Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)/ Leopold STOKOWSKI (1882 - 1977)
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 [5:36]
Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248, Part II: Sinfonia, "Hirtenmusik" (Shepherds' Music) [8:15]
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]
Various orchestras/Leopold Stokowski
Julius Baker (flute: Suite No. 2)
All-American Youth Orchestra (Preludio in E)
Leopold Stokowski Symphony Orchestra (Suite No.2; 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
rec. 1929-50
NAXOS 8.112019 [77:26]

Marvellous - but now and then overwrought. That’s true, even by Stokowski’s standards of epic Technicolor, in the Ouverture of the Orchestral Suite in B minor, where the eponymous Symphony Orchestra’s basses resound with the kind of Stygian depth that has one reaching for metaphor. In fact I found the whole performance a bit bewildering and I speak as a Stoky man through and through. The Polonaise-Double is delineated but heavy, heavy, heavy. Julius Baker manages to play with adept musicality but even he can do nothing to stop phrase endings derailing. I wouldn’t therefore say that it’s a traincrash of a recording but I will say that it’s no great surprise that it’s something of a rare bird in the Stokowski catalogue, not having been reissued since its first appearance on LM1176. 

Jesus bleibet meine Freude
and Sheep may safely graze were both recorded at the same session in August 1950 and are both richly and warmly cantilevered. The earliest recording in the compilation is the inscription of the Shepherds' Music from the Christmas Oratorio (Philadelphia, 1929), which is splendidly characterised. Launching forward over a decade we find a slightly unusual Hollywood session in 1941 with the All-American Youth Orchestra. The piece was the Preludio from the E major Violin Sonata and the strings are on suitably energised form. Naturally there is a performance of the ‘Air on a G String’ and the luxurious, upholstered Philadelphians dig into it without maidenly blush whereas two years earlier they’d ripped into the Fantasia and Fugue in G minor; this is the most glorious sound imaginable.

And there is the nobility of Mein Jesu! was vor Seelenweh to admire. Es ist vollbracht! from the St John Passion is rather compromised by over-luscious portamenti - another steroid performance - but the final Jesus Christus Gottes Sohn makes amends. It’s famously terrific.

The transfers are first class, and the notes are helpful. The performances remain examples of Stokowskized wizardry - and sometimes less than wizardry - and intensity. 

Jonathan Woolf