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Leopold Stokowski, conductor
CD 1 - 64:06
Nicolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)

Scheherazade, Op. 35 (1888) 44:21 (Largo maestoso-lento-Allegro no troppo 10:22; The Sea and Sinbad's Ship / La mer et le vaisseau de Sinbad- / Das Meer und Sindbads Schiff; Lento-Andantino-Allegro molto 11:09; The Story of the Kalendar Prince / Le récit du prince Calendar / Die Geschichte vom Prinzen Kalendar Andantino quasi allegretto 10:28; The Young Prince and the Young Princess / Le jeune prince et la jeune princesse / Der junge Prinz und die junge Prinzessin; Allegro molto-lento-allegro molto e frenetico-Lento-Vivo 12:22; The Festival at Baghdad; The Sea; The Ship goes to pieces on a Rock surmounted by a Bronze Warrior / Fête à Bagdad; La mer; Le vaisseau s'échoue sur un rocher surmonté d'un guerrier en bronze / Das Schiff zerschellt am Felsen auf dem ein bronzener Krieger steht)
The Philadelphia Orchestra ∑ 8 October 1934 ∑ Gramophone DB 2522 / 2527
Alexander BORODIN (1833-1887)

Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor/le Prince Igor: Dances polovtsiennes / Polowetzer Tänze (1869-1887) 16:17: (Prelude / Prélude 4:23; Dance of the young Maidens / Danse des jeunes filles / Tanz der jungen Mädchen 2:09; Final Dance, Act 2 / Danse finale du 2ème acte / Endtanz der 2. Akt 9:45)
The Philadelphia Orchestra ∑ 7 April 1937 ∑ Gramophone DB 3232 / 3233
Piotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)

Solitude, Op. 73, No. 6 (transcribed by L. Stokowski) 2.58
The Philadelphia Orchestra ∑ 19 April 1937 ∑ Gramophone DB 3255
CD 2 - 68:29
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)

Toccata and Fugue in D Minor / ré mineur / D-moll, BWV 565 8:30
(transcribed by L. Stokowski)
The Philadelphia Orchestra ∑ 6 April 1927 ∑ Gramophone W 979
Georges BIZET (1838-1875)

L'Arlésienne (1872) 20:23: (1. Prélude 7:07; 2. Menuet 3:21; 3. Adagietto 3:33; 4. Danse provençale 1:35; 5. Carillon 4:48)
The Philadelphia Orchestra ∑ 3-4 May 1929 ∑ Gramophone W 1089 / 1091
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)

Carnival of the Animals / Le Carnaval des animaux / Der Karnival der Tiere (1886)19:29
1. Introduction and Royal March of the Lion / Introduction et marche royale du Lion / Einleitung und könlicher Marsch de Löwen 1:55; 2. Hens and Cockerels / Poules et Coqs / Hühner and Hähne 0:49; 3. Wild Asses / Hémiones / Wilde Esel 0:38; 4. Tortoises / Tortues / Schildkröten 2:01; 5. The Elephant / L'Eléphant / Der Elefant 1:12; 6. Kangaroos / Kangourous / Känguruhs 0:50; 7. Aquarium 1:39; 8. Persons with Long Ear / Personnages à longues oreilles / Persönlichkeiten mit langen Ohren 0:37; 9. The Cuckoo in the Depths of the Woods / Le Coucou au fond des bois / Der Kuckuck im tiefen Wald 1:50; 10. Aviary / Volière / Vogelhaus 1:07; 11. Pianists / Pianistes / Pianisten 1:27; 12. Fossils / Fossiles / Fossilien 1:04; 13. The Swan / Le Cygne / Der Schwan 2:30; 14. Finale 1:48)
The Philadelphia Orchestra ∑ 26-27 September 1929 ∑ Gramophone W 1184/1186
Piotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)

The Nutcracker / Casse-noisette / Der Kußknacker Suite No. 1, Op. 71a (1891-1892) 19:42: (1. Overture / Ouverture / Ouvertüre 3:05; 2. March / Marche / Marsch 1:35; 3. Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy / Danse de la Fée-Dragée / Tanz der Fée-Dragée 2:05; 4. Trepak (Russian Dance) / Trépak (danse russe) / Trepak (Russischer Tanz) 1:02; 5. Coffee: Arabian Dance / Le café: danse arabe / Kafee: Arabischer Tanz 3:35; 6. Tea: Chinese Dance / Le thé: danse chinoise / Tee: Chinesischer Tanz 0:59; 7. Dance of the Reed-Pipes / Les mirlitons / Tanz der Rohrflöten 2:05; 8. Waltz of the flowers / Valse des fleurs / Blumensalzer 5:26)
The Philadelphia Orchestra ∑ 4, 10 November 1926 ∑ Gramophone W 848/850
CD 3 - 70:11
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)

Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor / Passacaille et fugue en ut mineur / Passacaglie und Fuge C-moll, BWV 582 (1716-1717) 13:07
(transcribed by L. Stokowski)
The Philadelphia Orchestra ∑ 16 November 1936 ∑ Gramophone DB 3252/3253
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 / Rhapsodie Hongroise No. 2 / Ungarisches Rhapsody Nr. 2 (orch. Doppler) 8:09
The Philadelphia Orchestra ∑ 16 November 1936 ∑ Gramophone DB 3086
Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)

The Swan of Tuonela / Le cygne de Tuonela / Der schwann von Tuonela 8:51
The Philadelphia Orchestra ∑ 3 May 1929 ∑ Gramophone W 1188
Valse triste (from Incidental Music to Kuolema / Musique de scène, "Kuolema" / aus Kuolema, Op. 44) (1903) 4:34
The Philadelphia Orchestra ∑ 15 January 1936 ∑ Gramophone DB 3318
Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915)

Poem of Ecstasy / Le Poème de l'extase / Das Gedicht von der Ekstase, Op. 54 17:43
Prometheus-The Poem of Fire / Prométhée-le Poème du feu / Prometheus - das Gedicht vom Feuer, Op. 60 17:12
The Philadelphia Orchestra ∑ Solo piano: Sylvan Levin ∑ Chorus: Curtis Institute of Music ∑ 19 March 1932 ∑ Victor DM 125
CD 4 - 68:06
Antonin DVOŘŃK (1841-1904)

Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, "From the New World" / Symphonie Nļ9 en mi mineur, "Du Nouveau Monde" / Sinfonie Nr.9 e-moll, "Aus der Neuen Welt", Op. 95 41:18: (1. Adagio - Allegro molto 8:58; 2. Largo 12:36; 3. Scherzando-molto vivace 7:52; 4. Allegro con fuoco 11:38)
The Philadelphia Orchestra ∑ 22 October 1934 ∑ Gramophone DB 2543/2547
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)

Death and Transfiguration / Mort et Transfiguration / Tod und Verklärung Op. 24 23:21
The All-American Youth Orchestra ∑ 4 July 1941 ∑ Columbia Masterworks set M-492
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Prelude in E-flat minor / mi bémol mineur / es-moll, Op. 34, No. 14 3:14
(transcribed by L. Stokowski)
The All-American Youth Orchestra ∑ 14 November 1940 ∑ Columbia Masterworks 11525-D
ANDANTE 2986-89 [4 CDs: 64.06+68.29+70.11+68.06]

Stokowski sets are coming thick and fast from Andante. This is the third Iíve reviewed so far. Continuing features of excellence are the book format, clear discographic details, such as would satisfy even the most microscopically demanding historicist, and discerning choice of repertoire. This is especially acute in Stokowskiís case because of his sometimes frequent remakes of the same pieces. One of the features of his recorded legacy is the repetition of favoured works across the span of sixty years so as to take advantage of changes in recording technique (acoustic, electric, Phase 4 etc). Another welcoming feature is the splendid body of sound extracted from the 78s and the general excellence of the copies used here along with the booklet notes in English, French and German. One of the novelties of this set is the accompanying illustrations of composers done so as to represent portrait doodles on ledger, stave and graph paper Ė are these by Donald Colley? They make a change, anyway.

I hope a few pointers to this set will steer the Stokowski devotee or acolyte in the right direction. A fortnight ago I reviewed the Stokowski/London Symphony 1964 Phase 4 recording of Scheherazade, a sonic ear blaster of spectacular immediacy. There was yet one more recording of it to come in 1975 and Testament has the 1951 recording with the Philharmonia in its catalogue. Going back, Biddulph issued the first complete Scheherazade (in 1927) Ė there were acoustic extracts Ė but Andante has gone sensibly for the "missing" one, the 1934 recording. Many will prefer the increased sonic range of this one and Stokowskiís more languorous expansiveness but I find the portamenti rather excessive and its uniform application tiring and prefer the earlier tauter recording. Andanteís recording comes into competition with Calaís. To avoid further duplication in The Nutcracker Suite, Andante use the 1926 recording whereas Cala employed the 1934. Thereís little to choose between the two Scheherazade transfers.

The Borodin is in a Stokowski arrangement sans chorus. There are a few cuts and reorchestrations but it works well on its own terms even if for a more authentic appeal one should turn to his 1950 or 1969 recordings (the Borodin has also been released by Biddulph and Dutton). His Bizet is charming and effective though not superior to Beechamís Ė Iím not sure annotator Jed Distler is right in saying Stokowski only recorded both suites once, in New York in 1952; didnít he record both sets with the National Philharmonic in London in 1976? But back in 1929 he phrased the Adagietto marvellously even if he did interpolate the Danse provençale from the second suite. The Carnival of the Animals utilises the 1929 traversal in preference to the 1939 (a decision also endorsed by Biddulph in their Stokowski series). The later recording imparted a certain hardness to the piano sound and I find the 1929 piano soloists a more convincing pairing. Iím glad we get the 1926 Nutcracker. Pearl has released the 1934 set but I agree entirely with Distler on the merits of this earlier recording and the stunningly good sound. When one thinks how Victor struggled with Stokyís early electrics the previous year (on Biddulph) the technical advance was truly staggering. This was Victor No. 3 by the way, with marvellously evocative string playing and luscious portamenti.

There are plenty more pleasures abounding in this 4 CD box. The Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody makes its first CD appearance (the earlier 1926-27 recording has garnered re-release on Biddulph, Magic Talent and Grammofono). This later recording is powerful and energised and though I do lean to the earlier one as a performance Iím more than pleased that we have now been given the opportunity to appreciate this one. Stokowski was a fine Sibelian and we have evidence here. The Swan of Tuonela is the first of his four recordings and probably the best and most magical (I believe this 1929 recording was one of those also issued on an experimental 33 ⅓ transcription disc). The Scriabin recordings date from 1932. The Poem of Ecstasy was a feature of his concert life - and three commercial discs exist; this one, and those from Houston in 1959 and Prague in 1972 along with a live RPO from 1969. His Scriabin is not over emoted at all and I was interested to read in Distlerís notes that the depression era Philadelphians were reduced in number for recording sessions and closely miked to accommodate it. Also we are told that there were no retakes at all in the Scriabin sessions; was that decision driven by finance, one wonders, as much as a tribute to the orchestraís luminous excellence.

The DvořŠk New World is the familiar 1934 inscription. The 1925 early electric was buffeted by tuba reinforcements and is something of a trial but the rapid remake two years later was more like it. Itís a question of taste as to which you will prefer, should the 1940 All American, 1947 His Symphony Orchestra and 1973 New Philharmonia not be your cup of tea. This is also claimed as a first ever CD release but Iím not so sure as I think that there has been a Japanese Stokowski Society release and also, I think, one on Grammofono. Iíve never really been convinced by Stokowskiís Strauss. His New York 1950 Tod and Verklärung which I reviewed on Cala is not impressive and nor incidentally is the 1941 traversal with the All American Symphony. Jed Distler posits this as the finest of the three and itís true that with the Philadelphia one gets the most marvellous playing and probably the best interpretation but thatís all the recommendation I can honestly give it as a performance. But elsewhere we have inimitable Stokowski touches Ė glorious Bach transcriptions, a Stokowski-Shostakovich Prelude and a beautifully phrased Tchaikovsky Solitude.

Above all there is the Stokowski-Philadelphia magic at work (only a couple of items are with the All-Americans) and with such splendid sounding originals and such gap-filling items I canít really imagine Stokowski admirers resisting this latest tempter from Andante.

Jonathan Woolf

 



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