Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
Symphony in C (1958) [38:58]
Howard HANSON (1896-1981)
Symphony No. 4 Requiem [29:50]
Roy HARRIS (1898-1979)
Symphony No. 7 [15:08]
Paul HINDEMITH (1895-1963)
Symphony in E flat (1940) [20:20]
Karl Amadeus HARTMANN (1905-1963)
Symphony No. 2 Adagio [20:08]
Alan HOVHANESS (1911-2000)
Symphony No. 3 Op. 148 (1955) [18:49]
NBC Symphony Orchestra; Symphony of the Air; WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln; Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra/Leopold Stokowski
rec. NBC, Carnegie Hall. St Louis, 1943-56. mono ADD
GUILD GHCD 2379/80 [2CDs: 68:48 + 74:35]
This collection of radio transcriptions is for Stokowskians or fans of the music of these composers. The mono sound is very respectable, clean and by no means primitive but it cannot hope to match modern commercial recordings and there is some distortion at times.
The pulsating acidic Stravinsky symphony suffers some roughness but is in miraculous sound for 1943. The grunt at the start of the Allegretto is startlingly strong and secure. The Hanson dates from 1944 and has the slow-swelling stubborn romanticism typical of this fine composer. That said it is without the overwhelmingly fresh invention of the first two symphonies and the Sixth. This is however a most atmospheric interpretation and although again suffering some sound fragility is very impressive. Stokowski's Dies Irae is driven on with a flaming sjambok - picking up on the Stravinskian echoes. The Harris Seventh Symphony is well worth your attention and study time. Stokowski paces it with slow blooming evolution. This is a splendid performance and can be placed alongside the CBS mono of Ormandy conducting the Philadelphia (now on Albany). For me this symphony, heard in its single movement first version, stands above even the Sibelian First (1933) and the ubiquitous Third. Glorious! The second disc launches with Hindemith's Symphony in E flat written while he was a refugee from Nazi Germany in 1939. He had been a professor at Yale for two years at the time he wrote this and had wholeheartedly adopted his new homeland. This NBC recording is from 1943. The recording is in very good stead indeed whether in exhausting rhetoric or in rolling grand tragedy.
The Hartmann Adagio Symphony (No. 2) is in a single impressive and anxiety-disseminating arch of 20 minutes. Here is one of Henze's exemplars. This is an avant-garde work yet one concerned with the long line rather than a dazzle of mosaic shards and incidents.
Stokowski championed Hovhaness's music for much of his active concert life. Although it was Reiner and the Chicagoans who made the premiere recording of Symphony No. 2 Mysterious Mountain it was Stokowski and the Houston Orchestra who commissioned and premiered it in 1955. Previously he had premiered Hovhaness's First Symphony The Exile with the NBC SO in 1942 - to be heard on GHCD2347 with firsts by Serebrier and Milhaud. The Third Symphony has not otherwise been recorded. Its style, across three movements and almost 26 minutes, is rhythmically incisive, Armenian national, groaningly majestic and mysterious. Sample this work in the Andante. It then flares with muscularity in the Allegro Molto finale. Flames and seismic impacts alternate with delicate dances and finely limned unison writing for the violin benches. To think that even now we lack recordings of many of his sixty-seven symphonies! This is very attractive music.
Some of these performances are preceded by radio announcements and followed by applause from studio or hall audiences and radio commentator 'tailing'.
Each of these live historic recordings brims with ardent power and fantasy.
Live historic recordings brimming with ardent power and fantasy.