Old wine in new bottles. If you already have the earlier EMI release of these pieces you don't need to replace it. As far as I can tell the only difference in the recording is that they have divided the Passacaglia and Toccata and Fugue into two tracks each. That makes for a total of 13 now… so if you are suspicious.
When I picked up this copy I noticed that there was no ART logo on the back. The ART process has been used in the EMI GROC series and has, in fact, made a significant improvement in the sound on those releases. I would like to say that I detect slightly more warmth in this release but I would not swear to that in court. The bottom line is that there is no reason to get this release if you have the earlier one.
The Debussy has also been released already on a previous IMG/EMI DVD release that has much more music than this one track. The rest of the tracks on the DVD under review are promos for the other discs in this "Legends" series.
On the other hand, if you don't have this you must get it. With the advent of tape Stokowski was able to make a band of around 60 players sound like a full orchestra. This he did with his ad hoc orchestra which consisted of some of the finest players in New York at that time. I had the chance to talk with Bob Bloom, the oboist, some years ago and he offered a lot of insights to the process that Stokowski used in recording. Of course there was free bowing, seating that would enhance the recording process, etc. But then there was the post-recording process where Stokowski would literally sit in the control booth and have reverberation added or solos brought forth or he might write and send comments to the producers after listening to a test disc. I have seen one such note and it is specific about what he wanted done to the recording. The result is this disc of some of his finest Bach transcriptions. If you already have the earlier one you already know this.
I hate not being able to recommend a Stokowski release. Poor sales will only further convince the powers-that-be that Stokowski doesn't sell. Well, if so it is because of bone-headed decisions to simply pour the wine into a new bottle.
By the way, Ed Johnson reminded me that in these recordings there was no timpani used. Odd.
Copyright © 2004, Robert Stumpf II