VAUGHAN WILLIAMS: Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis; PURCELL: Dido’s Lament from Dido and Aeneas (orch. Stokowski); DVORAK: Serenade for Strings in E Major, Op. 22 – Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/ Leopold Stokowski – Newton Classics

by | Nov 13, 2010 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

VAUGHAN WILLIAMS: Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis; PURCELL: Dido’s Lament from Dido and Aeneas (orch. Stokowski); DVORAK: Serenade for Strings in E Major, Op. 22 – Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Leopold Stokowski

Newton Classics 8802025, 52:02 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:

Among the last recordings by Leopold Stokowski (1882-1977), these luminous readings–of the archetypal “Stokowski sound”–restore original EMI issues from sessions 16, 18-19 August 1975 made at No. 1 Studio, Abbey Road, London. Stokowski first led the Tallis Fantasia in 1926, recording it for RCA in 1952 (LM 1739), and here for the last time, having included it in his last public concert at the Royal Albert Hall in 1974. Typically, Stokowski attends to each harmonic and textural nuance, the work itself based on a tune in four parts from a 1567 metrical psalter. Stokowski’s insistence on free bowing to maintain an unbroken string line produces a most Wagnerian lushness in the antiphonal realization, which throbs with erotically radiant life in both large and diminutive ensemble groups.  A grandly leisurely tempo moves the gathering crescendi in relentless waves of ecclesiastical passion, achieving a blazing effect and a sonic triumph for the RPO strings.

Stokowski arranged the aria “When I am laid in earth” from Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas for a New York concert–including a Purcell suite–in December 1950, the aria an almost liturgical outpouring of sorrow drawn in autumnal lachrymose colors. The extended meditation conveys the same mortal aura as Grieg’s Ase’s Death: stately, noble, inexorable.

Collectors who missed the Desmar incarnation of this disc some fifteen years ago will seek Stokowski’s first and only inscription of the Dvorak String Serenade, Op. 22, rendered in luscious harmonies that make the 1954 Talich reading seem chaste by comparison. Stokowski’s rhythmic freedom borders on license but never transgresses against sound musical taste.  The passionate Valse movement enjoys that give-and-take of tempo rubato that proves suavely thrilling. A touch of marcato suffuses the central Scherzo but without intruding upon the ardent cross rhythms that mark the music, with its enthralling romantic counter-subject. The splendid Larghetto movement proffers an extended nocturne in long-drawn shades from Rembrandt and Caravaggio. A quick segue to the Finale: Allegro vivace, a spirited antiphonal dance that later recaps tunes from the opening Moderato. Busy, energized music from first to last, it is played with the mystique that defined Stokowski’s seven decades of robust music-making.

— Gary Lemco


 

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