“Opus Time”: Rachmaninoff Symphony No. 2 in E Minor, Op. 27

After exploring selections by jazz royalty such as Jelly Roll Morton and Duke Ellington, not to mention his friend and disciple Bing Crosby, in previous editions of Satch’s Tracks, it’s time to explore one of the many classical selections found in Louis Armstrong’s record collection. Or in Louis’s words, it’s “Opus Time!”

Today’s selection is Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2 in E Minor, Op. 27, as issued on an album of 5 12-inch Polydor 78s as part of Brunswick’s “Hall of Fame Symphony Series.” Here is the cover of Louis’s copy:

LAHM 1987.3.1334A

The first time Armstrong dubbed this work to tape in the 1950s, he explained the provenance of his copy, which was gifted to him by French promoter N. J. Canetti in Paris in 1934. Canetti tried managing Armstrong for a while but their relationship soured over time and Armstrong abruptly returned to the United States in January 1935, inspiring Canetti to write a few rage-filled columns in Melody Maker about his former client. But that didn’t stop Armstrong from making sure to take these Rachmanioff records with him! Here he is discussing this after dubbing the first movement to tape:

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LAHM 1987.3.142

Here is Louis’s copy of the first movement, with his “Recorded” note scotch taped to each side. 

1987.3.1334
LAHM 1987.3.1334

Armstrong didn’t get to dub all 10 individual sides to tape but he did get most of the third and fourth movements on separate tapes also recorded in the 1950s. Here’s his humorous introduction of the third movement, having fun with the name of the conductor Nikolai Sokoloff:

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LAHM 1987.3.257

And finally, Armstrong’s announcement of “Opus Time” heralds the fourth movement.

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LAHM 1987.3.258

And here’s his copy of that side:

LAHM 1987.3.1338

We’ve been sharing Spotify links to the music we’re spotlighting from Armstrong’s collection, but this particular recording is not on any streaming device. However, we’re grateful that “Music Love” has uploaded the entire 1928 Sokoloff recording to YouTube and we’re happy to share it here:

This concludes “Opus Time,” but we’ll be back with a feature on the Bix Beiderbecke recordings found in Armstrong’s collection next Friday.

Published by Sarah Rose

Archivist at the Louis Armstrong House Museum.

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