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CD Review

Stokowski Conducts

Aurora's Wedding & Encores

National Philharmonic Orchestra/Leopold Stokowski
Cala CACD0529
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I have said this before about Stokowski in regards to other composers as well, but among the composers he had an affinity for, no one does Tchaikovsky better than Leopold Stokowski. Trying to put my finger on why that is the case I realized that what he does is bring out the sensuousness, the emotional depths of the composer without making it sound saccharine or syrupy. Here is yet another example of Stokowski's hands making magic and making this great music sound even more so.

Ed Johnson's notes (excellent as usual) explain how Aurora's Wedding happened. Briefly, Diaghilev reduced the entire ballet to a one-act 'balletic fantasy', which consisted mainly of divertissments from Act 3 celebrating the marriage of Princess Aurora to Prince Desire.

In 1947 Stokowski recorded music from the entire ballet with Stokowski Symphony Orchestra. Then in 1953 also with HIS SO, he recorded Aurora's Wedding (available on ReDiscovery 009). Then there was this stereo make when he was only 94. As usual in his Indian summer his music-making was as inspired as ever. The National Philharmonic was essentially an ad hoc orchestra not unlike Stokowski Symphony Orchestra. They came together specifically to make recordings with the Maestro. The recorded sound here is audiophile in its richness, depth and articulation. You will never hear this music this good again.

For my money, however, the main reason to get this disc is to hear The Old Magician's transcriptions. You would believe that Debussy himself wrote the orchestral version of Claire de lune. Rimsky-Korsakov's bee has an ominous side to it. Albéniz's Night in Granada is one of the most sensual things I have ever heard. Again, the recording is nothing short of amazing and the playing for the 94 year-old maestro reflects an orchestra that loved playing with him.

Get this disc and wallow in the beauty of the playing.

Copyright © 2003, Robert Stumpf II