Stokowski's urge to transcribe was insatiable:
over 200 works in total. To a large
degree one's reaction is personal –
either they are great fun or distasteful.
Take the Night on a Bare Mountain
that opens this disc – the opening is
spectral, almost hallucinogenic here.
Some effects are clearly over-the-top:
trombone whoops, a slithery descent
to the depths – 7'15; or orchestral
'screaming' - 5'35 etc. One thing soon
becomes apparent – this release is a
gift if one wishes to demonstrate top-class
recording quality. That is pretty much
what we have here - courtesy of Neil
Paker and Phil Rowlands, both names
new to me. The Bournemouth Symphony
Orchestra, too, relishes every mouth-watering
The Entr'acte to Act
IV of Khovanshchina is both dark
and imposing. Serebrier brings a feeling
of space (almost 'stretching') to the
musical fabric. This is wonderful.
were a Stokowski 'thing'. The Boris
example here is a case in point, and
it is difficult to imagine a more loving
performance than this one. Slow passages
are lovingly shaped, while the Coronation
music has a sense of space as well as
celebration about it. In contrast, there
are real pianissimi around the 13 minute
mark, a true oasis of peace. As one
listens, it becomes increasingly apparent
that Serebrier understands as no-one
else apart from the transcriber himself
the aesthetic basis of this music. From
this comes a sense of significance as
the music unfolds, seemingly inevitably
- Stokowski is wonderful at 'stitching
bits together'. Oh, and if you want
to show off your hi-fi, the almighty
crescendo preceding 22'38 is the place
to do it.
in the smoothest of fashions with single-line
strings soon fleshed out into the full
section. There are almost frightening
brass crescendos in 'Gnomus' to ensure
fullest contrast to the pppp
second Promenade. A sax-less
'Old Castle' leads to a fast-paced 'Bydlo'
(Polish Ox-Wagon), with a real tramp
to the lower strings. The 'Ballet of
the Chicks in their Shells' is rather
slow and careful, however; better is
'Goldberg and Schmuyle', with its well-recorded
lower strings. But the crowning glories
of this Pictures are the final
two movements. 'The Hut on Fowl's Legs'
is certainly exciting, and the recording
is so analytical it leaves you breathless.
It sounds like fun was had by all, too.
The 'Great Gate' is massively impressive
because Serebrier does not play up the
cushion of sound effects. Mysterious
passages verge, once more, on the fantastical.
The huge crescendo at the end is the
icing on the cake.
The Tchaikovsky transcriptions
are little worlds in their own right,
delivered here with great affection.
The 'Humoresque' is rather jolly, while
'Solitude' reaches the status of mini-Symphonic
Poem. The Traditional Slavic Christmas
Music is based on Ippolitov-Ivanov's
In a Manger - itself based on
a Christmas Hymn. Scored for brass and
strings only, there is a certain mesmeric
aspect that lends the work a depth of
Detailed notes by the
conductor and by Edward Johnson of The
Stokowski Society round out a superb
release. No wonder this is Naxos's self-appointed
CD of the Month for September.
The 'bonus' disc includes
13 excerpts from previous Naxos releases.
All the favourites of the Russian repertoire
are there, from the Sabre Dance to Ruslan
and Ludmilla, from that pesky Bumble-Bee
to that Gadfly.
also review by Jonathan Woolf