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CD Review

Stokowski Conducts

  • Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony #6 "Pastoral"
  • Franz Liszt:
  • Hungarian Rhapsody #1 in F minor
  • Hungarian Rhapsody #2 in C Sharp minor
  • Hungarian Rhapsody #3 in D Major
  • "Sounds of Nature" (Illustrated discussion by Stokowski)
NBC Symphony Orchestra/Leopold Stokowski
Cala CACD0545 74:28
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Mr. Robert Stumpf II loved this disc in his own Classical Net review, but the truth is that the whole thing is rather bizarre. Don't get me wrong, this is a valuable and often tremendously enjoyable disc, but it has its definite quirks. Best of all are the three delicious Hungarian Rhapsodies, which – as Mr. Stumpf noted – are terrific and totally in keeping with the great conductor's personality. They are not your grandfather's Hungarian Rhapsodies, though. Each one is wickedly re-orchestrated and doused in simply gaudy colors. This doesn't make it any less fun.

The "bizarre" part of this disc isn't even Stokowski's spoken discourse. Okay, I lied…that's pretty strange and you will either love or hate it. No, the weirdest part of this disc is the massive Adagio that Stokowski creates from the second movement of the "Pastoral". At over 16 minutes, it will either enthrall or exasperate you, though I suppose you could make the same comment about the entire disc. Toscanini's orchestra sounds totally at home, but you know that they'd never have made this sound under the Great Man himself. The whole affair is even more puzzling when you consider just how fine the rest of the work comes off. The first movement is shorn of a repeat but otherwise sounds lovely. The inner movements – ad…er, Andante aside – are full of energy. And of course, the concluding Allegretto simply glows.

Cala deserves big thanks for giving us (in conjunction with the Stokowski Society) these important recordings. Certainly they lack for nothing in terms of personality, and even as I listen now, that Andante isn't so bad. It never appears anything less than sincere, and for some, that might be enough!

Copyright © 2015, Brian Wigman