SCHOENBERG and SCRIABIN from
Stokowski discusses Gurrelieder; illustrations Artur Rodzinski
Poem of Ecstasy (1908)
Poem of Fire
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
PEARL GEMM CDS 9066
CD1 [78.47] CD2
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.