Music lovers everywhere owe the good folks at Countdown Media a ton of credit for bringing Everest Records back on the market. Over 50 classic titles are available via Amazon CD or iTunes download as of this writing, and for many collectors, that's something to cheer about. Sure, not every album is a masterpiece, but with original notes and great production values, these terrific sounding discs are a treat.
The present disc is pure fun. Supposedly, Stokowski didn't enjoy working with Everest, but that didn't stop him from making over 10 albums with the company. At any rate, his magic touching-up of Wagner and Chopin is totally typical of this great maestro. The Houston Symphony is somewhat less than world-class, but Stokowski gets them to make every sound that he wants. His Wagner was always a combination of wacky and totally fabulous, and so it is here. The sound is terrific regardless of your reaction to the results. The Chopin transcriptions probably haven't been in print together since I was born, if ever they were at all, and they are beguiling and very well played. Check out that Waltz #2…you'll never hear it played this way again, but it's completely convincing in the hands of the old man. As for the Canning piece, I confess that it is new to me, but the eleven minutes it takes are lovely, if a touch faceless. Still, if you love British string music, you'll find this conservative and singing work a joy. Stokowski milks it for all it's worth.
The disc lasts less than 40 minutes, as an LP would, but that simply adds to the nostalgia. Considering that so many of these albums have been available only from specialty outlets and high-end stores, I can do nothing but applaud the fact that they are now so easy to obtain. Fans of Stokowski and great music making will love this entire series. And isn't that all of us? Welcome back, Everest!
Copyright © 2013, Brian Wigman