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CD Premieres: Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra
(all except symphonies arr. Stokowski, or as noted)
Antonio VIVALDI (1675-1741)

Concerto Grosso Op. 11 No. 3 [12.43]
rec. 12 November 1934
Giovanni de PALESTRINA (c.1525-1594)

Adoramus Te [3.12]
rec. 12 November 1934
Girolamo FRESCOBALDI (1583-1643)

Gagliarda [3.25]
rec. 22 October 1934
Jean-Bapriste LULLY (1632-1687)

Le Triomphe de l’Amour (1681): Nocturne [4.48]; Alceste (1674): Prelude [1.25]; Thésée (1675): March [1.00]
rec. 30 April 1930
William BYRD (1543-1623)

Pavane and Gigue [4.40]
rec. 19 April 1937
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)

Chandos Anthem No. 2 (1717): Overture [6.25]
rec. 10 December 1935
Messiah (1744): Pastorale Symphony [4.17]
rec. 15 March 1930
Water Music: Suite (arr. Harty, arr. Stokowski) [16.36]
rec. 12 November 1934
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)

Toccata and Fugue in d, BWV 565 (1708) [9.28]
rec. 26 November 1934
Ich ruf’ zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ, BWV 639 () [4.17]
St. John Passion, BWV 245 (1725): Es ist vollbracht [8.01]
Ein Feste Burg, BWV 80: Chorale [1.47]
Passacaglia and Fugue in c, BWV 582 [14.19]
rec. 1 May 1929
Luigi BOCCHERINI (1743-1805)

String Quartet, Op. 13 No. 5: Minuet [2.37]
rec. 4 May 1929
Franz Joseph HAYDN attr. (1732-1809)

String Quartet Op. 3 No. 5 (1777): andante cantabile [3.31]
rec. 4 May 1929
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Symphony No. 5 in c, Op 67 (1808) [31.47]
rec. 15 July 1931
Cesar FRANCK (1822-1890)

Symphony in d, Op (1888) [39.41] {prefaced by spoken outline of themes, accompanied by Artur Rodzinsky at the piano [2.56]}
rec. 11 October 1927
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)

Nocturnes (1899): Nuages [9.06]
rec. 2 May 1929
Nocturnes (1899): Fêtes [5.54]
rec. 11 October 1927
Suite Bergamasque (1905): Clair de lune [5.14]
rec. 5 April 1937
Prélude à l’Après-Midi d’un Faun (1894) [10.30]
rec. 8 December 1940
Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826)

Invitation to the Dance (1819/61) (orch. Berlioz, arr. Stokowski) [8.01]
rec. 19 April 1937
Johannes BRAHMS (1831-1897)

Symphony No. 4 in e, Op. 98 (1885) [38.42]
rec. 18 April 1934 except side 1 only, 4 March 1933.
Hungarian Dance No. 1 (1873) [3.25]
rec. 17 March 1934
Johann STRAUSS II (1825-1899)

On the Beautiful Blue Danube (1867) [4.28]
Tales from the Vienna Woods (1868) [4.48]
rec. 9 April 1939
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)

Salome (1905): Dance of the Seven Veils [9.41]
rec. 1 May 1929
John Philip SOUSA (1854-1932)

El Capitan (1896) [2.16]
Stars and Stripes Forever (1896) [3.22]
rec. 27 September 1929
Philadelphia Orchestra/Leopold Stokowski
rec. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Camden, New Jersey, USA, 1926-37
Notes in English, photos of conductor, matrix numbers.
MUSIC AND ARTS PRODUCTIONS OF AMERICA CD1173 [58.42 + 75.54 + 73.27 + 74.52]
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Comparison recordings:
Leopold Stokovsky [sic] The Great Philadelphia Wagner Recordings [ADD] Andromeda ANDRCD 5030

These transfers by Mark Obert-Thorn are good but not perfect and suffer in comparison with the spectacularly good anonymous transfers presented on the noted recent Andromeda release. We have subtle but audible hiss/crackle and at least five occasions where a thump or click could have been removed but wasn’t. Apart from these slight noises, the transfers are clear, wide range, and quite musical. I am aware that some persons prefer a slightly ragged sound to old recordings for reasons of nostalgia, and no-one ought to try to argue with taste.

The Vivaldi is presented here in the full orchestra version commonly encountered at the time of the recording; for Stokowski’s later recording in stereo he used a more up-to-date version using smaller forces. Lully ballet excerpts were also familiar in an orchestral suite arrangement for modern orchestra credited to conductor Felix Mottl, but I recall that some of the actual selections in that suite were different from the ones recorded here. Stokowski recordings of the great Brahms and Beethoven Symphonies were generally no more exaggerated in their phrasing and dynamics that those by other conductors of the period, sometimes less so. His recordings with the Philadelphia Orchestra of the Sousa marches were famous in their time as patriotic gestures, but are hardly any more vigorous than other symphonic band versions. It was in the extremely slow versions of old melodies, most notoriously Bach’s Komm Süsser Tod, not recorded in this set, that the Stokowski trademark showed most vividly. Byrd, Handel, and Frescobaldi would hardly recognize their own music! On scratchy old 78s, or even scratchy old LPs, they were unendurable, but CD transfers allow us to try to enjoy them now for the first time. At the time, I believe, most persons bought the recordings, as they bought most symphonic recordings, to recall to them an experience of hearing the music live in the concert hall.

It is a pleasure to have these classic recordings available, to listen to the Philadelphia Orchestra strings sliding unabashedly from note to note, to hear the barely post-adolescent fifty-year-old Stokowski pouring his "youthful" energy into his work. Only now, with these and other really good transfers available, can I see what some other critics have said, that Stokowski may not have lost very much of his special abilities in his doting old age, but he had a little more fun in the early years. On the other hand, it would be difficult to really enjoy these recordings if one didn’t have the later ones to compare, and to return to, for it is difficult in any instance here to say that the old recording is really better, really a more satisfactory listening experience. A case is the Franck Symphony. Many disparage the Decca stereo version, in fact Decca even declined at first to re-issue it on CD, but I can’t see any advantage over it in the earlier recordings, or even in the recorded broadcast performance contemporary with the recording sessions. For all its slightly tinkered-with sound, it carries more of the music in it, and is, for better or worse, how Stokowski wanted us to hear it.

A real collector will appreciate that the photos of Stokowski in the booklet are mostly new to me and I thought I had them all.

Paul Shoemaker

see also review by Jonathan Woolf


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