Related Links

Recommended Links

Give the Composers Timeline Poster

Site News

What's New for
Winter 2018/2019?

Site Search

Follow us on
Facebook    Twitter


In association with
Amazon UKAmazon GermanyAmazon CanadaAmazon FranceAmazon Japan

CD Universe



Sheet Music Plus Featured Sale

CD Review

First Commercial Release

  • Fikret Amirov:
  • Symphonic Suite of Azerbaijan Folk Tunes
  • Dmitri Shostakovich:
  • Symphony #1
  • Ralph Vaughan Williams:
  • Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis *
  • Robert Kurka:
  • Symphonic Epilogue on Shakespeare's Julius Caesar *
Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York/Leopold Stokowski
Recorded live 5 March 1960; * 3 March 1962
Guild GHCD2415 73:08
Find it at AmazonFind it at Amazon UKFind it at Amazon GermanyFind it at Amazon CanadaFind it at Amazon FranceFind it at Amazon JapanOrder Now from Find it at JPC

First of all, a personal note. As I was listening to the first concert I had visual memories. My dad had a Radio Shack radio and a speaker he bought from them and then made himself, and he would sometimes listen to classical music in the evening after we'd gone to bed and one night I was still awake and we lived in a small house and my brother and I had the same room and I could hear what he was listening to and it was the first concert on this disc….kind of weird.

Apparently the copyright on broadcast concerts has passed and we are the better for it. Guild and Pristine are releasing CDs of Philadelphia and NYPO broadcasts of Stokowski performances and this is yet another gem. Okay, that's a cliché. While I do wish that Guild had included the Mozart Symphony #40 from that 1960 concert instead of the Vaughan Williams, it is good to have a recording of something by Kurka to add to my collection. The Julius Caesar is a very interesting and involving piece. It stresses "the various public and political patterns that range throughout the play." (From the composer's own notes on the piece) You almost hear the bickering among politicians as they plot.

In the actual concert the two pieces set down here were preceded by Handel's Water Music and the Mozart Symphony #40. Stokowski's advocacy of 'modern music' is also evident in the Amirov (1922-1984) performance. The Maestro recorded the composer's Azerbaijan Muğam with the Houston Symphony Orchestra the year before. Listening to that recording the name Khachaturian came to mind frequently. The music here is more interesting and it's interesting that the first notes that came to pen were, "Aztec…Chavez…Ginastera…" And the oriental is here in spades and this is a phenomenal performance and recording. (These seem to be stereo but there's no mention of if it is in the packaging.)

Perhaps spending a lot of time in rehearsal on the Amirov led to the more oriental feel of the first of Shostakovich's symphonies. When I wrote about the Philadelphia recording of the fifth, however, I made mention of an 'oriental feel' to the music I'd not noticed in other recordings. The same applies here. I cannot put my finger on it yet but it has something to do with the sardonic strings.

Stokowski knew Vaughan Williams personally and recorded this piece more than once. He gives it an organ-like sonority….the Stokowski Sound, rich, deep bass line…and plays this piece better than anyone, bar none….and this live performance has electricity that elevates it above the studio recordings. Sound is excellent.

Back to the Kurka (1921-1957): I can imagine this being the score to an Orson Welles' movie version. I wish he'd done one…

Copyright © 2015, Robert Stumpf II