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CD Review

Stokowski in Germany

Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra, Baden-Baden/Leopold Stokowski
* Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra/Leopold Stokowski
Hänssler Classic 94.204 Rec. 15 & 20 May 1955
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Bottom line: this is a must-have and not just for Stokowski fans. Disc two contains material previously available on Guild 2329 which I praised as superior to a previous incarnation. (It would be interesting to know what order the material actually came in. The Guild has it Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky and then Wagner. Unfortunately John Hunt's Concert Register is completely at sixes-and-sevens on this matter.) Hanssler was able to work from the original tapes and the result is greater clarity and a firmer bass line. (Of course the Guild also includes one of the finest "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun" I've heard so that's a keeper, too.)

The main reason for adding this to your collection, however, is the material on disc one (not even mentioned in Hunt's book). The Blacher piece is a seventeen variation piece that is constantly involving. The Prokofiev is similar in interpretation to the RCA recording made a year earlier. The Milhaud is a fascinating piece of music. The gem, however, is Egk's French Suite. Oddly, I'd just heard this piece on the radio a few days before I ordered this set. It was one of those moments where I came into the music after it had started and was playing the "who's that composer" game as I drove. I got home and kept the car running until I could find out who it was. The performance on the radio was no longer available on CD so I was glad to get this. The music brings to mind an eerie Twilight Zone that is mysterious but not threatening, a Copland hoe-down in an atonal mode and Chaplin at the end.

The question has been asked. Why should I duplicate my Music and Arts CDs that already have the Milhaud and Prokofiev? Fair enough,: because, if that is your only exposure to the music then you haven't heard all the music. This release reveals inner details that are smudged to non-existence in the M&A releases. (And this is no criticism of Fred Maroth and his work. He worked with fifth or more generation tapes taken off the air.) Access to the master tapes has revealed more music. The atmosphere, too, has changed. From the opening bars of music the Hanssler release is more engaging and involving in every single piece of music. In short, you get more music for your buck.

The sound is excellent monaural with plenty of detail and bass. There is no applause between works, which I prefer. I recall one particularly unpleasant experience listening to a live broadcast of Monteux conducting Stravinsky's "Symphony of Psalms". The moving, almost ethereal close was suddenly raped by applause.

Copyright © 2009, Robert Stumpf II