These two tapes from
the 1964 Proms are in many ways valuable retrievals and I have
been churlishly slow in reporting back.
Stokowski is one of
those conductors who can be fascinatingly successful and can
just as fascinatingly leave the listener surprised and disappointed.
He had given four of
Shostakovich's symphonies their USA premieres during the period 1928 to 1958 (1, 1928; 3,
1932; 6, 1940; 11, 1958). He clearly knew his stuff.
This Proms version
of Shostakovich 5 in a very lively ambience with the odd shuffle
and cough is with the LSO. It has plenty of life and that essential
rawness is there in some quantity. There is no deficit of eager
savagery in the final movement.
Overall I found this
more interesting and intermittently engaging rather than consistently
gripping although the finale has a fine trampingly relentless
energy. My slightly cooled reaction is not echoed by the audience
(nor by Ian Lace - see comparative review) who greet the performance
with real enthusiasm.
Williams is always worth having. In the first movement Stokowski
who had, at this time, performed six of the nine symphonies
for American audiences keeps up the tight rhythmic control.
The performance is full of tension but idyllically relaxed for
example at 3:12 in the first movement. Is the accelerator too far down
in the second movement e.g. at 00.45 where the music moves at
such a lick it more often sounds like Shostakovich than RVW.
Stokowski finds an ethereal distancing in the Cavatina
but melodically speaking it is not the strongest of the composer's
inspirations - not a patch on e.g. the middle movement of the
Tuba Concerto. The finale is rousingly raucous with chimes and
percussion chatter caught between RVW's own Sinfonia Antartica
and Britten's Prince of the Pagodas. Again the applause
Michael Jameson's notes
are packed with freshly collected information. An object lesson
in ringing the changes and also informing and enriching the
Neither of these retrievals
are totally compelling. A flame certainly intensely lights up
many passages in the Shostakovich. The Vaughan Williams work
is best heard, I think, in Barbirolli's studio version still
available in a British double from Dutton.
This disc is more for
completists whether in pursuit of RVW, Shostakovich or that
old magician Stokowski.
see also Review
by Ian Lace