GRAINGER: Country Gardens; Mock Morris; Early One Morning; Shepherd‚s Hey; Irish Tune from County Derry; Molly on the Shore; Handel in the Strand/SIBELIUS: Berceuse from The Tempest; Valse Triste & more – Grainger/Stokowski – Cala

by | Nov 11, 2005 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

GRAINGER: Country Gardens; Mock Morris; Early One Morning;
Shepherd‚s Hey; Irish Tune from County Derry; Molly on the Shore;
Handel in the Strand/SIBELIUS: Berceuse from The Tempest; Valse
Triste/VAUGHAN WILLIAMS: Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas
Tallis/RACHMANINOV: Vocalise/GRANADOS: Intermezzo from
Goyescas/DEBUSSY: Clair de Lune/IBERT: Escale – Percy Grainger,
piano/Symphony Orchestra/ Leopold Stokowski

Cala CACD0542  77:56 ****:

Originally recorded in May and November 1950, the set of popular, folk
pieces by Percy Grainger (1882-1961) had the composer re-orchestrating
them especially for the RCA project with Stokowski (LM 1238), so they
would gain in clarity of expression while communicating “the impression
of folk music played and danced in the village green.” Instruments like
the vibraphone, celeste, saxophone, and marimbas contribute to the
perky, sprightly energy of the occasion. Play the composer’s
arrangement of Danny Boy on St. Patrick’s Day, and the house will treat
your next pint. Grainger himself congratulated Stokowski on the
finished products, calling “the tempi. . .perfection. . .I am ravished
by. . . the unfailing rightness of all the scoring procedures you
recommended to me.”  RCA issued the set of dances in installments,
some on classical 45 rpms. This is the first time the complete set
appears on CD, courtesy of Cala and the auspices of the Leopold
Stokowski Society.

Stokowski had made the first inscription of the Sibelius Berceuse from
The Tempest with the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1936. The 15 March 1950
version is more expansive, with the deliberately exotic, perhaps
Hollywoody, patina of strings and harp the conductor could elicit as
“the Stokowski sound.” The 4 October 1949 Valse Triste enjoys a fine
pulse and wonderful string articulation, but it rather races along in
quick tempo, despite some glaring rubato in the manner of Willem
Mengelberg.  The 3 September 1952 (LM 1739) is the first of
Stokowski’s lush recordings of Vaughan Williams’ setting of the Tallis
tune “in the third mode.” Several New York Philharmonic principal
string players contribute to the quartet continuo, including cellist
Leonard Rose, who features in the hefty, sensuous arrangement of the
Granados Intermezzo (listed on the original RCA LM 9029). The
Rachmaninov Vocalise, which figured in several guises under Stokowski,
comes from an album called “Restful Music” (LM 2042), which still has
some contents not yet transferred to CD. Both the Granados and Debussy
recordings derive from 1947 sessions, again with New York Philharmonic
and free-lance players, including a vibraphone to accompany the
shimmering strings of Moonlight of Debussy (LM 1154). Maybe Stokowski
had been inspired by the film Portrait of Jennie. Ibert’s
three-movement suite (15 February 1951), rife with Mediterranean
sensibility, is a perfect vehicle for Stokowski, a blend of Saint-Saens
and Ravel, cross-fertilized by the sirocco. A fine compendium of
assorted Stokowski treasures and idiosyncratic tidbits for collectors
and audiophiles alike.

— Gary Lemco

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