of Stokowski’s Tchaikovsky 5 will know that he left behind
quite a few examples of his way with it. Real collectors
will probably be able to recite the rosary of recordings – the
fabled acoustic second movement (only) from 1923 in Philadelphia,
followed by the complete symphony a decade later. Then
there were the cinematic forays – One Hundred Men and
which gave us the fourth movement and the 1947
film Carnegie Hall
which offered an abridgement
of the slow movement. I’ve always been intrigued by the
unpublished 1946 Hollywood Bowl – maybe it will appear – as
well as the unpublished 1949 New York Philharmonic traversal.
In the 50s there were the NDR, on CD a few times now, the
Detroit from the same year, a Victor set with ‘his’ Symphony
Orchestra, the 1955 SDR. In England he recorded it with
the New Philharmonia in 1966, then the following year with
the American Symphony. Theo van der Burg has put the International
Youth Festival performance from 1973 on CD. So he had a
certain, if inconsistent, track record, some being truncations.
But Stokowski playing Tchaikovsky is never going to be
a problem, only a blessing. The only question is; how many
blessings do you need in your collection?
in Studio 8H this NBC performance is full of Stokowski’s
never exaggerated Slavonic expressivity. There is freedom
but it’s couched within architectural parameters, and there
is assuredly a confluence of legato lyricism and dramatic,
theatrical tension. The NBC’s well-established section
principals are on hand to support Stokowski, who took the
Slavonic end of the repertoire whilst Toscanini reserved
things such as Brahms for himself. The horn, clarinet and
bassoon are eloquent in the slow movement. In the finale
there is renewed drama and a surge-wave of volatile dynamism.
not in fact the symphony that illustrates the chiaroscuro
element of the conductor’s way with Tchaikovsky so much
as the 1943 recording of the Tempest
. This was performed
a year later than the symphony. The skirling strings and
taut horns, the strong bass line, are all grist to Stoky’s
mill but even so little prepares one for the stunning appearance
(around 7:00) of the most succulent and curvaceous legato
imaginable, all the while lapped and flickered by gorgeously
wicked portamenti. Seldom did Stokowski flirt with kitsch
phrasing more than here and it’s a question of taste as
to how far one follows him. For Dionysians though this
is the alpha and omega of such things; the musical equivalent
of a vat of Belgian chocolate. Me – well, I love chocolate.
the same concert that produced the symphony Stokowski also
unveiled The Storm
a relatively youthful effort
that reveals its structural looseness rather too often.
Stokowski returned neither to this, nor perhaps surprisingly
to The Tempest
so it is hugely valuable to have
them here coupled with the performance of the symphony.
There is also an interesting sideline in the shape of Samuel
Chotzinoff’s radio introduction in which he runs some dubious
thoughts regarding Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich up the
flagpole of popular opinion.
I make no great secret of my admiration of Stokowski, nor
of such important restorations as this, I can only add
that the sound, given the early 1940s Studio 8H provenance,
is perfectly serviceable.
see also review by Ralph