STOKOWSKI A Renaissance and Baroque Concert (1950/52) - PASC391

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STOKOWSKI A Renaissance and Baroque Concert (1950/52) - PASC391

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Studio recordings, 1950/52
Total duration: 75:40

Leopold Stokowski and
His Symphony Orchestra
Brass Choir
A Capella Chorus
Charles Courboin,

This set contains the following albums:

Stokowski's unique magic touch with music from the Renaissance and Baroque eras

First digital outings in fabulous new transfers by Mark Obert-Thorn

This collection brings together three “orphaned” Bach transcription recordings and one entire album (LM-1721, Early Italian Music) which have so far eluded commercial CD reissue. They show Stokowski at a stylistic crossroads between the big-orchestra arrangements through which he brought Baroque works to the masses in the 1920s and ‘30s and the burgeoning postwar interest in early music in its original (if not yet “HIP”) form, a direction the conductor would increasingly take in the 1960s.

The final Gabrielli track posed particular transfer difficulties. On the original LP, it appears to have been pieced together from several takes, perhaps from more than just the one session listed, with differing levels of tape hiss, volume levels and even pitch. I have tried to straighten out all of the disparate elements in the present restoration. The sources for the transfers were “plain dog” first edition copies of the Bach and mid-‘50s plum “shaded dog” label copies of the Italian music album.

Mark Obert-Thorn

J. S. BACH (1685 – 1750) (transcribed by Stokowski)
  • 1 Siciliano (from Sonata No. 4 for Violin and Clavier in C minor, BWV 1017) (4:01)
    2 Mein Jesu, BWV 487 (5:06)
    3 Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 582 (13:50)

  • VIVALDI (1678 – 1741) (orchestrated by Stokowski)
    Concerto Grosso in D minor, Op. 3, No. 11
    (“L’Estro Armonico”)

    4 1st Mvt.: Allegro (5:18)
    5 2nd Mvt.: Largo (4:24)
    6 3rd Mvt.: Allegro (3:27)

  • CESTI (1623 – 1669) (transcribed by Stokowski)
    7 Tu mancavi a tormentarmi, crudelissima speranza (6:21)

  • LULLY (1632 – 1687)
    8 Nocturne (from Le Triomphe de l’Amour) (5:32)
    9 March (from Thésèe) (1:03)

  • FRESCOBALDI (1583 – 1643) (transcribed by Stokowski)
    10 Gagliarda (3:32)

  • PALESTRINA (1525 – 1594)
    11 Adoramus Te (2:58)
    12 O Bone Jesu (2:14)

  • GABRIELI (1554 – 1612)
    13 Canzon Quarti Toni a 15 (7:15)
    14 In Ecclesiis Benedicite Domino (10:28)

Leopold Stokowski and
His Symphony Orchestra (Tracks 1 – 10)
Brass Choir (Tracks 13 – 14)
A Capella Chorus (Tracks 11, 12 and 14)
Charles Courboin (organ) (Track 14)

Recorded in Manhattan Center, New York on:
15 March 1950 (Tracks 1 – 2)
24 March 1950 (Track 3)
28 – 29 February 1952 (Tracks 4 – 6)
28 February 1952 (Track 7)
4 April 1952 (Tracks 8 – 10)
26 March 1952 (Tracks 11 – 12)
6 March 1952 (Tracks 13 – 14)

First issued on RCA Victor LM-1133 (Tracks 1 – 3) and LM-1721 (remainder)

Producer and Audio Restoration Engineer: Mark Obert-Thorn
Cover artwork based on a photograph of Leopold Stokowski

Special thanks to Don Tait for providing source material

Total duration: 75:40

Fanfare Review

If you like Stokowski, you won’t want to miss it

This release presents the contents of RCA Victor Red Seal LP LM-1721 (recorded in 1952), with the exception of the three Bach transcriptions, which come from LM-1133 (recorded in 1950). Pristine’s annotations claim that these recordings have not been released on CD until now, and if that is the case—I have no reason to believe that it is not—then many will need to read no further, as this disc will be self-recommending. Were I not writing this review but reading it, I’d probably feel the same way.

The comfortingly familiar and the unusual rub shoulders here. Stokowski’s Bach and Vivaldi are known quantities, and they are excellently presented. Indeed, if I wanted to demonstrate to a Stokowski virgin what the conductor was all about, I couldn’t do better than play his transcription of the Bach Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor, a towering, emotionally rich realization which, to repeat a cliché, turns the orchestra into a giant super-organ. At 13:48, it’s slower than his 1936 recording with the Philadelphia Orchestra, but faster than the stereo version he recorded later in the 1950s for Capitol with “his” symphony orchestra. Of course, everything is romanticized and swooned over in a way that is the very antithesis of historically informed practice, but to complain about that is missing the point. You don’t go to Niagara Falls and complain that it is not the Louvre.

The shorter works by Cesti and Frescobaldi also reappeared in Stokowski’s discography a few years later in sessions for United Artists with the Symphony of the Air. No big surprises here, although in this earlier recording, the conductor takes the Gagliarda more slowly. The United Artists sessions also included Palestrina’s Adoramus Te, and here we have a curiosity. In 1952, Stokowski recorded it au naturel, with a mixed choir. (He does the same with O Bone Jesu.) In the United Artists remake, however, he conducted the work in his own orchestral transcription. Are the Palestrina and Gabrieli recordings presented here the only examples of Stokowski not leading an orchestra? I invite correction from our knowledgeable readers. The chorus is not identified, but it sounds like a fairly small group, and its singing is sensitive and stylish. Similarly, the brass players are not named, but they also acquit themselves well. Presumably, all of these performers were from the New York City area, as these sessions took place in Manhattan Center. Stokowski treats the works by Palestrina and Gabrieli less freely than do his transcriptions, and the results are both intensely devout and dramatic.

Mark Obert-Thorn produced this disc and did the restorations, working from the actual LPs. He advises that In ecclesiis benedicite Domino was problematic, as this 10-minute recording appeared to be made up of multiple takes, and from take to take, there were variations in tape hiss, volume, and even pitch. He has done an excellent job of smoothing out the potentially jarring contrasts.

Unlike some other Fanfare reviewers, I rarely receive Pristine Audio discs for review, but when I find them in used CD stores I usually pick them up, as I am curious about Andrew Rose’s work, particularly when he issues recordings not otherwise available in any form. As long as I have the floor, then, let me give a rabid recommendation for Pristine Audio PASC 372, which is a live Stokowski concert with the Philadelphia Orchestra, dating from March 16, 1962. The program includes Webern (the op. 1 Passacaglia), Sibelius’s Fourth Symphony, Stokowski’s arrangement of Debussy’s La Soirée dans Grenade, and his arrangement of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. It’s even in authentic stereo! If you like Stokowski, you won’t want to miss it. The same goes for the release reviewed here.

Raymond Tuttle

This article originally appeared in Issue 37:3 (Jan/Feb 2014) of Fanfare Magazine.