Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov (1859-1935), Stokowski, Reinhold Glière (1875-1956)
during Stokowski's first visit to the Soviet Union in 1931
Stokowski Acoustic Recordings of Russian Composers
Stokowski and the Philadelphians recorded Russian
during the acoustic era. On
another page of this site, you can read about and hear
Leopold Stokowski - Philadelphia Orchestra Acoustic
In addition to the Tchaikovsky, Stokowski also recorded a number of other acoustic sides
of Russian composers which were approved by Stokowski
and released by Victor from 1919 to the end of the
acoustic era in 1924.
1919 and 1921 Nicolai Rimski-Korsakov -
Scheherazade op 35
In 1919, 1920 and 1921,
Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra tried three
times to record movements of Nicolai Rimski-Korsakov's
Scheherazade. These were the 'Festival at Baghdad' recorded in 1919, and
'The Young Prince and the Young Princess', recorded in 1920 and 1921, the second
In the May 9, 1919 recording session, they successfully recorded
movement IV: the 'Festival at Baghdad', which was released in September of that
year on Victor Red Seal 12 inch disk 74593, matrix number C-22810-4.
This recording is
sonically successful, given the challenges of the
acoustic recording process of 1919. However, it
seems to be recorded at a pitch well below the original
score. Speeding up the reproduction so as to
achieve the pitch of the score results in a reproduction
obviously too fast, sounding more like a Mickey Mouse
cartoon than the majestic Rimski-Korsakov depiction of
the Festival at Baghdad. So, here I reproduce it
at the pitch that I believe correct for this recording,
even though not at the note pitch of the score.
A work recorded very successfully on several occasions was the
Caucasian Sketches, a series of tone poems by Mikhail
Ippolitov-Ivanov, whom Stokowski met in the Soviet Union
in 1931. The first of the Stokowski - Philadelphia
Orchestra recordings of this work was the 'Procession of
the Sardar', which Stokowski caused to be labeled 'March
of the Caucasian Chief' on this disk. It was recorded
April 29, 1922 in the Camden Church Studio, and issued
on Victor Red Seal 10 inch disk 66106, matrix B26442-2.
Stokowski clearly appreciated the 'Caucasian Sketches', and
programmed it at his debut concert in Paris, Sunday, May 9, 1909 with the
Colonne Orchestra. Stokowski again programmed the 'Caucasian Sketchers
at his first concert with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in
November, 1909, and at his first concert with the Philadelphia Orchestra in
October, 1912 ! He must have been convinced that it was
also one of his most effective conducting showpieces.
This 1922 recording is vivid and demonstrates Stokowski's
interest in this work. However, in my opinion,
Stokowski's 1927 recording of the Procession of the
Sardar is even better, not only due to superior sonics,
but also from the grandeur of the performance. In fact
the 1927 Ippolitov-Ivanov recording is one of my
favorite Stokowski works. Yet the 1922 acoustic performance
of the 'Procession of the Sardar' still gives us pleasure today.
Click on the link below to listen to this successful 1922 recording.
1923 - "Dance of the Tumblers" from Rimsky-Korsakov's
Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov was another favorite of Stokowski. In late
1923, he recorded an excerpt from Act 3 of Rimsky-Korsakov's opera
"Snegurochka" (the "Snow Maiden")
, the so-called 'Dance of the Tumblers'.
Snegurochka was an important opera for Rimski-Korsakov.
He had gone through a difficult creative period between
1874 and 1877. Then, with his opera "May Night" of
1878, based on Russian folklore and the short story of
Nikolai Gogol, he seems to have recaptured his creative inspiration.
"Snegurochka" then followed the next year in 1879, once again
based on Russian folklore, and with an orchestration that was both
effective and transparent. According to the Russian
fairy tail, Snegurochka was the daughter of Spring and
Frost. Snegurochka wanted to experience human
love, but after this was granted to her, it came with
the unfortunate result that she then melted for the experience.
1924 - Anatoly Lyadov - 'Dance of the Amazons', opus 65
In December of 1924, Stokowski recorded the 'Dance of the
Amazons', opus 65 by Anatoly Lyadov (1855-1914). This is a short
piece, composed in 1910, and among Lyadov's last compositions.
It is often said of Lyadov that he never
completed a large scale work, but only miniatures.
One of the indirect benefits of Lyadov's lack of diligence in his
composing may have been an opportunity for Stravinsky. Serge
Diaghilev (1872-1929) asked Lyadov to compose a new score for his
Ballets Russes for the 1910 season. Perhaps this
'Dance of the Amazons' was intended by Lyadov to be part
of the ballet score which he failed to complete for
Diaghilev. In any case, when Lyadov failed to
deliver the ballet score, Diaghilev then asked Stravinsky, age 27 and
at that time barely known, to fulfill the commission, which resulted
in Stravinsky's first great work, 'The Firebird'.
Stokowski recording, although at the very end of the
Victor acoustic recording era was in fact introduced
commercially the following summer of 1925, in the midst
of the release of the first Victor Orthophonic
electrical recordings. However, during most of
1925, Victor (and rival Columbia, who had also licensed
the Western Electric process) did not promote the fact
that certain recordings had been made with the
electrical recording process. Victor did not begin
such a promotion of the new technology until the 'Victor
Day' promotion of November, 1925 (as described in
Victor Day in Leopold Stokowski -
Philadelphia Orchestra Electrical Recordings of 1925). However, Victor
dealers were encouraged to play the new electrical
recordings on the Victrola equipment to demonstrate
For these reasons of a late commercial release, and
competition from the dramatically improved electrical process
recordings, this Lyadov
disk, released as Victor Red Seal 10 inch disk 1112, matrix B31263-2
did not sell particularly well, and is one of the few rare Stokowski
Click on the link below to hear the Lyadov 'Dance of the
Amazons' opus 65 from late 1924.
pioneering recording by Stokowski and the Philadelphians
was their 1922 acoustic recording of 'Fireworks' or 'Feu
d'artifice', and early Stravinsky composition as
indicated by its opus 4 number.
This was the first American
recording of any work by Stravinsky. The sound of this
recording effort was effective and must have given such
early listeners a fine impression of this work.
Also, Stokowski used a timpani in this session, which
Victor had avoided in most of the previous acoustic
Although recorded November
6, 1922, is was not released until mid 1925, coupled
with the Lyadov, mentioned above. Because of this late
issue, and probably due to the avant-garde (or even
unknown nature) of Stravinsky at that time, the disk did
not sell very well. However, it is remarkably
successful, given the limitations of the acoustic
1924 - Recording of Stravinsky Suite from the Firebird
This Stokowski recording of the Suite from the Firebird was certainly
a pioneering recording. In fact, according to C.G. Arnold's excellent
acoustic discography (see
Leopold Stokowski Philadelphia Orchestra Bibliography, Sources and Credits
), other than the Stokowski 'Feu d'artifice', the only previous recording
of any Stravinsky work by any orchestra was Sir Thomas Beecham's
June 1916 (just before he was knighted) recording of three movements.
These three selections were, as usual, heavily cut, and only two
of the movements were released by Columbia.
These were 'Dance of the Firebird' and the 'Infernal Dance'.
This Beecham recording, with his Beecham Symphony
Orchestra was recorded only 6 years after the June
25, 1910 performance of the original ballet by
Diaghilev's Ballets Russes in Paris. This and
a number of other Beecham Symphony Orchestra performances
were recorded at the initiative of
at that time General Manager of the British subsidiary of
the (U.S.) Columbia Graphophone Co. This performance of
the two parts of the Suite, was released on a two-sided
British Columbia Graphophone 12 inch disk L1040, matrices
6797-1-2 and 6799-1. In this performance, a number of
the woodwinds, particularly the oboe seem to be 'going
through the motions' in performing the music, without any
conviction. The Firebird must have seemed a bazaar score
for musicians who may have first studied their instrument in the
1880s, at a time when Dvorak was 'new music' and Brahms Symphony
no 4 was just having its premier performance.
Thomas Beecham in about 1911 ('Sir Thomas' after 1916)
This 1915 Beecham recording is the only listed recording of any
Stravinsky work before Stokowski's 1922 recording of 'Feu d'artifice'.
Further, this is apparently Beecham's only published recording of
the Firebird. In fact, according the the Michael Gray discography 1,
this seems to be Beecham's only commercial recording of any work by
Stravinsky (!). I do not have access to other discographies or a performance
register of Beecham concerts, but I have not seen a Beecham
Firebird in any partial discography or any recent collection.
Stravinsky does not seem to be a particular favorite in
Beecham's programs. So, for several reasons, this
recording is of particular historical interest, and
you can hear it by clicking on the link below.
In 1924, at the very end of the acoustic era, Stokowski and
the Philadelphians returned to Camden, New Jersey to
record Stravinsky's Firebird Suite. For this recording,
unlike so many Victor acoustics, Stokowski used a
timpani, although carefully, so as not to jar the
sensitive acoustic diaphragm.
The Firebird Suite would often be recorded on five or six
78 RPM sides by others, but Stokowski was able to fit it
onto 4 acoustic sides. The first reason was the very
rapid playing of this recording. Listen, for example to
the end of the first side (click here)
, at about 3 minutes from the beginning. It is a
tribute to the virtuoso abilities of the Philadelphia
Orchestra of that era to be able to play such difficult
and new music with precision and brilliance at such a
The second reason
for this Firebird fitting on only four 78 RPM sides is the very large
cut of the repeating progression at the conclusion of
the Suite, on side 4. Normally, this progression would
lead up to the crescendo of the finale. This music is
totally cut from Stokowski's recording.
likely that this cut by Stokowski was not done simply to fit
the Firebird Suite onto four 78 RPM sides.
Stokowski made this same cut in his 1927 electric re-recording, and in
all of his subsequent 78 RPM recordings of the 1930s and
1940s, when time length was not a problem.
sonic results of this acoustic recording were quite
good, given the limitation of the process. However, the
sonics of the 1927 Academy of Music electrical recording
are so dramatically superior, it is a remarkable example
of the progress of the recording technology, due to the
Westrex Electric process in only three years.
This recording, although a
stirring performance, coming out as it did in early
1925, just before the first Victor electrical process
recordings were released, did not sell particularly
well, but remains a thrilling experience.
This recording of Stravinsky's Firebird Suite was issued by Victor
in 1925 on two double-faced Victor 12 inch (30 cm) Red Seal disks:
6492, 6493, matrices C-30992-3, C-30993-3, C-30994-2, C-30995-3.
Second - in the Chronological Discography page.
For example, links to a 1926 recording are also found in the
electrical recordings chronological discography page:
Chronological Discography of Electrical Recordings
This page lists all the electrical recordings from 1925 to
1940 made by the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Leopold
Stokowski and issued by Victor, including of course the 1926 recordings.
The mp3 files in this site are encoded at 128 mbps. This means that the
files are of different sizes, according to the length of
the music. For example, the second electrical recording, the
April 29, 1925 Borodin ‘Polovetzki Dances’ is small (3.6MB). In contrast,
the 1929 Le Sacre du Printemps file is large. Le Sacre part 1 is 14MB
and Le Sacre part 2 is 16MB.
This means that a large file will take a longer time to
download, depending on your internet connection speed.
Please keep this in mind when you click to listen to -
download a particularly music file. You may click
the link to the music file, but need to wait a number of
seconds or even minutes to listen to the file.
If you have any comments or questions about this
Leopold Stokowski site, please e-mail me (Larry Huffman) at