> Stokowski - Philadelphia Rarities [JW]: Classical Reviews- February 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Philadelphia Rarities
Arr Leopold STOKOWSKI (1882-1977) Two Ancient Liturgical Melodies- Veni Creator Spiritus and Veni Emmanuel
Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946) Spanish Dance from La Vida Breve
Joaquin TURINA (1882-1947) Gypsy Dance Op 55 No 5 "Sacred Mountain"
Arcady DUBENSKY (1890-1966) The Raven, poem by Edgar Allen Poe #
Arr Hidemaro KONOYE (1898-1973) Etenraku – Ceremonial Japanese Prelude
Harl McDONALD (1899-1955) The Legend of the Arkansas Traveller *; Dance of the Workers, from The Festival of the Workers Suite; Rhumba from Symphony No 2
Henry EICHHEIM (1870-1942) Bali – Symphonic Variations
Harl McDONALD (1899-1955) Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra +
John Philip SOUSA (1854-1932) Manhattan Beach
El Capitan
Alexander Hilsberg, violin *
Jeanne Behrend and Alexander Kelberine, pianos +
Benjamin de Loache, narrator #
Philadelphia Orchestra
Leopold Stokowski
Recorded between 1929 and 1940
CALA CACD 0501 [78.17]


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This is an exceptionally exciting programme of Philadelphia recordings, several of considerable rarity in their original form. Not only that but the variety and breadth of the repertoire is consistently stimulating. I have known and loved Stokowski’s arrangement of Veni Emmanuel for a number of years and never fail to be moved by it – by the deep coagulatory basses, the coiled amplitude of the trumpets, and the ravishing seamless violin line; these are paradigms of Stokowski’s Philadelphia sound and a testament to his orchestral greatness. Both the de Falla and Turina dances are of galvanizing flexibility – Stokowski was always to remain a superb exponent of dance rhythms. Arcady Dubensky’s The Raven comes from two very rare Picture Record 78s, taken down on 35mm optical film during the performance in December 1932. As befits Dubensky’s Russian birth – he’d studied at the Moscow Conservatory but left shortly after the Revolution – the Raven, on Poe’s poem, is a "Melo-Declamation for Narrator and Orchestra" and is absolutely saturated in Tchaikovskian influence. It is replete with shiveringly supernatural arpeggios and de Loache’s stentorian narration is rather compelling in itself – he had already sung in the American premieres, under Stokowski, of Boris Godunov, Wozzeck and Gurrelieder (the last in April 1932 and famously recorded). Hidemaro Konoye’s arrangement of Etenraku is a fascinating piece of orchestration, glistening, exotic, ravishingly played. His depiction of the Imperial procession is hypnotically intoxicating and Stokowski was always fascinated by Oriental music. Konoye had something of a vogue at this time, recording Mozart with the Berlin Philharmonic and making the first recording of Mahler’s Fourth Symphony, no less, back in Tokyo in May 1930 – once, maybe still, available on a Denon CD. As head of the Imperial Music Academy and founder of the Japanese New Symphony Orchestra he was a major figure in Japanese cultural life. Colorado-born Harl McDonald was closely associated with both Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra – today he might be a Composer-in-residence. An ex member of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, a pianist and choral conductor he was consistently championed by the conductor, who performed his lighter works (on this disc) and the weightier Symphonies. In The Legend of the Arkansas Traveller we hear a battery of folksy musics – folk fiddles and braying donkeys amongst them – in the best traditions of light music. The separately performed Rhumba from the Second Symphony is a no holds barred, rip roaring and undemanding movement but given rocket propelled force by the performers. Henry Eichheim provides more orientalism and Pictorialism too in his two pieces. This Nocturne derives from his Oriental Impressions Suite and here he proves just as adept an orientalist as his almost exact contemporary Granville Bantock. When Eichheim accompanied Stokowski on a tour of India, Burma and Java the composer made a set of symphonic variations, called Bali, which were inspired by themes heard in a Balinese temple. Premiered by Stokowski in 1933 Eichheim laced the score with gamelan motifs and threaded gongs into the evolving fabric. But the compromises inherent in this symphonic undertaking rather compromise the structure, which fails to coalesce, as it should. The oriental and occidental remain stubbornly unfused. Harl McDonald returns with his Double Piano Concerto. McDonald was an out-of-doors man (he had been brought up on a cattle ranch) and this is music of the open air. It is chock-full of orchestral incident, lyrical and excellently proportioned. It manages to weld Romantic rhetoric, big tunes, variation form and the Juarezca, a Mexican dance; add to that cascades of notes from the pianists and you have a thoroughly engaging big band concerto. As a bonus there are two Sousa marches – the sprightly Manhattan Beach has never been published before (as is also the case with the Turina). The Raven is printed in full and the notes by Edward Johnson are, as ever, splendidly informative. The sound is a little topped and tailed for my liking and it’s a real shame that no matrix or issue numbers have been provided. So much here is obscure that this is a prerequisite for historic material of this kind. Still, nothing can detract from the luxurious pleasure this disc affords. It’s very special.

Jonathan Woolf

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