THE WORLD OF STOKOWSKI
Toccata and Fugue in D Minor BWV 565 *
Prelude in C Sharp minor, Op. 3, No. 2 *
The Ride of the Valkyries from Die Walkure
The Dance of the Sylphs from the Damnation of Faust
Polovtsian Dances from Price Igor ***
The Firebird - Suite Lullaby and finale
Pictures at an Exhibition Promenade - The Old Castle
1812 Overture *****
Orchestra (1972) *, London Symphony Orchestra (1966, 1967, 1969) **, Chorus
of the Welsh National Opera, Royal Philharmonic Chorus and the Royal Philharmonic
Orchestra (1969) ***, New Philharmonia Orchestra (1965) ****, and the Chorus
of the Welsh National Opera, Band of the Grenadier Guards and Royal Philharmonic
Chorus and Orchestra (1969) *****. (recording dates in brackets)
rec House of the Artists, Prague * and Kingsway Hall (the
DECCA 467 828-2
This disc is a memento of one of the most charismatic of Western conductors.
For more than 75 years Stokowski wowed audiences on both sides of the Atlantic,
appeared in the "Movies" both in cartoons (Fantasias 1 and 2), as
well as the conventional films, always as a conductor. He glamourized the
position like no other and had a "groupie" band of fans who remained staunchly
loyal to him throughout his long life.
He was in charge of the Philadelphia Orchestra from 1912 to 1938, and conducted
many of the premieres of Rachmaninov's works often written specifically for
the sound of the Philadelphia Orchestra and their famous Music Director.
He recorded with them, the soundtrack of the first Fantasia and was
instrumental in introducing many young people to the glories of classical
music. Frowned on at the time and since by a proportion of the critics, he
nevertheless has earned a prime place in the history of music-making in the
One of the areas he was both famous and infamous for was the tampering he
did with many of the scores he conducted. This he did in a genuine attempt
to enhance some area of the piece to bring out what he considered was important
for 'his' listener to appreciate. Obviously, for some, any tampering of this
kind was sacrilege, and he paid the price in some areas for this. What was
abundantly clear was that under Stokowski, an audience was assured of an
exciting time, indeed right up to his death at the age of 95.
In order to preserve his memory, his recordings have earned to right to an
almost permanent place in the catalogue, and so I can't understand Decca's
strategy of deleting almost every recording, and then issuing this sampler
of bits and pieces. One can only hope that someone at Universal will see
the light and will reinstate these discs as soon as possible. The evidence
is there - the number of pirated and private recordings on the market attest
to the popularity and importance of this major artist.
The first two items were recorded live at the House of the Artists in Prague
and is a record of Stokowski's debut in Czechoslovakia at the ripe young
age of 90.
He was a regular performer with the London Symphony Orchestra and there are
examples of his art with them, recorded at Kingsway Hall. The Ride of
the Valkyries was a favourite of his and he made many transcriptions
of Wagner operas and of The Ring in particular, which were known as
'Symphonic Fragments' and 'Symphonic Syntheses'. On this disc we have the
Wagner item plus a very slow and lush version of The Dance of the Sylphs
from Berlioz's Damnation of Faust. We also have two pieces from
The Firebird, which shows his art perfectly.
Moving on to another orchestra, this time the Royal Philharmonic, they are
under his spell for a lively rendition of the Polovtsian Dances. The
New Philharmonia is then used for a small portion of Pictures at an
Exhibition, in an orchestration made by Stokowski himself - but why not
the whole piece?
Finally the Grenadier Guards join forces with the Royal Philharmonic and
Welsh National Opera Choruses, plus the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in the
most eccentric version of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture I have ever
heard. If you want to hear Stokowski at his worst, playing around with the
composer's music with utter abandon, this is the disc for you. Not Tchaikovsky,
but still wonderful provided that you don't think this is what was written.
Universal, come on, re-release the other recordings - you have a duty to