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Georges BIZET (1838-1875)
Symphony in C (1855) [28:09]
L'Arlésienne suite No.1 (1872) (arr. Georges Bizet) [16:53]
L'Arlésienne suite No.2 (1872) (arr. Ernest Guiraud) [15:04]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Children’s Corner (1908) (arr. André Caplet)  [18:09]
Leopold Stokowski and his Symphony Orchestra
rec. Manhattan Center, New York, 1952, 1949 (Debussy)
CALA CACD0548 [78:15]
Experience Classicsonline

There’s seldom a cloud in the blue sky of RCA’s extensive Stokowski recordings here reissued by Cala’s indefatigable team. The Bizet and Debussy performances were made in the Manhattan Center in 1949 – all Bizet – and three years when Stokowski conjured up so delightful a disc of Children’s Corner.
Bizet’s youthful Symphony was then actually quite recently re-discovered music as it had been resurrected in the mid-thirties. Stokowski attends to the pert rhythmic charge of the first movement with requisite Gallic charge, invests the second with swaying lilt, oboist Robert Bloom to the fore, and proves a spruce advocate in the finale where he gives the horns their head. Stokowski was no stranger to L'Arlésienne suite No.1. He’d recorded it with the Philadelphia back in 1929, transfers of which you can find on Biddulph and Andante, and he returned to it at the end of his active musical life when he recorded it with the National Philharmonic in 1976; this last is now on Sony. He also recorded the second suite at the same time, in its arrangement by Ernest Guiraud and that’s on Sony. His hand-picked orchestra proves a wonderfully vital and engaging one. The yielding winds impress in the first suite and the brass is fulsome; the recording is certainly trenchant and captures them all with immediacy. In fact there is a little distortion at one or two points in the First Suite.
But one can still enjoy the warm curvaceous allure of the string moulding, the finely balanced harp and percussion in the Pastorale of the Second Suite, as well as the imposing Menuet with its prominent saxophone, played so well by Joseph Allard. The percussionist was presumably Saul Goodman and the expressive flautist John Wummer.
Children’s Corner is heard in the arrangement by André Caplet, only the second such recording to have been made of it – Piero Coppola had made the first in Paris before the war. This wasn’t a piece to which Stokowski gave much space. Nevertheless it’s finely chiselled and sensitive as a watercolour. The well-known principals take their changes avidly; none more so in fact than the principal double bass Anselme Fortier.
These transfers have al been taken from LPs. It would have been good to have heard transfers direct from the master tapes. Much of this, but not the Debussy so far as I’m aware, has been re-released by Theo van der Burg on his own eponymous label and on Archipel but I’ve not heard the transfers. Stokowski mavens will find it troublesome to resist so enjoyable a collection as this.
Jonathan Woolf


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