Richard Blackford

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Stokowski - A Renaissance and Baroque Concert
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Siciliano from Violin Sonata No.4 in C minor, BWV1017 [4:02]
Mein Jesu, BWV487 [5:05]
Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, BWV582 [13:48]
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Concerto Grosso in D minor Op.3 No.11 (L’Estro Armonico) [13:15]
Antonio CESTI (1623-1669)
Tu mancavi a tormentarmi, crudelissima speranza [6:23]
Jean-Baptiste LULLY (1632-1687)
Le Triomphe de l’Amour; Nocturne [5:34]
Thésèe; March [1:04]
Girolamo FRESCOBALDI (1583-1643)
Gagliarda [3:32]
Giovanni Pierluigi da PALESTRINA (1525/6-1594)
Adormaus te [2:58] ²
O Bone Jesu [2:14] ²
Giovanni GABRIELI (1553/6-1612)
Canzon Quatri Toni a 15 [7:17]¹
In Ecclesiis Benedicite Domino [10:28] ¹ ² ³
Leopold Stokowski and his Symphony Orchestra
Brass Choir ¹
A Capella Chorus ²
Charles Courboin (organ) ³
rec. 1950-52, Manhattan Center, NYC
Mono transfers

This is an ingenious piece of programming. Even diehard Stokowski addicts will have a hard job tracking down these recordings on their shelves. Indeed it would be impossible if the shelves were exclusively devoted to CD as none of these pieces has hitherto been transferred to commercial silver disc. The only chance of acquiring them in that medium is if you had managed to acquire some of the private discs transferred by Stokowski nut Theo van der Burg, but the chances of that are slight.
Stokowski was a great transcriber, as we know. Some might scoff at his Albinoni-izing of Bach’s Siciliano from the Sonata for violin and keyboard in C minor, but you won’t hear me complain: amplitude and depth. If, by chance, one isn’t taken by that, then surely the inward meditation of Mein Jesu will appeal, as will the Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, BWV582. I find it rather strange that this hasn’t appeared over the last thirty or so years but the fact is that it hasn’t. All three of these Bach performances were recorded in 1950. Stokowski demands intense bowing in the opening Allegro of the Vivaldi Concerto Grosso, and he vests the slow movement with real warmth. The finale is brilliantly conceived and projected. His symphony orchestra really dig into the strings in the Cesti transcription, the seamless bowing and emotive diction easily surviving the 1952 sonics. The two Lully pieces are descriptive winners, the sassy brass being particularly effective in the March. The solemn cello-rich voicings in the Frescobaldi attest to Stokowski’s indelible command of string voicings and layering. For the Palestrina he is joined by a fruity chorus, which also contributes to Gabrieli’s In Ecclesiis Benedicite Domino which receives a performance of outsize panache.
Maybe one of the reasons that these recordings have been overlooked is the fact that many were favourites of the transcriber and he had earlier recorded a swathe in Philadelphia. I note that Mark Obert-Thorn did the honours for the Stokowski Society LP transfer of those Phily recordings [LSSA-5]. Irrespective of that, many of these pieces exist in multiple performances recorded from 1929 to 1972. Congestion, and the supposition that the Philadelphia 78s were the ones to go for, has squeezed out these RCA Victors. Most of them first appeared on album LM-1721; the Bachs were on LM-1133.
Now’s the time then to add these first-rate transfers to your shelves.
Jonathan Woolf

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