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Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra - CD Premieres
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)

Concerto Grosso in D Minor from Op. 3 No.11 [12.43]
Giovanni Pierluigi da PALESTRINA (1525/6-1594)
Adoramus te [3.12]
Girolamo FRESCOBALDI (1583 –1643)
Gagliarda [3.25]
Jean-Baptiste LULLY (1632-1687)
Le Triomphe de l‚Amour: Nocturne; Alceste: Prelude; Thesee: March [7.13]
William BYRD (1543-1623)
Pavane and Gigue [4.40]
Georg Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Overture in D Minor [Chandos Anthem No.2] [6.25]
Messiah - Pastoral Symphony [4.17]
Water Music Suite [16.36]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Toccata and Fugue in D Minor BWV 565 [9.28]
Ich ruf‚zu dir, Herr Jesus Christ Chorale Prelude BWV 639 [4.17]
Es ist Vollbracht – from St John Passion BWV 245 [8.01]
Ein feste Burg from Cantata No.80 BWV 80 [1.47]
Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor BWV 582 [14.19]
Luigi BOCCHERINI (1743-1805)
Minuet from String Quartet in E major Op.13 No.5 [2.37]
Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Andante cantabile from String Quartet in E major Op.3 No. 4
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67 [31.47]
Cesar FRANCK (1822-1890)
Symphony in D Minor [39.41] (with Outline of Themes spoken by Stokowski, played by Artur Rodzinski (piano)) [2.56]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Nocturnes – Nuages [9.06] and Fetes [5.54]
Clair de Lune [5.14]
Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun [10.30]
Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826)
Invitation to the Dance – orchestrated Berlioz/Stokowski [8.01]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1898)
Symphony No. 4 in E Minor, Op. 98 [38.42]
Hungarian Dance No. 1 [3.25]
Johann. STRAUSS II (1825-1899)
On the Beautiful, Blue Danube (abridged) – Waltz Op.314 [4.28]
Tales from the Vienna Woods (abridged) – Waltz Op.325
Richard. STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Dance of the Seven Veils from Salome [9.41]
John Philip SOUSA (1854-1932)
El Capitan March [2.16]
The Stars and Stripes Forever [3.22]
Philadelphia Orchestra/Leopold Stokowski
all except Beethoven, Franck, Debussy Nocturnes, prelude, Brahms Symphony, Strauss and Sousa are in orchestrations/arrangements by Stokowski
Recorded 1927-39
MUSIC & ARTS CD-1173 [4 CDs: 58.42 + 75.54 + 73.27 + 74.52]
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There have been Stokowski-Philadelphia rarity discs before – one remembers the Stokowski Society disc of the same name, largely replicated on Cala – but Music & Arts here gives us a four-disc box. I’d rate it a very useful mopping-up exercise for the Stokowski Completist and if that sounds like damning with specialist taste it’s not supposed to. It’s more a reflection of the fact that many of these performances were multiply recorded over the years by Stokowski, sometimes with the Philadelphia, sometimes not. And whereas in that other Cala disc we could listen to real reportorial rarity – Arcady Dubensky, Harl McDonald, Hidemaro Konoye’s Japanese arrangement, Henry Eichheim’s Symphonic Variations and the like - here the rep is pretty much standard. There’s the Franck Symphony and Beethoven’s Fifth and Brahms’ Fourth, all of which are known quantities – except of course for the fact that these and everything else in this set is making its CD premiere.

Vivaldi is heard in a big-boned and muscular performance tinged with Technicolor but much more impressive is the sensitive Lully which makes a fine analogue to Beecham’s more elfin and luxuriant moments in his Handel "Ballet" reclamations. There’s a similar sense of refinement and string magic and a delicious sense of perfectly calibrated warmth. His Byrd is sumptuously melancholic, the Handel Chandos Anthem overture has a touch more surface noise than most in this disc, and the Water Music Suite a pleasure to have though no improvement over the Harty, either in orchestration or in performance.

The Bach items have thus far escaped the CD reissue net so it’s welcome haul to have them collated here, no matter that you will doubtless know them from other, probably more recent, recordings. The St John Passion extract has superb string burnish and portamento and gallant winds and Ein feste Burg, as ever with Stokowski, embodies inimitable and overwhelming grandeur. A note at this point; tracks two and three have been mixed up. There’s salon-ish brace of souped up quartet movements – Boccherini and Haydn – though the latter just about makes it by virtue of some rather outsize dynamic shading. The second disc concludes with Beethoven’s Fifth, a poor performance. Rugged and emphatic it has a rhetorical flourish unmatched by any defining sense of direction. Things are needlessly exaggerated.

Much more to my liking in its hothouse way is his Franck, prefaced by his own comments (and Rodzinski’s piano illustrations) in an Outline of Themes disc. This is the only performance in the set that I’ve been able to compare with any previous issue; not having any of the 78s I listened to an American Stokowski Society LP made by Ward Marston [LSSA-3], which contained both the Outline and the Symphony amongst other goodies. I can say that Mark Obert-Thorn, Marston’s partner in transfer engineering crime, has effected a big improvement. There’s more surface noise, granted, but the string definition is palpable and a real improvement in clarity. As for the performance those who know the much later Stokowski/Hilversum performance should be aware that with the Philadelphia he was a good four minutes quicker and more febrile all round. The 1927 sound is not that good, there’s some scuffing and a boomy bass line, and I prefer Monteux and Beecham among his contemporaries as a Franck conductor. But no matter – it’s valuable to have it.

His Nocturnes – the two recorded on this occasion – are gloriously evocative and atmospheric and more intense than the remake, when he included the chorus in the full version. Clair de lune is naughtily luscious and the Prelude has a tender Tristanesque patina I admire but can’t prefer to Beecham’s slightly earlier recording with his LPO.

The final disc includes a disappointing dead loss of a Brahms 4. The band sounds third rate, the portamenti are unusually pervasive and the recording quality was not good (inaudible percussion are not the least of it). It was originally recorded onto 7 10" records – an unusual practice given the work – and it was apparently never issued on 78 (though John Hunt in his Stokowski discography claims it was issued in Chile in this form). The first matrix, missing, has been replaced by a 1933 Stokowski remake. There’s a hammy Brahms Hungarian Dance that would have embarrassed the potted plants and some better morceaux, notably a brace of (cut) Strauss Waltzes, Salome and Sousa.

In all then a four-for-the-price-of-three deal for Stokowskians and one that restores overlooked recordings to the catalogue. The biggest works come off worst. But the transfers cope well with sometimes restricted sonics and Richard Freed has covered discographic ground with assiduous devotion. Good for Stokowskians but as for the non-partisan listener it’s a bit of a glass half-empty, glass half-full sort of set.

Jonathan Woolf


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