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.