LEOPOLD STOKOWSKI / NEW YORK PHILHARMONIC
WAGNER:  The Flying Dutchman Overture (rec. 21 Feb. 1949).  Wotan's Farewell and Magic Fire Music from Die Walküre (rec. 17 Nov. 1947).  IPPOLITOV-IVANOV:  In the Village from Caucasian Sketches (rec. 3 Nov. 1947).  MESSIAEN:  L'Ascension (rec. 21 Feb./21 Mar.1949).  GRIFFES:  The White Peacock (rec. 17 Nov. 1949).  VAUGHAN WILLIAMS:  Fantasia on "Greensleeves" (rec. 21 Feb. 1949).  TCHAIKOVSKY:  Francesca da Rimini, Op. 32 (rec. 3 Nov. 1947).
CALA CACD 0533 (M) (ADD)  TT:  76:47
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WAGNER:  Rienzi Overture (rec. 4 April 1949).  Siegfried's Rhine Journey and Funeral Music from Götterdämmerung (rec. 4 April 1949).  SIBELIUS:  Maiden with the Roses from Swanwhite (rec. 17 Nov. 1947). KHACHATURIAN:  Masquerade Suite (rec. 3 & 17 Nov. 1947).  TCHAIKOVSKY:  Waltz from Serenade for Strings (rec. 28 Nov. 1949).  SCHOENBERG:  Song of the Wood-Dove from Gurrelieder (rec. 28 Nov. 1949). COPLAND:  Prairie Night and Celebration Dance from Billy the Kid (rec. 3 Nov. 1947).
CALA CACD 0534 (M) (ADD) TT:  76:40
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We are indebted to Cala for issuing these important Stokowski recordings all of which are appearing on CD for the first time.  I treasured these in their original LP issues, some on 10" LPs, The White Peacock on a Columbia 5-inch disk. Columbia's LP surfaces weren't the best in those days and, even with multiple copies, I had to deal with scratches, ticks and pops.  What a pleasure to hear them now in these magnificent transfers taken right from studio lacquers (made available by Sony Studios) sounding better than ever, well-balanced mono recordings that now have an extended frequency range. Dates for all recordings are given above; recordings made in 1947 were made in Carnegie Hall, those in 1949 were made in Columbia's 30th Street studios.

The Wagner is outstanding.  There never has been a more exciting recorded performance of Flying Dutchman overture although this one didn't appear on CD until a 1980 limited edition LP of historic recordings of the NYP, the Ring excerpts equally vibrant. Stokowski didn't use the regular concert arrangements of the Götterdämmerung excerpts, including music not heard in other recordings - except for Charles Gerhardt's Chesky release. This was Stokowski's third recording of Rienzi Overture, his first two being with the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1919 and 1927; he would record it again in 1973 with the Royal Philharmonic). For me, The White Peacock is particularly endearing—those lush Stokowskian string sonorities—now free of  LP surface distractions—in this performance of a work Stokowski premiered in 1919 with the Philadelphia Orchestra.  This was Stokowski's first recording of Francesca da Rimini, and his most exciting (it's a frantic depiction of Hell indeed, but the love music has never sounded more tender) although there are a number of brief cuts he avoided in his two later recordings; this recording is 18:56, the 1958 recording  (for Everest actually with the same orchestra although identified as the New York Stadium Symphony Orchestra) is 23:13, and the 1974 recording with the London Symphony Orchestra for Philips is 22:35. Needless to say, the concluding pages are a dramatic, super-speed mass of percussion sound, with the final tam-tam hanging on after everything else has stopped, rather like in Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances.  Doubtless at the concert performances this was obliterated by applause. In his second recordings the tam-tam stopped with the rest of the orchestra, but in the third Stoki let it ring on.

There are other treasures, particularly the Gurrelieder excerpt (music given its U.S. premiere in  1932 with the Philadelphia Orchestra), here given in an edition by Schoenberg's pupil Erwin Stein which has somewhat reduced orchestral forces.  One would never suspect this from the sound of this recording—and for me, to hear the huge burst of brass (at 11:55 on this CD) without a scratch right before it as was the case on my copy of the LP, is a pleasure indeed.

Both of these CDs are essential in any Stokowski collection.  Hats off to Cala for a job well done!

R.E.B. (January 2003)