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Stokowski, The Eternal Magician - Debussy, Stravinsky, Wagner, Enescu


Release Date: 12/09/2008 
Label:  Cala Records   Catalog #: 549   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  George EnescuClaude DebussyIgor StravinskyRichard Wagner
Conductor:  Leopold Stokowski
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Leopold Stokowski OrchestraAll-American Youth Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Mixed 
Length: 1 Hours 16 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



STOKOWSKI —THE ETERNAL MAGICIAN Leopold Stokowski, cond; All-American Youth O; 1 Robert Shaw Chorale of Women’s Voices; 2 “His” SO CALA 549, mono; limited stereo 1 (75:38)


ENESCO Romanian Rhapsodies: No. 1; No. 2. DEBUSSY Read more Nocturnes. 2 STRAVINSKY Firebird Suite. WAGNER Die Walküre: Ride of the Valkyries 1


Here is another welcome collection of Stokowski recordings, courtesy of Cala, including a nice oddity, a 1941 “Ride of the Valkyries” in, of all things, two channels. Stokowski, who did not fear technical innovations, was a pioneer in making stereo recordings, having allowed Bell Laboratories to make live experimental two-channel recordings of the Philadelphia Orchestra back in the early 1930s. Disney’s 1940 Fantasia , for which he and the Philadelphia Orchestra supplied the music, had a multichannel soundtrack, though few theaters were equipped to play it. In 1952, he allowed Bert Whyte to record a guest appearance in Detroit in stereo (see Fanfare 30:5). When Stokowski recorded the “Ride,” it was the custom at Columbia Records to record a second master disc simultaneously, which served as a backup. It was later discovered that these discs were labeled “left” and “right,” since they were done with separate microphones and, therefore, gave a slightly different audio perspective. This left open the possibility that, if the two discs could be synchronized, they would yield a narrow “stereo” effect. The impressive result can be heard on this CD and it raises the possibility that Columbia was recording other performers the same way. Let’s wait and see what transpires. Granted, since the mikes couldn’t have been too far apart, the stereo “spread” is not striking, but one does get a broadening of the aural perspective and a slight sense of location from the instruments. The frequency range is, of course, quite limited and Stokowski, perhaps with an eye on the clock, whips the music along. Still, this is an exciting discovery and, who knows, more such recordings may exist.


The other performances in this collection show the conductor at his considerable best with, perhaps, one miscalculation: “Nuages,” which is treated as something far more sensuous than it actually is—the maestro really milks nuances from it, as if the drifting clouds suggest erotic images; the performance just seems too fussy and juicy. Thanks to post-production, the procession in “Fêtes” actually approaches from a distance and effectively fades away (it would be quite a brilliant rendition even without this effect). As for the third Nocturne , these “Sirènes” are as alluring a group as you are likely to hear, and Stokowski takes full advantage of it. I haven’t heard all the recordings of the Romanian Rhapsodies but, if anyone gets more music and color out of them than Stokowski does, I’d like to hear that performance. This 1953 recording was his only attempt at No. 2—he had recorded No. 1 on 78s and subsequently did it again.


Has anyone recorded the same piece eight times? As far as I know, Stokowski holds the record for most recordings of a particular piece of music, with no less than eight Firebird Suites , three with the Philadelphia Orchestra, followed by one each with the All-American Youth Orchestra, NBC Symphony, “His” Symphony Orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic, and the London Symphony Orchestra, the last two in stereo. They cover a span of 43 years! I have not heard them all—in fact, the only ones I really know are the NBC recording and this one. Perhaps because of 78 side limitations, he made a cut in the finale on the NBC recording; this 1950 performance is uncut and, like all his others, uses the 1919 edition, which includes the “Introduction and Dance of the Firebird,” the “Rondo,” “Kastchei’s Dance,” the “Berceuse,” and the “Finale.” Thanks to his use of multimiking and postproduction, the sound, if not of the dry, desiccated sort apparently favored by the composer, is, nevertheless, very detailed; but it’s also richly colorful and the transfer is so vivid that it practically jumps out of your speakers at you. Edward Johnson, as usual, provides appropriately informative annotations, just the sort that such a project deserves.


FANFARE: James Miller
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Works on This Recording

1.
Romanian Rhapsody no 1 in A major, Op. 11 no 1 by George Enescu
Conductor:  Leopold Stokowski
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Leopold Stokowski Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1901; Romania 
Length: 11 Minutes 23 Secs. 
Notes: This selection is a mono recording. 
2.
Romanian Rhapsody no 2 in D major, Op. 11 no 2 by George Enescu
Conductor:  Leopold Stokowski
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Leopold Stokowski Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1901; Romania 
Length: 11 Minutes 29 Secs. 
Notes: This selection is a mono recording. 
3.
Nocturnes (3) for Orchestra by Claude Debussy
Conductor:  Leopold Stokowski
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Leopold Stokowski Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1897-1899; France 
Length: 26 Minutes 32 Secs. 
Notes: This selection is a mono recording. 
4.
Firebird Suite: Introduction by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Leopold Stokowski
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Leopold Stokowski Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1919; USA 
Length: 3 Minutes 12 Secs. 
Notes: This selection is a mono recording. 
5.
Firebird Suite: The Firebird and its dance by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Leopold Stokowski
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Leopold Stokowski Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1919; Switzerland 
Length: 1 Minutes 11 Secs. 
Notes: This selection is a mono recording. 
6.
Firebird Suite: Prélude et Ronde des princesses by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Leopold Stokowski
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Leopold Stokowski Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1919; Switzerland 
Length: 5 Minutes 19 Secs. 
Notes: This selection is a mono recording. 
7.
Firebird Suite: Danse infernale by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Leopold Stokowski
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Leopold Stokowski Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1945; USA 
Length: 4 Minutes 0 Secs. 
Notes: This selection is a mono recording. 
8.
Firebird Suite: Berceuse by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Leopold Stokowski
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Leopold Stokowski Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1919; Switzerland 
Length: 4 Minutes 0 Secs. 
Notes: This selection is a mono recording. 
9.
Firebird Suite: Finale by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Leopold Stokowski
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Leopold Stokowski Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1919; Switzerland 
Length: 3 Minutes 42 Secs. 
Notes: This selection is a mono recording. 
10.
Die Walküre: Ride of the Valkyries by Richard Wagner
Conductor:  Leopold Stokowski
Orchestra/Ensemble:  All-American Youth Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1856; Germany 
Length: 4 Minutes 43 Secs. 
Notes: This selection is a 1941 experimental two-channel stereo recording. 

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