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CD Review

Swan Lake Highlights

NBC Symphony Orchestra/Leopold Stokowski
Cala CACD0543 Mono
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"Arresting". That is the word that I wrote down the first time I heard the opening of this disc. It literally took my breath away. It still does every time I listen to it again. This is due, in no small way, to the fact that the sound transfers are superb. I am reminded of Al Franz, an old friend who loved vinyl more than CDs, who often said of LPs, "There is more music in there, there is more music in there." He had a stereo system (primarily for LPs) that was worth the price of a compact car and proved that, given the right equipment, there WAS more music in there. I wish Al was still around to hear this CD. He would approve.

One of things that frequently appears in my notes is the word "soloists". Mischa Mischakoff as concertmaster is simply phenomenal. Bob Bloom on the oboe and Lucille Lawrence on the harp are amazing.

After recording "Aurora's Wedding" from "Sleeping Beauty" in 1953 (with HIS SO, released on ReDiscovery 009) the following year Stokowski turned his attention to "Swan Lake". Several of the players in his ad hoc orchestra were also principals in the NBC Symphony Orchestra and Stokowski brings to the music all the flair and romance you would expect from the Mysterioso (as Leonard Bernstein once called him). To be honest I usually find Tchaikovsky's ballet music too saccharine for my tastes and only Stokowski is able to convince me of the music's worth.

The Strauss items are simply heavenly. It occurs to me that Stokowski probably could have gone to balls in Vienna where Strauss waltzes were played and that he danced to them. I'd buy this disc just to hear these two pieces. When I first heard the opening of "The Vienna Woods" I found the experience, again, arresting. The sound was like a zither but something else as well. At first I was convinced it might be some kind of electronic instrument and, as it turns out, I was partially correct. The notes indicate that the opening is not only with a zither, but there is an electric guitar used as well. The effect is most interesting.

The Beethoven and Mozart items are also quite nice, but you wouldn't be buying this disc for those alone.

The notes, by Richard Gate, are informative and interesting.

Copyright © 2006, Robert Stumpf II