The fourth and final volume documenting Stokowski’s acoustic legacy with the Philadelphia Orchestra delves back and forth between 1919 and 1924 and provides another raft of rare and stimulating music-making (reviews of Volume 1 ~ Volume 2 ~ Volume 3).
Again, too, one mustn’t expect much by way of symphonic unity, if one can put it thus. These are bleeding chunks, abridgements and the rare intact piece, all products of the recording horn in the days when one was grateful for what one could get. So whilst the Blue Danube is truncated to four-and-half-minutes what remains is still very appealing and well recorded for the date, May 1919. The Largo from the New World serves to remind one that Stokowski recorded the whole work almost as soon as electric recording appeared, in 1925 and – by one of those now-familiar quirks (look at Albert Coates’ legacy, for instance, or Henry Wood’s) - he was to do so again in 1927. These two readings are preferable to the 1934 recording but the 1920 torso is revealing for the bass reinforcements, the sensitive portamenti and the rather abrupt cut-off.
Thaddeus Rich was a long-serving Philadelphia concertmaster, assuming the role in 1906 and relinquishing it two decades later. Inveterate violin collectors may know he left behind a measly four solo 78rpm sides for Okeh, but one of them was of some Fauré, so at least the A&R gurus at that small company showed some taste. He takes the solo in one of the movements from Scheherazade. Another eminent member of the orchestra was that elite player Marcel Tabuteau whose oboe weaves its exotic and evocative spell in the Bacchanale from Samson and Dalila. Whilst Finlandia was subject to the usual cuts it is notable for being the first American recording of the piece but with the Allegretto from Brahms’s Third Symphony, Stokowski went one better. This is the first recording of any movement from a Brahms Symphony: April 1921 was the date. Later, as we know, Stokowski was to set down the first American cycle of the complete Brahms symphonies.
Recorded over a luxurious two sides Strauss’ Dance of the Seven Veils offers plenty of opportunities for panache and colour. It’s known that the Philadelphia’s complement in these sessions actually diminished over time, so by 1922 the Schubert German Dances was played by an orchestra lining up 7-4-3-3 with winds and including a saxophone and contrabassoon to get doubling or eking out that all important bass line. The performance of the Entr’acte from Khovanschina actually features an audibly bigger band, and appropriately so, for this outstanding reading shows Stokowski’s Russophile antenna quivering with power.
The final three items are all first releases. Both the Puccini and Hofstetter – then commonly attributed to Haydn – are very welcome to the official discography but the standout piece is Henry Eichheim’s Chinese Rhapsody from his Oriental Impressions. Eichheim was a violinist and had been in the Boston Symphony from 1891-1912. The rich tapestry of the winds and the rather fearsome percussive outburst easily transcend the technology and are heard splendidly in this restoration. Collectors will know that in the 1930s Stoky recorded the same composer’s Bali, which can be found in a fascinating Philadelphia Rarities disc on Cala.
All good things must come to an end and that’s the case with this series. It’s been well compiled and transferred and has provided invaluable premičre recordings of rare material. Who could want for more?
Full track listing Johann STRAUSS II (1825-1899)
On the Beautiful Blue Danube (An der schönen, blauen Donau, arr. Stokowski), Op. 314 [4:35]
Recorded May 10, 1919 Antonin DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95 "From the New World" - 2nd mvt - largo [4:39]
Recorded May 21, 1920 Nikolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)
Scheherazade, Op. 35 - Young Prince and Young Princess [3:45]
Recorded March 25, 1921
Scheherazade, Op. 35 - Festival at Baghdad [4:14]
Recorded May 9, 1919 Camille SAINT SAËNS (1835-1921)
Samson et Dalila, Op. 47: Act 3 - Bacchanale [4:16]
Recorded December 6, 1920 Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Finlandia, Op. 26 [3:52]
Recorded April 18, 1921 Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Hungarian Dance No. 1 in G minor transc. Stokowski [3:37]
Recorded May 21, 1920
Symphony No. 3 in F, Op. 90, 3rd mvt. - Poco allegretto [4:16]
Recorded April 18, 1921 Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Salome, Op. 54 - Dance of the Seven Veils [7:32]
Recorded December 5, 1921 Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Moment Musicale No. 3 in F minor, D.780 transc. Stokowski [2:18]
Recorded January 28, 1922
German Dances, D.783 [4:42]
Recorded December 4, 1922 Modest MUSSORGSKY (1839-1881)
Khovanshchina - Entr'acte [3:54]
Recorded December 12, 1922 HENRY EICHHEIM (1870-1942)
Oriental Impressions - 5. Chinese Rhapsody (arr. Stokowski) [5:49]
Recorded May 1, 1923 Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1921)
Madama Butterfly - Act II: Prelude (Waiting music) [3:02]
Recorded 22 December, 1924 Romanus HOFFSTETTER (attrib. Haydn,)
Quartet in F, Op. 3, No. 5 2nd mvt. - Andante Cantabile arr. Stokowski [3:03]
Recorded December 31, 1924
Philadelphia Orchestra/Leopold Stokowski
rec. 1919-24, Camden Church Studio (Victor Building no 22) Camden NJ, USA