1926 Recordings of

Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra

 


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Leopold Stokowski - Philadelphia Orchestra Recordings of 1926

 

    Stokowski in the 1920s (possibly by Elias Goldensky)

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1926 Stokowski Electrical Recordings move to the Academy of Music, Philadelphia

 

The introduction of electrical recording by the Victor Talking Machine Company using the Westrex process in 1925 was one of the most important milestones in the history of the gramophone.  Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra were in the vanguard of that new era, recording the first electrical symphony orchestra recordings in the world!  In 1926, Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra made a further major advance by initiating what were the first recordings of a fidelity sufficient that music lovers could, for the first time, hear a full symphony with reproduction allowing full enjoyment of the masterworks.  This was the end of recordings in which the music "...sounded like being played by a group of banjos...".

 

1926 Stokowski - Philadelphia Orchestra Advancements in Recording Techniques

 

Key to this major advancement was the agreement by the Victor Talking Machine Company in the Spring of 1926 to install the Westrex electrical recording system in the basement of the Philadelphia Orchestra's home in the Academy of Music, Philadelphia.  This change had three important components.

 

The first improvement was not only the installation of electrical recording equipment, but of a Westrex system which seems aurally superior to the recording system Victor used in Camden in 1925.  This may have been a combination of improved condenser microphones, and of recording heads.  For example the Western Electric Model 394 condenser Microphone Transmitter may have been introduced at about this time, including in Philadelphia.

 

Second, as well as a technically improved recording system, the orchestra was now recording in the beautiful acoustics of the Philadelphia Academy of Music .  The orchestra's home concert hall provided an added openness and atmosphere to the recordings.  This ambience or "air" in the recording was intentionally missing from the relatively dead acoustics of the Camden Church Studio .  Recording engineers in the acoustic recording era judged it important to have an acoustically dead studio for the acoustic recording process.

 

Third, Leopold Stokowski and the Victor recording engineers continued to experiment with the most effective way to capture the ochestra using the new electric recording process.  They stopped replacing percussion with contra-bassoons, stopped replacing double basses with bass saxophones and tubas.  The new electric recording process was not disrupted by the impact of percussive instruments as the acoustic process had been.  Also, since the Westrex system recorded sounds down to about 120 hertz, it could capture the double bass strings and other low notes, so reinforcement with bass winds or bass brass was no longer necessary.  Recall that for the initial electrical recordings of 1925, such as Danse macabre, Victor still used a contra-bassoon to replace the timpani part, and the bass strings were replaced by a tuba along with bass winds, just as they had done with the acoustic process.  In contrast, these 1926 recordins employed the full sound of the full Philadelphia Orchestra.

 

Raymond Sooy, the pioneering recording engineer of Victor wrote of these initial recording sessions in his memoires: "... June 10, 1926: This was the first date of recording the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia. Up until this time, all Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra records were recorded at our studio in Camden, N.J. The above date proving very successful, we have continued to make all recordings of the Orchestra at the Academy of Music, using the complete Orchestra of 110 musicians. The first selections recorded: "Sounds from the Vienna Woods" and "The Blue Danube Waltz." 2

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June 10, 1926 - Recordings of two Johann Strauss II Waltzes

 

These June 10 recordings were of two waltzes by Johann Strauss II:  'On the Beautiful Blue Danube' (An der schönen blauen Donau), and 'Tales from the Vienna Woods' (Geschichten aus dem Wiener Wald).  Although the waltzes are substantially cut so that each waltz will fit on a very full side of a 12 inch Victor Red Seal disk, the arrangements are fully satisfying.

 

These 1926 recordings were so successful, acoustically and financially, that all the Philadelphia orchestra recordings for the next 5 years were made in the Academy.  In 1931, recording sessions were moved back to the Camden Church Studio no 2, because of depression economics. These two recordings of Johann Strauss II waltzes are lush and plush, with the Philadelphia strings, including now prominent celli and bass strings giving polished, if muscular performances.  Also, the sound of the electrical recording in the Academy of Music in 1926 is light years ahead of the Blue Danube recording of 8 years earlier, in 1919.  (Stokowski had also attempted a recording of the Tales from the Vienna Woods in May, 1920, never released.) 

 

Click on the links below to hear these famous waltzes, issued on a double faced Victor 6584 matrix CVE 22825 (Blue Danube), and CVE 35182 (Vienna Woods).

 

Click here to listen to (download) Strauss 'On the Beautiful Blue Danube'

 

 

Click here to listen to (download) 'Tales from the Vienna Woods'

 

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1926 Tchaikovsky Nutcracker Suite

 

Following these successful first Academy of Music recordings, on November 10, 1926 Stokowski and the Orchestra recorded one of Stokowski's favorite Tchaikovsky works: the suite from the Nutcracker ballet (opus 71a).  Stokowski had previously attempted to record several movements from Tchaikovsky's Suite from the Nutcracker ballet beginning with his very first Philadelphia Orchestra recording sessions in October, 1917.  At that time, he made recordings of the 'Dance of the Sugar Plumb Fairy' and of the 'Trepak' Russian Dance, which were apparently unsuccessful, and not released.  Similarly, in 1921 Stokowski attempted, unsuccessfully, the 'Waltz of the Flowers'. 

 

Then in February and April, 1921, he attempted to record the Dance of the Flutes, unsuccessfully, prior to the successfully released recording of this movement in February 13, 1922.

 

An example of the difficulties of recording, even with the electrical process was the celesta.  In this 1926 recording, the celesta was played by Gustave A. Loeben, who played by cello and keyboard in the orchestra for 35 years, 1919-1954.  The recording of the celesta required the difficult compromise between making the celesta audible, versus picking up the internal mechanism of this light instrument.  We can imagine how recording the celesta would have been well beyond any ability of the acoustic process to capture.

This 1926 recording of the Nutcracker was originally released as three separate disks, Victor 6615, 6615 and 6617.  Then, in 1928 when Victor began to issue the famous series of Victor Albums titled "Musical Masterpiece Series", the Nutcracker became Victor M-3, which remained in the Victor catalog until in early 1935, the Stokowski - Philadelphia recording which had been recorded the previous November was released.  The sound and performances of these items from the Nutcracker remain thrilling today, and demonstrate just how extensive were the advances of the Victor engineers and of Stokowski in the year since the first 1925 electrical recordings.  No doubt, recording in the Academy of Music was also a favorable factor in both the sound and the musicality of these performances.

 

Konstantin Ivanov concept for the original production of

Act 2 of The Nutcracker 1892

 

The music from the Nutcracker, below, is organized into two parts.  Part 1 includes the first three sides of the Victor album, which includes:

-  Miniature Overture (Ouverture miniature)

-  March (Marche)

-  Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy (Danse de la fée Dragée)

-  Trepak - Russian Dance (Danse russe). 

 

Part 2 includes music from the final three sides of the album:

-  Arabian Dance (Danse arabe)

-  Chinese Dance (Danse chinoise)

-  Dance of the Flutes (Danse des Mirlitons)

-  Waltz of the Flowers (Valse des fleurs).

 

Click here to listen to (or download) Tchaikovsky - Nutcracker Suite - Part 1

 

Click here to listen to (or download) Tchaikovsky - Nutcracker Suite - part 2

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1926 Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody no 2

 

Later in 1926, Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra made another electrical recording that, like the Strauss Waltzes, was destined to be a long and best selling recording in the Victor Red Seal library.  This was the Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody for piano no 2, apparently orchestrated in this recording by Stokowski, rather than the Karl Müller-Berghaus orchestration which he used for the 1920 acoustic recording.  Stokowski's orchestration performance sets of this Liszt work, with his cuts reside in the Leopold Stokowski Collection at the University of Pennsylvania Library.

 

The Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody was recorded on November 18, 1926 and March 10, 1927.

 

The restored recording in the links, below, were done by the mastering and restoration engineer Marcos Abreu, and is an excellent and also subtle restoration.  You can contact him at Marcos Abreu - Audio mastering and restoration services, email address:  mastering@terra.com.br    Thanks Marcos !

 

Click here to listen to (or download) the 1926 Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody no 2

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1926 - Wagner Overture to Rienzi

 

Recall that in 1919, the second year of Stokowski's recordings, he made a remarkably successful recording of Wagner's Overture to Rienzi, cut to fit on two 12 inch Red Seal sides.  On November 18, 1926, the same day as the first work on the Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody no 2, Stokowski and the Philadelphians began the recording of the full Rienzi Overture on three sides.  Sides 2 and 3 were completed on January 6, 1927.  These recording dates do present a problem in that the acoustics, or perhaps the microphone placement is different for the 1926 and 1927 recording sessions.  Also, there are pitch differences among the three sides which must be compensated.  However, the result is a grand performance, and the sound, if equalized, is excellent.

 

I believe you will find this recording to be an electrifying performance, with good sound.  Listen to Sol Caston's beautiful, exposed trumpet solo of the A natural note which begins this Overture.  What a virtuoso orchestra !

 

Although the 1919 performance was excellent in both sound (for the acoustic period) and performance, the recording progress demonstrated by the 1926 recording is striking.  As a dramatic example of the progress in musical reproduction represented by the introduction of electrical recording by Victor, listen to the passage beginning about 2 minutes into the Rienzi Overture in the 1919 recording, followed immediately by the same brief passage from the 1926 recording.  Of course, you would expect a marked improvement, but you may find the contrast more dramatic than you would have expected.  Click the link below to compare.

 

Click here to listen to (download) a brief section Rienzi Overture from 1919 and 1926

 

Wagner's Rienzi Overture was recorded by the Philadelphia Orchestra and Stokowski on November 18, 1926 and January 6, 1927, during the same sessions when the Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody no 2, and the closing scene from Wagner's Götterdämmerung were recorded. 

 

The Rienzi Overture was issued on three 12 inch sides of Victor 6624 and 6625 A, coupled with the closing scene from Die Götterdämmerung, recorded also at the January 6, 1927 session.  The three sides were from matrices CVE 37004-1 (from the November 18, 1926 session), and CVE 37700-1 and CVE 37701-2 from the January 6, 1927 session.  These recordings were issued in April, 1927.

 

Click here to listen to (download) the 1926 Wagner Rienzi Overture

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2   Sooy, Raymond.  Memoirs of my Recording and Traveling Experiences for the Victor Talking Machine Company. Manuscript, not dated, but ending with events of 1931.  An important contribution to the history of recording, the David Sarnoff Library edited and reproduced these memoires on their website. http://www.davidsarnoff.org/soo-maintext.html

 


 

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.

 


If you have any comments or questions about this Leopold Stokowski site, please e-mail me (Larry Huffman) at e-mail address: leopold.stokowski@gmail.com 


 

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L'Héritage de Stokowski - Accueil français

Victor Talking Machine Company, Eldridge Johnson, et le développement de la technologie d'enregistrement acoustique

1917 - 1924 les enregistrements acoustique Victor de Leopold Stokowski et l'Orchestre de Philadelphie

1917 -  Premiers enregistrements acoustique de Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

1917 - 1919 autres enregistrements acoustique Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

1920 - 1921 autres enregistrements acoustique Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

1922 - 1924 autres enregistrements acoustique Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

1919 - 1924 enregistrements acoustique Russe Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

1920 - 1924 enregistrements acoustique français - Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

1921 -1924 enregistrements acoustique Tchaïkovski - Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

1921 - 1924 enregistrements acoustique Wagner - Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

1924 enregistrements acoustique Rachmaninov - Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

 

Développement de l'enregistrement électrique

Permis d'exploitation du système Westrex donné à Victor et Columbia

1925 Premier enregistrement électrique Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

1925 autres enregistrements électriques Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

1926 enregistrements électriques Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

1927 enregistrements électriques Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

Encore des enregistrements 1927 électriques Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

1928 enregistrements électriques Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

1929 enregistrements électriques Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

1930 enregistrements électriques Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

1931 enregistrements électriques Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

1932 enregistrements électriques Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

1933 enregistrements électriques Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

1934 enregistrements électriques Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

Encore des enregistrements 1934 électriques Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

1935 enregistrements électriques Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

1936 enregistrements électriques Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

1937 enregistrements électriques Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

1939-1940 enregistrements électriques Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie

 

D'autres documents sur Stokowski et l'Orchestre de Philadelphie

Camden église studio - Victor Talking Machine studio d'enregistrement

Leopold Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie Enregistrement à l'Académie de musique de Philadelphie

Interviews avec Leopold Stokowski

Leopold Stokowski Orchestrations

Leopold Stokowski, Harvey Fletcher et les laboratoires Bell expérimental enregistrements

Maîtres de restauration moderne de disques historique

CDs de Stokowski et l'Orchestre de Philadelphie

Leopold Stokowski Discographies chronologique

      Leopold Stokowski Discographie chronologique - enregistrements acoustique

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Leopold Stokowski - Orchestre de Philadelphie bibliographie, des sources et crédits

 

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