Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:


Gurrelieder (1911)
Stokowski discusses Gurrelieder; illustrations Artur Rodzinski (piano)

Poem of Ecstasy (1908)
Poem of Fire (1910)
Schoenberg: Waldemar - Paul Althouse; Tove - Jeannette Vreeland; Waldtaube - Rose Bampton; Klauss-narr - Robert Betts, Bauer - Abrasha Robofsky; Sprecher - Benjamin de Loache; Princeton Glee Club; Fortnightly Club; Mendelssohn Club.
rec 9 Apr 1932 during actual performance. from 33rpm discs Scriabin: both rec 15 Mar 1932
Philadelphia Orchestra/Leopold Stokowski
PEARL GEMM CDS 9066 CD1 [78.47] CD2 [79.19]

Stokowski's wonder years at Philadelphia are hinted at in this release. How tragic that jealousies and power struggles terminated a reign in which innovation, new music and showmanship explosively met. Stokowski's no compromise approach bred risky repertoire. The wealthy dowagers of Philadelphia may have doted on the young lion but their loyalty was certainly tried by his courting of the avant-garde both contemporary and of yester-year.

The Schoenberg is taken from a concert and, through the rustle of the 33rpm surfaces (in fact they are pretty clean), can also be heard the rustle of an audience. Stokowski produces a spell-binding performance reminding those of us who run a mile from Schoenberg that the early works such as this have more in common with Bax's Spring Fire, Ravel's Daphnis and Havergal Brian's Wine of Summer symphony than with the rebarbative music of the dodecaphonic years. The music is a form of diaphanous Wagnerian impressionism touched with a Mahlerian wand but without Mahler's neuroses. I thought of Das Lied von der Erde several times and of Szymanowski in King Roger and the Third Symphony. The choral and solo contributions are fine (no trace of a jarring accent) and the possessed quality of the singing of the final Seht die Sonne bridges across to the intoxicated massed choral writing in Delius's A Mass of Life. This performance could easily win you over. Recordings of Gurrelieder are not exactly thick on the ground but even so it is unlikely that you would settle for this. If you did you would not feel cheated for the luminous quality of this performance defeats sonic limitation.

The two Scriabin poems were recorded in a single day at RCA's Camden studios. Stokowski was limited in the number of players available for these sessions (it was the Depression!) but as the notes point out, this makes for a transparency of texture impossible with a full orchestra.

Robert Cowan's notes are models of their kind. He places all the works in both their musical and literary and political contexts. He also colours in the history of the recordings with rare attention to detail. Musical information is presented lucidly and without resort to technical description.

When first issued this received scant attention I recommend it warmly for the priceless Gurrelieder recording.

Pity about the double thickness CD case. Pearl's VW set shows that a 2CD set can be easily placed in a single width case.

Pearl to take a bow.

Rob Barnett

(specialist historical)

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