One of the most grown-up review sites around

2019
52,000 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here

     
  
 

 

International mailing


  Founder: Len Mullenger             Editor in Chief: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider


Yes we are selling
Acte Prealable again!
£11 post-free


we also sell Skarbo

and Oboe Classics


TROUBADISC

with Eggebrecht we get all the excitement we can handle

Book 1 Book 2 Book3
Mota The Triptych: -Website

Asmik Grigorian

Breathtaking Performance
controversial staging
Review Westbrook
Review Hedley
Every lover of Salome should see this recording
Mullenger interpretation


absolutely thrilling


immediacy and spontaneity


Schumann Lieder


24 Preludes
one of the finest piano discs


‘Box of Delights.’


J S Bach A New Angle
Organ fans form an orderly queue


GERNSHEIM Quartets
a most welcome issue


I enjoyed it tremendously


the finest traditions of the house


music for theorbo
old and new

John Luther Adams
Become Desert
concealing a terrifying message


ground-breaking, winning release


Charpentier
screams quality


Surprise of the month


English Coronation, 1902-1953
magnificent achievement


Availability

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Symphony No. 9 in D minor Op. 125 ‘Choral’ (1824)
Anne Brown (soprano), Winifred Heidt (contralto), William Horne (tenor), Lawrence Whitsonant (bass)
Westminster Choir
NBC Symphony Orchestra/Leopold Stokowski
rec. live 11 November 1941, Cosmopolitan Opera House, New York.
No text or translation.
PRISTINE AUDIO PASC541 [66:04]

I tend to think of Stokowski as more a master of colour than of symphonic argument, but on looking at my shelves – and I am not a Stokowski collector – I see his recordings of Vaughan Williams’s ninth and Shostakovich’s eleventh symphonies, and, on the only occasion I heard him conduct live, it was the famous and incandescent 1963 performance of Mahler’s Resurrection symphony, happily released on record (review). (He encored the closing passage, to the delight of the audience and the consternation of the concert promoters). It turns out that he did not often programme Beethoven’s Choral symphony, but he made two studio recordings of it, one in 1934 and the other in 1967; I have not heard these. The present live performance comes between these two. It was his second appearance with the NBCSO, and the intention was to broadcast it. In the end, only the finale was broadcast, but the engineers recorded the whole work, and so we have it here.

Fortunately, the performance was not in the orchestra’s normal home, the notorious studio 8H which so impaired Toscanini’s recordings, but in what is listed as the Cosmopolitan Opera House (was this the old Met?), and before a paying audience. So it really was a live performance. This is a historic radio recording, with the usual disadvantages: rather steely strings, there’s a light bass and the chorus sounds congested in climaxes. But, having said that, it is not difficult to listen to and Andrew Rose of Pristine Audio has done his usual superb job on what must have been crumbly old tapes.

After what I said at the beginning, I am pleased to report that the dominant characteristic of this performance is the driving line through the symphonic argument. This is a performance which knows where it is coming from – the mysterious opening – and where it is going to – the triumphant conclusion. Although there are lovely passages – the close of the slow movement is quite magical – Stokowski deliberately does not linger but presses the argument. And the finale is, as it should be but does not always succeed in being, the real crown of the work. His team of soloists, two of whom are African-American, do a grand job, particularly in their tricky solo variation; the chorus, too, set to their work with a will and their long-held top A rings out as Beethoven intended. It was with the fast double-fugue after the march passage that I realized that this was going to be a performance which reached the heights. Stokowski handles the changes of mood and pace with great assurance.

He uses, as was customary at the time, the adjustments to the orchestration proposed by Wagner and Weingartner. These can be heard in the first movement third subject, in the second movement trio and the Schrekensfanfare at the beginning of the finale and once again later. Their effect can be summarised as clarifying the lines and bringing out the argument. They are currently unfashionable, but many composers adjust the orchestration after hearing their works live; Beethoven was not able to do so because of his deafness, but, if you are going to perform his symphonies with modern orchestras, something of the kind is necessary. (Actually, the premiere had doubled wind.) The choral finale is sung in English. The translation is not credited – it is not the Lady Macfarren one which used to be used in Britain before it became customary to sing Schiller’s original German.

The notes are minimal and do not include the text of the finale, but those interested in this version will probably have others. Stokowski collectors will want this and others should be interested.

Stephen Barber



We are currently offering in excess of 52,000 reviews


Advertising on
Musicweb


Donate and keep us afloat

 

New Releases

Naxos Classical


Nimbus Podcast


Obtain 10% discount



Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels

Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
   
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Postmaster
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger