LEOPOLD STOKOWKI HISTORIC RECORDINGS
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 "Coral
DVORAK: Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104. SAINT-SAËNS:
Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Op. 33. CASALS: El Cant dels ocells.
The Music & Arts Stokowski set is magnificent. It offers state-of-the-art transfers by Mark Obert-Thorn of countless rare 78rpm disks many of which are CD premieres. All of these recordings were made 1940-1946; I had heard some of them many decades ago and never dreamed there was so much rich sound on those grooves! Many of these contain repertory the Maestro had previously recorded in Philadelphia and would record later in his career as well. He made 7 recordings of Firebird; the one heard on this set is the fourth, welcome even though Stokowski makes an unwelcome cut in the finale. The Boris Godunov synthesis was recorded first in Philadelphia in 1939; it was in 1941 the second was made with the All American Orchestra (a third recording was made in 1968 with the Suisse Romande Orchestra). The AYO performance equals the Philadelphia, and is far better recorded. The same applies to Pictures at an Exhibition. Stokowski recorded it in Philadelphia in 1939 and 2 years later with the AYO. The superior audio in this transfer clarifies much orchestral detail lost in the earlier recording. We also have two recordings of another Stoky specialty —his transcription of Tchaikovsky's Solitude, two from Philadelphia in 1922 & 1927 (a third would follow in 1975 with the National Philharmonic). This is an amazing brief piece building to an enormous climax and ending with shimmering soft songs.(If you are interested in this little masterpiece, try to find the Charles Gerhardt/National Philharmonic Reader's Digest recording—I was at the sessions, and Gerhardt extended the soft ending to great effect. He told me later he thought Stoky would approve, and I'm sure he would). Performances in this M&A set exhibit the conductor's aritrary tempi and willful interpretations. This is one of the oddest Pathetiques you'll ever hear. There are some curiosities: The Pledge to the Flag read by Goddard Lieberson recorded in 1944, followed by Smith's The Star-Spangled Banner. and Irving Berlin's God Bless Ameica, recorded in 1849. This set is essential for collectors and, once again, the transfers by MOT are incredibly effective.
Dutch conductor Willem Van Otterloo (1907-1978) had an extensive
career in Holland, although later in his career he was music director
of the Melbourne Symphony (1967 - 1870). He also was a cellist and
a prise-winning cmposer: his Symphonietta was premiered by the
Concertgebouw Orchestra in
and was to have been conducted by Willem Mengelberg. When the latter
became ill, Otterloo conducted the premiere. There is a live Concertgebouw
performance conducted by the composer Jan. 16, 1944) in Volume I of the
Royal Concertgebouw Anthology series (REVIEW). Eventually he became music
director of the Hague Residency Orchestra ( 1949-1972.
time he made many recordings for Philips in a wide range of repertory.
All of these were issued in the U.S. on the Epic label, and I owned
most of them. Pristine here fills a major gap in Otterloo's discography,
his 1952 mono recording of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 recorded in May
1952 in the Concertgebouw. This is an exciting performance by any standards,
with; no dwelling on phrases here, but sensitive at the same time.
Some of the soloists are a link to the past, having appeared often with
and Maria Von Ilosvay was one of the great contraltos of the era, having
often appeared at Bayreuth. Pristine's XR remastering has vividly captured
the warm acoustics of the Concertgebouw—surely this is a memorable
R.E.B. (May 2015)