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.