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CD Review

Leopold Stokowski Conducts

Cala 531
National Philharmonic Orchestra/Leopold Stokowski
Cala CACD0531
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First of all, if you have the previous CD issue of the Mendelssohn, you are in for a surprise. When it was originally released on LP, even, the sound was not the Stokowski Sound. The strings were thin; there was little inner detail. I remember thinking, "Boy, it's too bad his was his last LP. The penultimate one was better." Now all that has changed. I spent many pleasant evenings listening to the "Italian" discovering it and enjoying it. It has the same kind of rhythmic bounce that his "Scottish" (live with the New York Philharmonic) has. There is a bucolic, youthful joy of life from this 95 year'd person. This now becomes my favorite recording of this symphony.

I tried listening to the Brahms right after the Mendelssohn, but discovered that I could not. The change from one to the other somehow jolted me. So, after several nights visiting the "Italian" I changed over.

When it was released the Penguin Guide to Compact Discs listed this as one of the best recordings of the Brahms 2nd. The sound was fantastic and the interpretation as well. I heard it early in my educational learning but it was not my immediate introduction to the symphony. At that time I really liked the Kertész on Decca and slightly preferred it to the Stokowski. For a while it looked as though we'd never get it on CD. Sony seems to believe that Stokowski doesn't "sell". A few of you may have acquired a private CD issue that has been around, but that is far, far less good than this. That is, you need to add this to your collection.

There is really not much more to say. The Mendelssohn has been transformed and become one of the finest recordings ever. The Brahms already was and it is great to have it readily available. There have been claims that in his last couple of years Stokowski was carried by the orchestra rather than leading it. Listen to the intensity of the coda in the Brahms and you will know that claim is unfounded. Listen to the Mendelssohn and there is further proof. This is a must-have record and not just for Stokowski fans.

Copyright © 2003, Robert Stumpf II

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