culture abroad.
One must always respect the character of the music and never try to grow lush foliage in a well tempered English garden. - William Steinberg
Steinberg conducted this complex work with amazing control, exacting the fullest possible interest from the score. - Pittsburgh Press, January 9, 1954
Some of the Orchestra's best recordings were made in the Syria Mosque where the PSO performed from 1926 until 1971. The building was torn down in 1992 to the dismay of many who had attended concerts there.
The opening of Heinz Hall on September 10, 1971 marked the completion of an 11-year campaign, initiated by Henry J. Heinz II. The resplendent concert hall stands as a testimonial to the civic spirit that has supported Pittsburgh's cultural organizations since the turn of the century.
At the time of Steinberg's death in 1978, his stepson remembered him with these words in Music Journal: "He moved to Pittsburgh in 1952. His career reached its zenith there. He built the Orchestra into an instrument totally sensitive to his will, his touch. He loved them like his children, and criticized them as such. For twenty-five years he made beautiful music with that orchestra. Even when their sound was not as good as that of greater ensembles, they played for him beyond their capacities. He was desolate when he retired, he did not want to let go."
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