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George ENESCU (1881-1955)
Romanian Rhapsody No.1 in A (1901) [9:55]
Alexander BORODIN (1833-1887)
Prince Igor: Polovtsian Dances (1890) arr. Stokowski [12:49]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Preludes Book 1: La cathedrale engloutie (1910) orch. Stokowski [6:52]
Marion BAUER (1882-1955)
Sun Splendor, Op.19c (1936) [8:40]
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)
Piano Concerto, Op.13 (1938 rev 1946) [30:33]
Jacques Abram (piano)
Philharmonic–Symphony Orchestra of New York/Leopold Stokowski
rec. 1947 and 1949 (Britten), live, Carnegie Hall, New York
GUILD GHCD 2419 [70:27]

Guild’s conducting-led marque has produced some interesting restorations of late – think of the Sargent and Fistoulari offerings, for example. This Stokowski release most certainly falls into the category of rare and unusual. The performances derive from four concerts given with the Philharmonic-Symphony of New York – the New York Philharmonic in essence – at Carnegie Hall.

Enescu’s Romanian Rhapsody No.1 was something of a concert favourite of Stokowski’s, one he’d programmed often in Philadelphia. There’s some contradictory information in the Guild booklet with Robert Matthew-Walker’s customarily excellent notes stating a concert date of 1949, which would seem right, and the track details suggesting instead 1947. He certainly recorded it in 1947 with his Symphony Orchestra and again with the RCA Victor orchestra in the early 1960s. I prefer this NYPO version for its sheer vivacity. With the RCA Stokowski takes a full 11:30 or so, a minute and a half slower than this broadcast which is by far the more kinetic and folkloristically pungent. Some succulent phrasing – zesty and full of wind band imitations – is the more vividly realised in Carnegie Hall, though the later recording is clearly to be preferred if quality of sound is your principal requirement. Borodin’s Dances, heard in the conductor’s arrangement, have a surface-y kind of sound but Stokowski’s direction conquers all. This was one of the many kinds of thing he did superbly well and he’s rewarded with huge applause. The Debussy is another Stoky orchestration and richly characterised.

However Marion Bauer’s Sun Splendor will be of more interest. Bauer (1882-1955) wrote this piece around 1936, it seems, though it wasn’t orchestrated until many years later. Stokowski’s 1947 performance in New York is believed to be the world premiere of this orchestrated version. The score remains to be published, which has hardly helped propagate its qualities. It’s a dramatic, even fervent work lasting just shy of nine minutes and is most impressively constructed. Themes are taut and memorable and the orchestration is evocative. It’s something of a find, and makes one wonder why Bauer’s name is not more prominent. The final work is Britten’s Piano Concerto performed by the man was to record it in London with Herbert Menges and the Philharmonia in 1956, namely Jacques Abram (review). He and Stokowski play the 1946 revision in what is the first American broadcast and one of only three occasions that Stokowski conducted the work. The opening Toccata is faster in New York, and so too the March finale. Throughout, Abram proves a splendidly equipped soloist in every respect and the sound quality is perfectly good for the time and location.

Once again then, repertoire, conductor, soloist and the rarity of this live material constitutes a most attractive disc.

Jonathan Woolf


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