Stokowski: Twentieth Century Americana
Nathaniel SHILKRET (1889-1982)
Trombone Concerto (1944) [20:45]
Morton GOULD (1913-1996)
Latin-American Symphonette (Symphonette No. 4) (1937) [21:57]
Paul CRESTON (1906-1985)
Saxophone Concerto, Op. 26 (1944) [19:25]
Tommy Dorsey (trombone)
James Abato (saxophone)
New York City Symphony Orchestra (Shilkret), Radio Italiana Orchestra (RAI) of Turin (Gould), Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra (Creston)/Leopold Stokowski
rec. 15 February 1945; 6 May 1955; 26 August 1945. Mono. ADD

Guild’s Stokowski series has turned up a number of rare items over the years and this one is no exception. Nathaniel Shilkret, Morton Gould, and Paul Creston are the three composers represented in this parade of convivial Americana.

Shilkret was a well-known conductor but he also composed. His Trombone Concerto dates from 1944 and features Tommy Dorsey, which doubtless accounts for the raucous audience. The whoops and whistles of delight as Dorsey strides out must have alarmed Stokowski who introduces Dorsey as “a wonderful player giving his services to you … there must be silence please”. Dorsey’s dexterous control of registers and breathing coalesce with Shilkret’s lush and filmic orchestration to produce a kind of sophisticated instrumental pop song for trombone and orchestra. Renewed whoops greet the end of the first movement before a languid Gershwinesque ethos envelops the slow movement with Porgy-like grooves. Here Dorsey’s breathtaking legato can be heard at its apogee, one that proved so inspirational to Sinatra. After this, Stokowski warns the audience against its ill-discipline by threatening that if they don’t quieten down “the concert ends”. This scolding had its effect and introduces the saucy boogie-lite Finale. Manic cheers reestablish the young audience’s primacy at the end of the concerto.

A decade later Stoky was taped with the Radio Italiana Orchestra of Turin (RAI) in Morton Gould’s Latin-American Symphonette. You can find the Guaracha movement on Music and Arts CD1287 recorded earlier with the All-American Youth Orchestra. The Turin studio acoustic is cramped but the lithe vitality of the music still emerges with commendable, if not ultimate, force. The Rhumba is vivid, the Tango teasing, the Guaracha punchy – but not as idiomatic as the American inscription – and the finale unleashes the powerful percussion. An announcement introduces the last item in the programme, Paul Creston’s Saxophone Concerto. Like the Shilkret this recording dates from 1945 and features the splendid and versatile figure of James Abato - known as Vincent J Abato in other contexts and under other names besides, who gave the premiere. The broadcast was for Standard Hour. Abato, who was very influenced by Tommy Dorsey in his own way, contributes relentless virtuosity though he luxuriates in the lyrical richness of the slow movement, named “Meditative” by Creston. There’s some radio cross-station interference, more noticeable in the cadenza. Like Shilkret, Creston crafts a light-hearted finale full of hi-jinx and helter-skelter dynamism.

With fine notes this vivid, vivacious, and exciting disc can be warmly recommended to Stokowski collectors.

Jonathan Woolf

Previous review: Rob Barnett

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