> Leopold Stokowski - Bach [JW]: Classical Reviews- February 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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J S BACH (1685-1750)
Symphonic Transcriptions by Leopold Stokowski

Toccata and Fugue in D minor BWV 565
Ein feste Burg
Mein Jesu BWV 487
Little Fugue in G minor BWV 578
Komm susser Tod BWV 478
Air on the G string - Orchestral Suite No 3 BWV 1068
Preludio in E Violin Partita BWV 1006
Arioso - Cantata 156
Prelude in E flat minor
Andante Sostenuto Violin Sonata BWV 1003
Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor BWV 582
The All-American Youth Orchestra
Leopold Stokowski conductor
Recorded 1940-41
CALA 0527 [70.49]

The All-American Youth Orchestra flourished briefly in 1941. Rehearsals began in 1940 but the attack on Pearl Harbour led to the disbanding of the orchestra, many of whose members went into the armed forces. But for a short space of time Stokowski galvanized them - formed with a stiffening of younger players from the Philadelphia Orchestra into a wonderfully expressive and sonorous ensemble. Here, on Cala's superb disc, we can hear for the first time on one CD their entire Bach transcription recordings, made between November 1940 and (the bulk) July 1941. No allowances need be made then or now for the relative youth of the performers and their discs made by Columbia as a rival to Stokowski's own earlier RCA recordings are worthy of the highest interest.

Familiar though they may be from those Philadelphia discs or from his subsequent stereo remakes (with the exception of the Andante Sostenuto, his only recording) these are still outstanding performances. Stokowski's technique of alternate string and woodwind sectional writing is conspicuously successful as is, specifically, the violin and brass gradations of the Toccata and Fugue, the slow tempo of Mein Jesu with its seamless line and control, the perfectly judged portamenti of the Air on the G string, and the progressive lightening of the string texture in the Arioso. All these subtleties and inflective devices are used with a spontaneity and immediacy that are simply captivating.

The transfers are good, the notes by Edward Johnson authoritative, and there is a superb photograph of conductor and orchestra in the famously unorthodox seating arrangement; he preferred woodwind directly in front of him, strings behind, brass to his left, horns and percussion to his right. No matter how well you think you know Stokowski's Bach transcriptions this is still a disc to treasure.

Jonathan Woolf

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