Johann Sebastian BACH (1685 - 1750) / Leopold STOKOWSKI (1882
Transcriptions - Volume 2 (1929 - 1950)
Overture (Suite) No. 2 in B minor, BWV 1067 [25.48]
Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV 147: Chorale: Jesus bleibet meine Freude
(Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring) [3:38]
Was mir behagt, BWV 208, "Hunt Cantata": Aria: Sheep may safely graze
Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248, Part II: Sinfonia, "Hirtenmusik" (Shepherds'
Violin Partita No. 3 in E major, BWV 1006: 1 Preludio [3:40]
Overture (Suite) No. 3 in D major, BWV 1068: 2 Air, "Air on a G String" [6:13]
Fantasia and Fugue in G minor, BWV 542: 2 Fugue [6:24]
Mein Jesu! was vor Seelenweh, BWV 487 [4:39]
St John Passion, BWV 245, Part II: Aria: Es ist vollbracht! [9:11]
Christ lag in Todesbanden, BWV 4: Chorale: Jesus Christus Gottes Sohn [4:02]
All-American Youth Orchestra Leopold Stokowski (Preludio in E), Julius Baker
(flute), Leopold Stokowski Symphony Orchestra, Leopold Stokowski (Suite No.2),
Leopold Stokowski Symphony Orchestra, Leopold Stokowski (Jesu, Joy of Man's
Desiring, Sheep may safely graze), Philadelphia Orchestra, Leopold Stokowski
(Air on a G String, Es ist vollbracht!, Fantasia and Fugue, Jesus Christus
Gottes Sohn, Mein Jesu! was vor Seelenweh and Shepherds' Music)
rec. 30 April and 1 May 1929, Academy of Music, Philadelphia (Shepherds’ Music),
7 April 1934, Trinity Church Studio No. 2, Camden, New Jersey, USA (Fantasia
and Fugue), 15 January 1936, Academy of Music, Philadelphia, USA (Air on a
G String), 28 November 1936, Academy of Music, Philadelphia, USA (Mein Jesu!
was vor Seelenweh), 5 April 1937, Academy of Music, Philadelphia, USA (Jesus
Christus Gottes Sohn), 8 December 1940, Academy of Music, Philadelphia, USA
(Es ist vollbracht!), 8 August 1950, Manhattan Center, New York City, USA (Jesu
Joy and Sheep may safely graze), 12-14 September 1950 Manhattan Center, New
York City, USA (Suite No.2) ADD
NAXOS 8.112019 [77:26]
I love the Stokowski transcriptions, and not just the Bach works he worked
on, but the Mussorgsky, Debussy, Shostakovich, Rachmaninov and so many more.
It is the Bach transcriptions which are perhaps the best known. This is for
two reasons. First, there are more Bach transcriptions than arrangements of
other composers. Second, the Stokowski version of the Toccata and Fugue
in D minor is know to almost everyone, from the film Fantasia, where
it is used to accompany a series of flashes of light, in a very early example
of “wow, man, chill out and look at this” kind of psychedelia.
This disk contains many old favourites and one real discovery. The find is
the complete recording of the 2nd Suite for
flute and strings. Stokowski has been very restrained here, for his arrangement,
such as it, simply inflates the string section and varies the dynamic rather
more than one would have expected in the original. I particularly enjoyed Sheep
may safely graze, despite some grotesque rallentandi, for it contains exquisite
oboe and flute playing. The Preludio from the 3rd Violin
Partita is particularly scintillating, the famous Air on the G string is
far too richly scored and is totally enjoyable, whilst the Fugue, from
the Fantasia and Fugue in G minor, is very well done.
This is a most welcome and timely reminder, if one were really needed, of just
what a wizard Stokowski was when it came to directing his own transcriptions.
The recent Serebrier CD of transcriptions (Naxos 8.557883) was very good but
no-one but Stokowski had that very special magic which shines through every
bar of his music-making and makes his recordings so elemental.
If I have one complaint it is that the transfers are so good that there is
no surface noise from any of the discs used for this re-issue and some of the
bloom at the very top of the frequency range is missing. Thus the sound is
a little cramped and the recordings don’t sparkle quite as much as they
should. This is always a problem when too much of the background is removed.
It affects the bloom of the sound, and also, to my ears at least, the sound
on the 2nd Suite becomes tiresome because it
is so clear and free from anything apart from the music. These recordings need
a little of the background noise because, oddly enough, those old surfaces,
of 78s and early LPs, are an integral part of the sound of these sound transcriptions.
It’s different if you’re making a new recording. But I still have
to recommend this disk for it is essential listening. They don’t make
them like Stokowski any more!