Stokowski conducts 20th Century Symphonies

When the 88-year-old Leopold Stokowski conducted a work by Charles Ives with the London Symphony Orchestra in 1970, one critic referred to the maestro as "the man who has done more for contemporary music in America than all the rest of his generation put together." Indeed, The New York Times once estimated that Stokowski had given around 2,000 "first performances" (World Premieres, US Premieres, first broadcasts and so on) and we begin this week's release with one of them: Hovhaness's "Exile" Symphony of 1936, receiving its US première.

The Hovhaness was broadcast in December 1942. Just two months later came the other recordings heard in the present issue: Stravinsky's Symphony in C, receiving its world radio première, and Hindemith's Symphony in E flat major - both of these works had been completed in 1940. Indeed of the 24 works Stokowski conducted in the 1942/3 season, only four had been written by composers who'd died before the conductor's birth, and of these, three were in arrangements made by Stokowski!

Just as astonishing as these statistics is the sound quality here. Rarely has the NBC Symphony Orchestra sounded better than on these Ambient Stereo XR remasters. From start to finish this is a fabulous, unmissable treat.