You’re too young to know who Jose Iturbi was but look him up. He was the first living classical music artist to sell 1 million copies of a single record. And he did twice.
Iturbi was wildly popular in from the 1930s to 1960s. He was the key pianist and conductor of movie scores. Iturbi was so in demand that he appeared in 7 classic film musicals, including one in which he starred.
Tomorrow night in Hollywood — September 19th — no less than Michael Feinstein and a who’s who of musicians are celebrating Iturbi with the publication of a massive commemorative 16-CD, 188-page box set/coffee table book called “From Hollywood To The World: The Rediscovered Recordings by Pianist and Conductor José Iturbi.”
The party is also a celebration of Hispanic Heritage month.
Feinstein will be there along with famed songwriter Charles Fox (“Killing Me Softly,” “I Got a Name,” theme from “The Love Boat”) and film historian Leonard Maltin showing off José Iturbi’s personal 9 foot long Baldwin Concert Grand Piano & the Hollywood Museum’s new Iturbi exhibit.
Other expected guests include Oscar honored songwriter Diane Warren, famed rock and roll founding writer Mike Stoller, who wrote all those hits with Jerry Leiber, plus famed TV and Broasdway star Michele Lee (Broadway’s “See Saw” and TV’s “Knots Landing”) plus the great music director now of every major Hollywood event, Rickey Minor.
Now that Sean Hayes has won a Tony for playing Oscar Levant on Broadway, it’s time for a film about Iturbi. He was friends with every major Hollywood star and always the toast of the town. It’s kind of amazing because he escaped a famous plane crash in 1936 and lived to tell about it!
In 1945 (he died in 1980 at age 84) he told an interviewer: “I entered pictures because, first of all, I thought I’d enjoy it – which I did! And, second, I felt that classical music should be a more recognizable part of everyman’s entertainment, and it has been my great hope that through motion pictures a larger group of people would learn to like classical music and attend live concert performances.”
His close pals included everyone from Frank Sinatra to President Harry S. Truman. And those million sellers included gold records for his “Polonaise in A Flat”(Military Polonaise) by Chopin in 1950, and“Clair de Lune” by Debussy in 1953.
Get ready for an Iturbi Renaissance!
PS Grammy voters take note: this deluxe package is up for consideration for three categories: Best Historial Album, Best Album Notes, and Best Packaging–Boxed or Limited Edition.