Stokowski circa 1920
Stokowski's French Acoustic Recordings 1919-1924
During the acoustic period from 1919 to the end of 1924, Stokowski and
the Philadelphia Orchestra recorded a number of sides of music of French
composers, many of them not approved for release. Without including
Christoph Willibald von Gluck as a 'French' composer (even though he lived
his last 13 years in Paris), there were 11 Victor Red Seal sides of music
by French composers were released during the acoustic era.
1919 - Chabrier - España Rhapsody
In 1919, after having made no recordings in 1918 due to war-time restrictions,
Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra again returned to Camden for recording.
The 1918-1919 Philadelphia Orchestra season ended on May 3, and on May 8, 9 and 10,
1919, in the Camden Church Studio, Stokowski recorded seven new works, including
two items of French music: the Bizet Carmen - Prelude to Act 1 (described below),
and the Chabrier España Rhapsody.
The España Rhapsody by Emmanuel Chabrier (1841-1894) was composed in
1883 followed a trip by Chabrier to Spain the previous year.
'España, rapsodie pour orchestre'
was premiered in November, 1883 by Charles Lamoureux at his Paris
concerts. It has proved to be his most successful work,
This recording is remarkably successful, given that it was recorded
acoustically. The performance is joyous and the orchestra's playing
is inspired. The effectiveness of the sound is aided by the score's
orchestration, strong in wind instruments, which tend to record well in
the acoustic process. In this recording, the percussion and the two harps
called for in the score are replaced by wind instruments. About
two minutes of the score is cut so as to allow this 6 1/2 minute work
to be accommodated on a 4 1/2 minute 78 RPM side.
Interestingly, after this successful 1919 recording of España,
Stokowski did not record it again until November, 1975,
more than 56 years later !
This recording of España was released in June 1920 on Victor 12
12 inch Red Seal disk 74621, matrix C-22809-7. It was also
released in Britain by the Gramophone Company on DB 384, and later
when double-sided records were released by Victor, on Victor 6241
paired with the
Bacchanale from the Saint-Saëns opera Samson et Dalila
Click here to listen to - download the 1919 Chabrier España Rhapsody
1919 - Bizet -
Carmen Act 1 Prelude
The most numerous composer Stokowski recorded
during this period was Georges Bizet. On May
8, 1919 Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra recorded the Act 1 Prelude from
Prelude, Allegro giocoso, is one of the most famous
opera overtures, having a theme similar to a Spanish
corrida, with also the leitmotif of Escamillo's aria of
This recording was issued on Victor
10 inch Red Seal record 64822 matrix B-22812-4 issued in
Click here to listen to (download) the 1919 Bizet Act 1 Prelude from Carmen
1923 - Bizet - Carmen - Changing of the Guard and
Stokowski and the Philadelphians recorded several
excerpts from Carmen during that period. On April 30,
1923 two different excerpts, labeled "Changing of the
Guard, or "Avec la garde montante"
from Act 1, and "Smugglers March", or "Marche des contrebandiers" from Act 3
were issued on a double sided 10 inch Victor Red
Seal disk Victor 1017, matrix B-27902-1 and B-27903-2.
Click here to listen to (download) Carmen - 'Marche des contrebandiers' from Act 3
Click here to listen to (download) Carmen - 'Avec la garde montante' from Act 1
1922 - Bizet - Danse provençale from L'Arlésienne Suite No 2
On January 27, 1922 Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra
recorded section IV - 'Farandole' from Georges Bizet's L'Arlésienne
Suite No 2. This lively music was to accompany
Alphonse Daudet's play L'Arlésienne, and was written by
Bizet in time for the first performance in 1872. Bizet then
made arrangements of passages for various instrumental groups,
including orchestra, from which this Suite no 2 originates.
In the Victor recording ledgers, there is
the note 'check with Mr. Stokowski as to the title of
this work'. This 10 inch Victor Red Seal record was
released with the title 'Spanish Dance', rather than as
'Farandole', presumably to
emphasize the Mediterranean flavor of the music, and to
avoid a name unknown to most.
This brief recording, only about 1 1/2 minutes, and it is
an example of the changes in Victor recording practices
since the first recording sessions of 1917 (which had
used a full orchestra). This 1922 orchestra complement
is reduced to about 45 musicians, and extensive instrumental changes
have been introduced. For example, the percussion which is
a prominent part of the first section of this Prelude has been
replaced by what seems to be a bass wind instrument, perhaps
a contrabassoon. Stokowski was to remake this lively work
7 years years later in May, 1929.
Although recorded early in 1922, this Victor 10 inch
disk 1113 was not released by Victor until the first
half of 1925. By this time, recordings made with the
electrical process were also being released, so that
this recording had relatively poor sales, and is
consequently a rare disk to find.
Click here to listen to (download) Bizet's 1922 'Spanish Dance' from L'Arlésienne Suite No 2
1920 - Saint-Saëns - Samson et Dalila Bacchanale
Later in 1920, on December 6, Stokowski recorded music from the opera
Samson et Dalila which Camille Saint-Saëns had completed in 1877.
This is the famous Bacchanale music from Act 3 of the opera
during which Samson is taunted by Dalila and the High Priest, leading
Samson to pull down the pillars of the temple, concluding the opera -
dramatic music for a dramatic scene.
Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra had tried, unsuccessfully
to record this work during the October 18 and 19, 1920
recording sessions. The released recording is certainly a notable success.
This approximately 4 minute excerpt is played with vitality and vividly recorded,
particularly given the technical possibilities of acoustic recording in 1920.
What an evocative oboe introduction by Marcel Tabuteau! And the recording
shows the Philadelphia strings to be already unsurpassed in that era, if competing
recordings are to be considered in comparison. This recording transcends the
technology of the period.
Click here to listen to - download Saint-Saëns - Samson et Dalila - Act 3 Bacchanale
1923 - Gounod - Faust Waltz from the 'Kermesse Scene'
Stokowski's only commercial recording of any music of
Charles Gounod was of this 1923 recording of the Waltz
from the end of Act 2, the 'Kermesse Scene',
where Mephistopheles has transported Faust to show him
the beautiful Marguarite.
This acoustic recording sounds remarkably good and is
particularly spirited, felicitous and graceful; what
a pleasure ! This waltz was recorded with the
Philadelphia Orchestra on May 1, 1923. This
successful side had followed three unsuccessful
recording sessions of this same work in October,
November and December of 1922. The final recording was
issued on a Victor double face 10 inch disk Victor 944, matrix
B-27099-8, coupled with the Thomas Mignon music. (According
to John R. Bolig, it had been assigned Victor single-face disk
number 66171, but was only issued in the double face 10 inch
disk Victor 944. 3)
During this period, Stokowski's working practice
was to record two to three
takes of a piece and wait until a pressing was made from
the wax master, and then, if not satisfied, record two
or three takes again at a later recording session.
However, towards the end of the acoustic era, Stokowski
insisted that Victor cut two 'masters' simultaneously, so
that he could hear one (which was destructive to the wax
master), and use the other master, if the take was
This performance of the Waltz from the Act 2
Kermesse scene is elegant and stylish, with a period
'salon orchestra' flavor that adds to the pleasure we
can receive even today from this performance in good
Click here to listen to (download) 1923 Waltz from Gounod's Faust Act 2 'La Kermesse' scene
"Gavotte" entr'acte to Act 3 of Mignon by Ambroise Thomas
following Saturday, May 6, 1923 Stokowski and the
Philadelphia Orchestra returned to the Camden Church
Studio to record the famous Gavotte from the entr’acte between
Act II and
Act III of Ambroise Thomas's opera 'Mignon'.
Although Mignon is less performed today, in the
nineteenth century, it was performed more than 1,000
times, and the Gavotte from the entr’acte before Act III
was and is even more famous, probably having been
arranged for most every instrumental combination from
hurdy-gurdy to string quartet.
This performance by Stokowski benefits from featuring
primarily the strings of the Philadelphia Orchestra,
with a young (age 28) William Kincaid in his third
season with the orchestra providing a nice flute solo at
the end, delivering a light and stylish performance that
works well in an acoustic recording.
recording was issued on a Victor Red Seal 10 inch
double-faced disk, Victor 944 matrix B-2798-1.
Click here to listen to (download) the 1923 Gavotte from Act III of Mignon by Thomas
Standing: Ferdinand Del Negro, bassoon,
Marcel Tabuteau, oboe, Anton Horner, horn
Seated: Rufus Arey, clarinet, William Kincaid, flute in 1923
1924 - Debussy - Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune
The last Stokowski acoustic recording of a French work was also,
perhaps with the Wagner Prelude to Act 1 of Lohengrin, the most
difficult to record, given the technical limitations of the
acoustic recording process. This was the beautiful,
ethereal, and wide ranging Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune by
This was one of Stokowski's show-pieces, included for example in his
third Cincinnati season in 1912, in his second London concert of
May 22, 1912, following his resignation from Cincinnati, and in
the latter half of his first season with the Philadelphia
Orchestra March 7, 1913, and in every year between 1915
and 1922 (excepting only 1916).
Stokowski and the orchestra had unsuccessfully attempted to
record the Prélude during their initial 1917 sessions, and again
in 1921, but neither were released by Stokowski. Then, on
April 28, 1924 in the Camden Church Studio the Philadelphians,
with star soloists Marcel Tabuteau, oboe and William Kincaid,
flute succeeded. This performance was released in January,
1925 on a double sided 12 inch Victor Red Seal record 6481
matrix C-21057-5, C-21058-5.
This performance is both remarkable, and still satisfying, even with
the major limitations of the acoustic recording process.
However, will need to await to hear the glorious 1927 recording
from the Academy of Music to hear the full sweep and magic of
this favorite Stokowski score.
Click here to listen to (download) the 1924 Debussy - Prélude à l'après-midi d'un
L'après-midi d'un faune choreographed and danced by Nijinsky
for the Ballets Russes in Paris, May, 1912
Note on listening to the Stokowski recordings:
The recordings in this site are files in mp3 format (128 mbps)
encoded from my recordings. Links to the mp3 files are located in two places:
First - in the page covering the year of the recording.
For example, links to a 1926 recording are found in the page:
1926 - Stokowski - Philadelphia Orchestra Recordings
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.
3 Bolig, John R. The Victor Red Seal Discography Volume 1: Single-Sided Series
(1903-1925). Mainspring Press. Denver, Colorado. 2004. ISBN 0-9671819-8-4