> Stokowski (Mozart-Beethoven) [JW]: Classical Reviews- February 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Symphony No 6 Pastoral
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat major K297b
Marcel Tabuteau, oboe
Bernard Portnoy, clarinet
Sol Schoenbach, bassoon
Mason Jones, horn
Philadelphia Orchestra (Mozart)
New York City Symphony Orchestra (Beethoven)
Cond: Stokowski
Recorded 1940 (Mozart) 1945 (Beethoven)
CALA CACD 0523 [76.22]


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Here’s one in the eye for those who think Stokowski was an inferior conductor of Mozart and Beethoven. The Sinfonia Concertante for winds was recorded in 1940 in Philadelphia. It was the only Mozart recording Stokowski had then made – if one excepts a 1919 Minuet from the G minor Symphony. Stokowski was fortunate to have some superb principals; Marcel Tabuteau, who had been with the orchestra for 25 years, was the most famous but all were formidably equipped players. Listen especially to the limpid and metrically flexible phrasing of clarinettist Bernard Portnoy. Textures are effortlessly pliant, inflexions subtle and individual voices seamlessly blended. A distinguished reading.

In the 1950s a Camden LP boasted of a Pastoral played by the Sutton Symphony Orchestra. It was actually the New York City Symphony Orchestra conducted by Stokowski. This was his first complete recording of it – Fantasia excerpts notwithstanding – and he was to re-record it a decade later with the NBC. The 1945 account, recorded in Carnegie Hall, was one of only three sets recorded with this orchestra. It combines tension with relaxation, and is convincing both in the niceties and subtleties of phrasing and tempo. The first movement, for example, is fleetness itself whereas the "Scene by the Brook" will doubtless antagonise those who don’t relish spending sixteen minutes there. It’s an idiosyncratic view but a deeply held and involving one. Transfers are excellent as is the presentation.

Jonathan Woolf


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