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Leopold Stokowski with the all-American Youth Orchestra and the Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra
rec. 1940-46
Full track-listing below
MUSIC & ARTS CD-1287 [3 CDs: 228:47]

In recent times two labels in particular have been making determined attempts to restore some of the more obscure elements of Leopold Stokowski’s discography to general public consumption. Pristine Audio has itself been fighting a battle on two fronts in restoring rare discs made between around 1940 and 1950 and also attending to the acoustic discs he made around the time of the ending of the First World War. Music and Arts has now waded in with a box devoted to CD premières of material made between 1940 and 1946 by Stoky’s All-American Youth Orchestra and the Hollywood Bowl Symphony.

The three CDs are housed in a typically sturdy box and contain much of interest and much that, whilst ephemeral, should still prove irresistible to collectors. The first disc contains a 1940 recording of Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony, recorded in two locations – the Cinema Gran Rex in Buenos Aires and Liederkranz Hall, New York. I have never much been taken by his 1945 Hollywood Bowl recording of this symphony and this earlier recording with the All-American Symphony shares some of its hyper-expressive sentiment. There are some cuts in the scherzo and the sound quality in the Buenos Aires cinema is not the best. Against that, however, is the control of metrical flexibility that he evinces and the fine orchestral playing.

Several Stokowski orchestrations of small pieces follow, a number of which he recorded multiply over the years but their succulent sound is a genuine pleasure. The other big work on the first disc is the Firebird suite which was made a year after the Tchaikovsky symphony in the same cinema in Buenos Aires. This was his fourth of an eventual eight studio versions of the 1919 score to be issued and is full of his accustomed sense of sharp rhythmic bite and colouristic characterisation. It’s a shame that there’s a cut in the finale, which I assume was to ensure that the whole thing fitted onto an album set – though by my calculations it’s only five sides and he could have expanded the finale onto the sixth 78rpm side.

Disc Two is almost all-Mussorgsky. Stokowski’s ‘symphonic synthesis’ from Boris Godunov (CBS Studios, Hollywood, July 1941) is, in the neat booklet phrase, an orchestral digest from the opera and a finely recorded example of his artful work. Pictures at an Exhibition is heard in his own orchestration and is subject to cuts - he ditches Tuileries and The Market at Limoges. His approach is more pungent than Ravel’s and indeed his Philadelphia orchestrator, Lucien Cailliet, who also made an orchestration of the work but retained the movements Stoky cut. This was recorded a few days later than the Boris extracts and these are amongst the highlights of this whole set. To finish there is Stoky’s arrangement of the Tristan Love Music, twenty-three succulent minutes recorded the previous year in New York. His Wagner was almost always powerful, passionate, and descriptive.

The final disc is a fascinating miscellany, and a number of the pieces are the only example of a Stokowski performance to have been preserved on disc. The recording locations vary between Hollywood, New York, and Buenos Aires and thus sound quality varies too but the results are always worth hearing. Well, not perhaps the Schumann Träumerei in Stokowski’s impossibly syrupy arrangement. But the Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody is thrilling. Goddard ‘God’ Lieberson recites the Pledge to the Flag, after which we hear the Anacreontic Song of the English composer John Stafford Smith – better known as The Star-Spangled Banner. Then there is a section of Americana. There are the Scherzos – only – from Creston’s Symphony No.1 and William Grant Still’s Afro-American Symphony and the Guaracha movement from Morton Gould’s Latin-American Symphonette. Henry Cowell plays the piano in his own splendid Tales of Our Countryside. The Creston, Still and Gould are all fascinating and frustrating in equal measure. If only he had recorded the entire works. The Hollywood Bowl Symphony takes up the reins for the remainder of the items, and a very lightweight selection it is too. From the swoony Glamour Waltz from Robert Dolan’s Lady in the Dark onwards we are assured of a none-too-serious selection, including some tea shop favourites, some of which work rather better than others. These are all Stokowski orchestrations, though most were to be re-recorded.

The excellent booklet is complemented by Mark Obert-Thorn’s top-class restorations, even when he’s working with the sub-fusc Buenos Aires sides. He can’t make a silk purse out of these but ensures that they’re very listenable. All in all this is a compact feast for Stokowski fans.

Jonathan Woolf

Full track-listing

CD 1 [77:06]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74, “Pathétique” [46:48]
Solitude, Op. 73, No. 6 (orch. Stokowski) [3:30]
Humoresque, Op. 10, No. 2 (orch. Stokowski) [2:03]
Ottokar NOVÁČEK (1866-1900)
Perpetuum Mobile (orch. Stokowski) [3:17]
Nikolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)
Flight of the Bumble-Bee (from Tsar Sultan) (orch. Stokowski) [1:29]
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
Firebird – Suite [19:57]

CD 2 [74:34]
Modest MUSSORGSKY (1839-1881)
Boris Godunov – Symphonic Synthesis (arr. Stokowski) [22:39]
Pictures at an Exhibition (orch. Stokowski) [28:20]
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Tristan und Isolde – Love Music (arr. Stokowski) [22:33]

CD 3 [77:07]
Carl Maria WEBER (1786-1826)
Invitation to the Dance, Op. 65 (orch. Berlioz/Stokowski) [8:40]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Träumerei (No. 7 from Kinderszenen, Op. 15) (orch. Stokowski) [3:23]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 (arr. Müller-Berghaus) [8:06]
Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946)
Ritual Fire Dance (from El amor brujo) [3:27]
Pledge to the Flag (Goddard Lieberson, speaker) and John SMITH: The Star-Spangled Banner [2:02]
Irving BERLIN (1888-1989)
God Bless America [2:08]
Paul CRESTON (1906-1985)
Scherzo (from Symphony No. 1, Op. 20) [4:06]
Morton GOULD (1913-1996)
Guaracha (from Latin-American Symphonette) [3:40]
William Grant STILL (1895-1978)
Scherzo (from Afro-American Symphony) [3:00]
Henry COWELL (1897-1965)
Tales of Our Countryside (with Henry Cowell, piano) [12:28]
Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra
Robert DOLAN
Glamour Waltz (A Message for Liza) from Lady in the Dark [1:58]
Jeremiah CLARKE (c.1674-1707)
Prince of Denmark’s March (“Trumpet Voluntary”) [2:19]
Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Andante cantabile (from String Quartet Op. 3, No. 5) (“18th Century Dance”) (orch. Stokowski) [3:13]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1827)
Moment musicale (No. 3 from D.780) (orch. Stokowski) [2:07]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Hungarian Dance No. 1 (orch. Stokowski) [3:18]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Solitude, Op. 73, No. 6 (orch. Stokowski) [3:19]
Humoresque, Op. 10, No. 2 (orch. Stokowski) [2:04]
Jacques OFFENBACH (1819-1880)
Barcarolle (from The Tales of Hoffmann) [2:43]
Johann STRAUSS II (1825-1899)
Die Fledermaus – Waltzes (arr. Stokowski) [5:13]
Leopold Stokowski with the all-American Youth Orchestra and the Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra

 

 




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