I’m going to repeat
myself; you can never have too many Stokowski-Scheherazades.
See my review of the Cala
release of the 1964 recording for some specifics of that one,
which is now in direct competition with the historic 1934 Philadelphia
(for historic specialists and completists a thoroughly mandatory
purchase, not least for Alexander Hilsberg’s violin solos) and
the 1951 Philharmonia which is on Testament (I’m not sure if the
1927 early electric is currently available).
The issue of contention
in the 1964 LSO traversal was the use of Phase 4 which resulted
in the well-known gigantism and acoustic spotlighting of individual
instruments. No such quirks afflict this later reading, which
was overseen by Christopher Parker and Anthony Salvatore.
was once more in the leader’s chair, this time of the RPO. His
playing is as seductively sweet as one could wish. It’s a moot
point as to whether one prefers his earlier self or the more mature
musician. I happen to think it’s a close run thing but I’d opt
for 1975. Stokowski was nearing the end of his long life and some
stories have emerged of distressing recording sessions in which
he lacked concentration. Here he is very much on home territory
and seems on commanding, if sometimes idiosyncratic form. He builds
crescendos in the opening movement, pushes tempi along and gives
rein to the fulsome violin and cello solos; the clarinet principal
is also fine here; one should also note in passing the delicacy
and expressive tact of Gruenberg’s diminuendi. One curious feature
of the disc is the way in which the first movement segues straight
into the second without a pause.
his first movement is brisk, certainly brisker than in 1934 and
1964 for instance; not quite as quick as Reiner but quick. In
The Story of the Kalendar
Prince one feels that one or two of the metrical adjustments
seem over-calculated and not quite natural; certainly there’s
a passage for the strings that feels altogether too unspontaneous,
though it’s good that he felt the confidence to tighten the tempi
as against the 1964 recording once again – not by much but just
enough. Affectionate and warm, if occasionally italicised and
rather too full of little nudges of the line, The Young Prince and the Young Princess might be the only movement
where one could feel ambivalent, rather than merely doubtful.
But given these Stokowskisms one can still bask in the sheer glamorous
headiness of the playing, as one can in the finale with its puncturing
trumpet and driving percussion and, once more, Gruenberg’s evocative
oratory to see us home.
a concert Marche Slave as an encore; here we have
a rip-roaring 1968 Chicago
recorded Russian Easter
Festival Overture – a lot broader than his 1942 NBC recording
by the way but still full of subtle orchestral balance and equally
of power. The recordings sound vivid and atmospheric. In previous
releases there were hints of overload blasting in the final movement
of Scheherazade, which
could lead to some distortion but I didn’t notice any here.