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CD & Download: Pristine Classical

Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Symphony No. 5 in e minor, Op. 64 (1888) [47:45]
Eight encores arranged or orchestrated by Stokowski:
Solitude Op.73 No.6 [3:37]
Humoresque Op.10 No.2 [2:02]
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Prelude in E minor Op.28 No.4 [2:29]
Prelude in D minor Op.28 No.24 [2:38]
Georg Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Pastorale from Messiah [4:49]
Mikhail IPPOLITOV-IVANOV (1859-1935)
In A Manger [3:04]
Johann STRAUSS II (1825-1899)
Tales from the Vienna Woods (shortened version) [4:01]
On the Beautiful Blue Danube (shortened version) [3:38]
Leopold Stokowski and his Symphony Orchestra
NBC Symphony Orchestra issued on EP as ‘his Symphony Orchestra’/Leopold Stokowski (Strauss)
rec. 1947-55

Experience Classicsonline

Now that Cala has ended its noble series of Stokowski material, the banner must pass to other companies, to ensure that the discography is fully explored. One such is Pristine Audio, which has already embarked on a revivifying project of its own - Stokowski’s acoustics have already been issued for instance - and they now turn to a recording of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony, coupled with some recordings of encores, which have not previously been transferred to CD.

The Fifth receives a good XR transfer, and is a fine performance. It’s powerful, expressive, and predicated on warmly textured and moulded lyrical cantilever. Guild has recently released a wartime performance of the symphony that Stokowski gave with the NBC and in my review of it I outlined something of the conductor’s performance history of the work on disc. The differences between this 1953 reading and the one made a decade or so earlier are ones of tension and the degree of rhythmic screw-turning that Stokowski extracts in the more obviously visceral earlier inscription. This relative degree of relaxation may prove decisive if one wishes to choose one recording over the other.

The choice is made rather more difficult - or more pleasant, given their rarity - by virtue of the eight other items, all arranged or orchestrated by Stokowski. He brings a rampant sensuality to Tchaikovsky’s Solitude whilst its companion, the Op.10 No.2, is saucily done. The pair of Chopin Preludes has had the purists in arms for many a long year. Certainly the E minor is a study in glowering brass though even this must cede in eccentricity to the Ride of the Valkyries treatment meted out to the D minor with its inclusion of a brilliantly terse trumpet, and orchestral trill of spine rattling proportions. Next to this the Handel Pastorale is sugar-coated and slow as driftless snow. The noble brass in Ippolitov-Ivanov In A Manger reminds me a little of Stokowski’s wonderful Veni veni Emanuel recording with the Philadelphia in the 20s. Finally there are the two shortened Strauss recordings, issued on RCA 45rpms. There’s an electric guitar in these Vienna Woods doing a Third Man impression - and who but a cast iron snob would cavil?

This well conceived act of restoration certainly gets my vote.

Jonathan Woolf



















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