by | Jun 25, 2012 | Classical Reissue Reviews

Stokowski Conducts = J. STRAUSS: On the Beautiful Blue Danube; BORODIN (arr. Sargent): Nocturne from String Quartet No. 2; PAGANINI: Moto Perpetuo, Op. 11; RACHMANINOV: Vocalise; HANDEL: Alcina: Tambourino; PURCELL: Hornpipe from King Arthur; GLUCK: Lento from Iphigenie in Aulis; Musette and Sicilienne from Armide; Dance of the Blessed Spirits from Orfeo ed Eurydice; BOCCHERINI: Minuet from String Quintet in E Major; TCHAIKOVSKY: Andante Cantabile from String Quartet No. 1 in D; BERGER: Rondino Giocoso – Symphony Orchestra/ Leopold Stokowski – Guild GHCD 2392, 63:23 [Distr. by Albany] ****:
Inscriptions made 1957-58 by Leopold Stokowski here conform to that “Restful Music” or “Music for Strings” category he often contributed to the EMI catalogue, a lush testament to “the Stokowski Sound.” The ‘claim to fame’ on this disc rests with Stokowski’s stereo Blue Danube Waltz, Op. 314 issued for the first time on CD, a performance complete with repeats and without cuts. The unusual entry becomes the Rondino Giocoso (1933) of Theodor Berger, a sinewy angular work that had its world premier in 1939 under Furtwaengler.
Arcady Dubensky supplies the transcription for the arch-romantic 1912 Vocalise of Serge Rachmaninov, a supple demonstration of Stokowski’s use of free-bowing among his strings to achieve a seamless cathedral of string sound without any intrusive pulsation.
In discussion with singer Gerard Souzay, who sang an Orfeo ed Eurydice with Stokowski, it was most enlightening for me to hear of Stokowski’s economy and chastity of means in that score, especially given this conductor so often accused of vulgarity or superfluous effects in music. The Handel, Purcell, Boccherini, and Gluck pieces each communicates its share of delicacy as well as a hint of the tragic muse. Malcolm Sargent’s familiar transcription of the Borodin Nocturne stands in grand contrast to the colorful transcription for strings and winds by Nikolai Tcherepnin that Anatole Fistoulari inscribed for a recording I just recently reviewed from this same Guild label. For the virtually stereotypical Stokowski string sound, merely indulge yourself in Tchaikovsky’s Andante Cantabile from the String Quartet No. 1 in D, the transcription by Stokowski himself. The famous story of this music’s having brought tears to the eyes of Leo Tolstoy rather obviously colors the rendition we hear, played for its heart-on-the-sleeve emotionalism. Had Barber’s Adagio for Strings likewise graced this collection, the sentimental appeal might have indeed been too overt.
—Gary Lemco

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