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Article

Maestrino

Leopold Stokowski - Private CDs

With the advent of the ability to made CDs from tapes several individuals have been making them from live concerts. In some cases, though it is impossible to tell how many, tapes were purchased from Nate Brown, who used to have a plethora, via John Kelly and so are two or three times removed from the originals. As a result the quality varies but I have found most to be acceptable at worst and all of them make available recordings that are valuable to those of us who appreciate the Maestro's art. There have been many issues from several sources and new ones pop up all the time and I am not going to claim this list is definitive. I am not going to include ReDiscovery because they are essentially a quasi public company. The recordings I mention are all recommended and I strongly urge you to contact these people so you can fill in the gaps of your own collection. Finally, I should mention that some of the items they have available have since been issued on commercial discs, particularly the BBC Classics and Legends series. Those come from better sources; the private issues are at least one level removed from the commercial tapes, and sound better so there is no reason to replace them if you already have copies.

I am going to start with a very promising newcomer. Ray Osnato and Tom Heilman have already produced discs with music by Barbirolli and Bernstein. I have not heard those but if they are as good as these Stokowski discs you may want to check them out as well. I have to be honest and tell you that the sound on these discs is so good that I wonder if the orchestras' own tapes could be any better. They are asking $20.00 for each two-disc set and will throw in a lagniappe for anyone who orders both sets: the U.S. première of Prokofieff's Alexander Nevsky! It was performed with the NBC Symphony Orchestra on 7 March 1943 with the contralto Jennie Tourel. The sound is monaural, of course, but really very good, not the dry as toast kind Toscanini insisted on. Added to that disc is a rehearsal of the same piece with the Philadelphia Chorale in 1965. Ray told me that they didn't think the sound was good enough to offer as a separate disc. I respectfully disagree. This is an indispensable disc for those who like Stokowski's music making and a historical document as well.

  1. Schoenberg: Gurrelieder (Philadelphia Orchestra, Temple University Choirs 6 March 1961) Rudolf Petrak, Margarete Zambrana, Nell Rankin, George Hoffman, Thomas Hagermann. I am not going to comment on the piece because, to be quite frank, I don't appreciate the music. Maybe I will learn to do so later but this isn't later. You probably know that Stokowski gave the world première with the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1932 and that is available most recently on Andante. The opening of this 1961 performance is simply ravishing. The singing is excellent to these unappreciative ears. If I learn to like this music it will be because of this release
  2. Strauss: Metamorphosen (CBC Symphony Orchestra: 17 March 1947) Wagner: Immolation Scene [Götterdämmerung] (Philadelphia Orchestra 20 January 1962) Bach/Stokowski: Passacaglia & Fugue; Schubert: Symphony #8 "Unfinished"; Shostakovich: Symphony #5 (Boston Symphony Orchestra: 15 August 1965) I have heard other recordings of the Strauss. This one is by far the best transfer. The Bach/Stokowski and Schubert are very good, but the stunner is the Boston Symphony Orchestra Shostakovich. If you want to hear the Stokowski Sound just listen to the slow movement. The free bowing here contributes to the sense of eerie isolation making it almost unbearable. Of all the Stokowski performances, and I have heard many, this one is the most intense I have ever experienced. At the end of the first movement the audience applauds weakly, as if knowing they aren't supposed to but can't help themselves. At the end of the work the audience goes berserk

I strongly suggest you contact Ray at: PIBRecords@aol.com

From Patrick Kittel, who lives in Germany, I suggest the following:

  1. The first disc I would strongly recommend. It is an all Beethoven offering opening with the Egmont Overture (New Philharmonia Orchestra: 7 June 1973) and closing with the Choral Fantasy (London Philharmonic Orchestra 21 October 1964: Rudolf Serkin at the piano). The last item is really hard to take, it sounds like someone taped it with the mike in the piano. The middle item, however, is one of the finest "Eroica" s I have ever heard and I have about 15 different recordings in my collection including two others with Stokowski (the studio recording on RCA and a live Philadelphia recording). The audience goes nuts at the closing and I am sure I would be on my feet to. If I go on I will be accused of hyperbolic ranting. This is from a live performance on 28 April 1968 with the American Symphony Orchestra
  2. Bach: Passacaglia and Fugue; Mozart: Piano Concerto #20 (Maria Isabella de Carli) The 1969 International Youth Festival Orchestra. Bach: Nun Komm der Heiden Heiland; Komm, Susser Tod; Mein Jesu, was Fur Seelenweh; Wir glauben all an einen Gott. Boleslaw Szabelski: Toccata. Chicago Symphony Orchestra 1958. This disc is a must have because of the Mozart. It is, true, a Romantic interpretation, but one of the best I have ever heard from any artist. Stokowski and de Carli are of the same mind. The Mozart is taken from an LP and the transfers are excellent! I could go on but you are already probably accusing me of hyperbole. Szabelski was a Polish composer (1896-1979) who studied with Szymanowski. This is yet another example of Stokowski championing modern music and well worth hearing
  3. Sibelius: Violin Concerto (Henryk Szeryng) American Symphony Orchestra 3 November 1970. Strauss: Death and Transfiguration. Boston Symphony Orchestra (21 August 1964). This is one of my favorite performances of this masterpiece. It seems that it is difficult to bring off; so many violinists see it as an opportunity to demonstrate their virtuosity and miss the poetry and darkness. Heifetz's recordings come to mind. Others are let down by an orchestral part of the dialogue that seems more like an argument. Szeryng and Stokowski offer a dialogue that captures every facet of the music. The Strauss is an apt coupling. The recording is very good

For more contact Patrick at: Patrick.Kittel@gmx.de

Another good source of material is Theo van der Burg from the Netherlands. Several of his items have been taken from LPs but there are a few from tapes. I have listed some from LPs that you may want to add to your collection since they are rare.

  1. Schumann: Symphony #2, HIS SO (1950) Prokofieff: Symphony #5, Radio Symphonie Orchestre USSR (1958) Sibelius: Symphony #2, NBC Symphony Orchestra (1954) Nielsen: Symphony #2, Denmark Radio Symphony (1967) Two of these items are on other discs (Cala and BBC Classics) but the whole thing is worth it just for the Prokofieff. This was recorded whilst the Maestro was on tour in the USSR and is one of the most intense recordings ever. It is my favorite and I am glad to have it on CD. The sound is good to fair but that was the way it was on the LP
  2. Prokofiev: Symphony #6. New York Philharmonic 1949. Panufnik: Universal Prayer (Helen Watts, April Cantelo, John Mitchinson, Roger Stalman, The Louis Halsey Singers. David Watkins, Maria Korchinska, Tina Bonifcio (hapr) Nicolas Kynston (organ). 1970. Again, the Prokofieff makes this a must have disc. Taken from the LP issued several years ago by the New York Philharmonic this is the finest performance there is. The orchestra is inspired and the sound is excellent mono
  3. Probably the most important discs you should add to your collection is the two-disc set of the Bell Labs records released on two LPs. Taken from live performances whilst the scientists were recording, the experiments included work that later led to the invention of stereo. One of the most impressive is Stokowski's "Ride of the Walküre". It begins in monaural but towards the end you suddenly notice the stereo separation. It is impressive. Theo has done a marvelous job transferring the LPs to disc. I cannot detect any surface noise unless I really crank it up. The second disc is all Wagner. The first includes Berlioz, Scriabin and Ravel's orchestration of "Pictures at an Exhibition". These are not complete pieces but who cares

Theo can be reached at: T.W.van.der.Burg@HRO.NL

Next is Enno Riekena who has a web site on Leopold Stokowski at:
http://members.lycos.co.uk/stokowski/

His recordings are taken from what seem to be LPs or acetates from broadcasts. He provides a commentary on his work in making transfers. The sound is very good for the source and dates.

  1. The Stokowski Concert Collection 19 May 1969 Labunski: Canto di aspirazione; Bartók: The Miraculous Mandarin Suite; Orff: Carmina Burana. Westminster Choir. American Symphony Orchestra (Soloists not listed) The Orff blew me away. The sound is excellent and the singing perfect. The Labunski is interesting and another example of Stokowski championing contemporary music. Labunksi was a Polish composer (1892-1979) who moved to America (in fact he lived in the city where Stokowski's conducting career began, Cincinnati)
  2. The Stokowski Collection: 26 December 1943. Beethoven: Symphony #5; Paul Creston: Chant of 1942; Deems Taylor: Ballet music from Ramuntcho. For those of you who wondered what Deems Taylor had to do with music if your only exposure to him was Fantasia… here is the answer. The Beethoven is one of the most intense readings I know. It compares with Toscanini except that Stokowski also plays the music

He can be contacted at: stokowskisite@gmx.net

Copyright © 2003, Robert Stumpf II.

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