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CD Review

Jean Sibelius

  • Symphony #1
  • Symphony #2 *
Leopold Stokowski Symphony Orchestra/Leopold Stokowski
* NBC Symphony Orchestra/Leopold Stokowski
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Leopold Stokowski first performed Sibelius' First Symphony with the Cincinnati Orchestra in Dayton, Ohio when the orchestra was on a statewide tour in 1910. He made two recordings of the piece, this 1950 RCA release and his penultimate recording with the National Philharmonic in 1976 (released on a Sony Classical two-fer disc 263260 in 1997). Robert McGinnis plays the opening clarinet solo, transporting you to a dark, foreboding universe. It is Sibelius' universe and while it may have its roots in Finland it is not of this world. This haunting melody is repeated on the strings in the opening of the last movement, as though Sibelius is posing an unanswered question. Stokowski's hands weave together the strands of music into a monumental, stirring recording. The ad hoc orchestra, a band of free-lance musicians who were the finest in America at the time, always played as if they loved the music as Stokowski conducted it. This release captures the sound beautifully.

Stokowski first performed the Second Symphony on the 2nd of February 1912 in Cincinnati. The music was only a decade old. Stokowski championed "new" music even then. This is the first commercial CD release of the NBC Symphony Orchestra recording of the 2nd Symphony (made in 1954). Once again the Leopold Stokowski Society and Cala have revealed that there was much more music in those grooves than we ever heard on LP. Solo contributions (whoever is on the harp should be given credit) to the symphonic fabric are present more than before making the experience riveting.

I have little else to say about this excellent release. The notes are informative and interesting. Thanks, again, to all involved for bringing this wonderful music to us.

Copyright © 2005, Robert Stumpf II