get one thing clear from the start: if you’re one of the
politically correct brigade you can stop reading now and
pop off and listen to a couple of guys having great fun
with their cittarones playing some anonymous 14th
Flemish duets with original performance techniques to the
however, you want to hear full-blooded orchestral sound,
sumptuous as a warm water-bed, and equally as satisfying,
then stay with me, shout “Political correctness be damned!” and
enjoy this disk.
as I have mentioned elsewhere, is still thought of by many
as a charlatan, who was less of a musician than a self–serving
showman. Nothing could be further from the truth. Stokowski
was one of the
great conductors whose every breathing
thought was for music – forget Mickey Mouse, Deanna Durbin
and the many women with whom he was associated – and for
bringing unusual, unjustly neglected and new works to the
public’s attention. As organist and director of the choir
at St Bartholomew’s Church in New York City, from 1905,
he would have known and played many of Bach’s organ works.
His desire for them to be better known led to some of his
transcriptions – and they were made by him, not by an anonymous
hand with Stokowski simply signing the completed manuscripts.
This was done in order to bring them into the concert halls,
and to a larger music-loving public. The same applies to
the many other transcriptions he made of other works by
Bach and other composers. In light of this, his well known “touching-up” of
acknowledged scores by later composers cannot be seen as
mere tampering. His love of the music, and expertise in
orchestral technique and sound, made him feel free to aid
the composer who didn’t have at his disposal the resources
that Stokowski had at his. Added to all this is the fact
that as a conductor - and I admit that I have only ever
heard recordings of the man’s work, I was never blessed
with experiencing one of his performances in the flesh
- his performances are quite electrifying. They always
grab the listener with his sincerity and sheer enthusiasm.
made many recordings of his transcriptions over the years.
Some of his earliest Philadelphia recordings are now available
on a four CD Music and Arts set (CD-1173). These are obviously the touchstone
by which all other recordings must stand, or fall. This
is a marvellously varied collection of well, and less well,
known Stokowski transcriptions ranging from the gloriously
technicoloured Toccata and Fugue in D minor to the delightful,
and quite beautiful, “Boccherini Minuet”.
recently as January this year I was privileged to hear
a magnificent Tchaikovsky concert by the Royal Philharmonic
Orchestra conducted by José Serebrier.
The passion and depth he brought to the music-making on
that occasion was intense and very exciting. He brings
the same qualities to bear on these performances. Serebrier
knew and worked with Stokowski – he was one of the two
assistant conductors on Stokowski’s recording of Ives’s
monumental 4th Symphony. Stokowski also
conducted composer Serebrier’s 1st Symphony.
His knowledge of Stokowski, the man and the musician shines
through in these performances.
what of this disk? It’s fantastic. Do not be without it.
I can confirm, without hesitation, that these performances
can stand comparison with Stokowski’s own recordings. Great
orchestral playing, superb direction, fantastic sound and
very good notes, by Edward Johnson, CEO
of the Stokowski Society. What more could you want? Fabulous.
Reviews of other Stokowski transcriptions on Naxos
Bach Volume 1