Cala are a firm with
a mission. There are no half measures
for them. They have done sterling work
for Stokowski with support from The
Leopold Stokowski Society and this continues
with the present disc.
The RVW-Stokie connection
has been well documented by Cala. CACD
0537 gave us a fine Sixth Symphony.
included his Fourth and now we have
the Ninth. Are there more to come? I
This performance of
the Vaughan Williams Ninth was
the U.S. premiere of the work. Only
one year previously Stokowski had conducted
the Eighth Symphony with the LSO at
the Royal Festival Hall.
The Symphony is recorded
with gripping if unsubtle immediacy.
Of course it is in mono and the Carnegie
patrons are prone to coughing. For these
reasons this must be counted as a supplementary
version for enthusiasts of conductor
and composer alike.
It is given a rattlingly
good performance with a shimmering sense
of fantasy and gob-smackingly idiosyncratic
saxophone playing. Stokie does not stint
on lyricism either: in the first movement
try, at 7.10, the sweetly intoned solo
violin. At 2.30 no-one has released
such a sweet cantilena and this
aspect returns in the quick string lullaby
at 1.35. The trumpet solo at 7.50 (I)
has more Quiet City overtones
than we may be accustomed to in this
work. The tricky rhythmic complexity
in the 'Chinese march' at the start
of the second movement foxes the players
(1.34). Stokowski's finale loses focus
and meanders but gathers itself at the
end regaining this enigmatic work’s
and jazzy New Dance ripples with
angular energy and punch. Every instrumental
detail is transparently laid out. Riegger
shows no sign of his grave dissonant
persona. The crashing energy, related
to the hammered out explosive rhythms
of Roy Harris, must surely have been
influenced by Harris. The Creston
Toccata has that boisterous
high-lying exuberance we hear in Roussel.
However Creston he projects more humanity.
Rumba-like jazzy figuration runs riot
through the piece. It is more plushly
orchestrated than the Riegger. Creston's
dashing persona has the ascendancy.
He is also a doughty lyrical writer
but that facet is left to one side here.
This work was written as a display vehicle
for the Cleveland Orchestra.
Hovhaness's music. Although it
was Reiner and the Chicagoan who made
the premiere recording of Mysterious
Mountain it was Stokowski and Houston
Orchestra who commissioned and premiered
the work in 1955. Previously Stokowski
had premiered Hovhaness's First Symphony
The Exile with the NBC SO in
1942 with the world premiere having
been given by Leslie Heward on the BBC.
Stokowski is not of the view that ‘mysterious’
equals ‘slow’ for he takes the listener
through this symphony in under nineteen
minutes. The filmic glimmer and veiled
shifting harmonic writing for strings
à la Tallis in the two
outer movements is blessed with Hovhaness's
hieratic solo trumpet and other brass
writing as well as chiming celesta.
The central panel, with its fast-singing
temple strings, recalls Martinů
and even Suk although without the variety
they would each have brought. At the
heart of this section there is a fugally
darting and streaming passage for massed
The project is crowned
by two atmospheric and heart-warming
photos - one of a beaming Stokowski
with RVW; the other of the conductor
with Riegger, Creston, Hovhaness and
Oliver Daniel. Daniel’s Estate, together
with the Library of Congress and Voice
of America (who made the original discs),
made this release possible.
Each performance includes
For recordings almost
five decades old these tapes are in
good heart. The first movement of the
RVW symphony suffers a few tremors and
at 1.29 in the central movement of the
Hovhaness there is momentary damage
but everything else is vivid and secure.
Live performances brimming
with ardent power and fantasy in the
case of the two symphonies. The Riegger
and Creston are rife with lusty energy
- display rather than emotional expression.