Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:


Symphony No. 4

Etude in C sharp minor (orch Stokowski)
American SO/Leopold Stokowski
rec April 1971, Masonic Temple, New York
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After Golovanov's Pathétique here is another far from safe approach to Tchaikovsky. While Golovanov's Bohème disc is a revelation this is much more variable. High hopes borne of some foreknowledge of the Stokowski Stadium SO recording of Francesca and Hamlet were not exactly dashed but neither were they utterly fulfilled. Stokowski accents, rolls and burrs the music, pushes and decelerates and emphasises dramatic dynamic contrasts. By comparison with my reference recording (Mravinsky and Leningrad PO) the Stokowski is extreme to the point of eccentricity. The least 'unusual' movement is the scherzo. The finale takes the Stokowski character and accentuates it by several orders of magnitude. Some moments are breathless (try the build-up at 7.40) others ponderously stertorous (8.30 onwards). Stokowski's orchestra is not the equal of the Leningraders. It is in the precision of attack and ensemble that it seems to suffer though this more in the nature of a slight smearing of the 'lens' than anything more serious. However it is noticeable. The recording has a warmth that contributes to the soft focus and this survives through the analogue tape's digital resurrection. The Scriabin bon-bon, as arranged by Stokowski, suffers for the want of a great tune. The arrangement probes but all the Rachmaninovian wizardry cannot ultimately disguise a pretty meagre charm. Stokowski's personality dominates the disc. In this case, while never dull, the end result fails to satisfy.

Rob Barnett

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