Leopold Stokowski - Philadelphia Orchestra
Recordings of 1927 - Part 1
Leopold Stokowski in the early 1920s
1927 Season - Stokowski takes leave of the Philadelphia Orchestra
Leopold Stokowski conducted his last concerts of the
1926-1927 Philadelphia season in April, 1927. By this
time, he had conducted the Philadelphians for 15 years, and
he seems to have wished for a break.
He had long planned to take a vacation, but during 1926,
following his marriage to Evangeline Johnson,
whom he had married in January 1926, this planned
vacation developed into a prolonged "leave of absence"
The reasons Stokowski gave for this leave were various,
including discomfort in holding the baton (or "baguette",
the French term, as he preferred to call it). He also
mentioned later a 1927 taxicab accident in New York City,
which Stokowski said had injured his arm.
Regarding the baton, Oliver Daniel states "...During the year,
Stoki complained frequently of neuritis.
He was still using a baton and during concerts it was
noticed that he often shifted it from one hand to the other.
It will always remain a mystery whether the problems
of neuritis were as serious as they seemed or whether it
was a partial excuse to obtain a year's
leave..."1 [page 205 op. cit.].
Perhaps Stokowski simply needed a prolonged rest from the
Philadelphia Orchestra. This was in the era where it
was expected that the permanent conductor of an orchestra would
conduct all or nearly all of the scheduled concerts.
In any case, from November, 1927 until early September, 1928,
Leopold Stokowski and Evangeline Johnson Stokowski traveled
to Europe and Asia1 in a voyage of nearly one year.
November 24, 1927 publicity article about Stokowski's trip to Europe and Asia
September 7, 1928 - Stokowski and Evangeline Arrive Back in New York
Leopold Stokowski arrived back in New York on September 7, 1928
on the SS Orinoco from Southampton, England with Evangeline and
Luba Stokowski (whom her father called "Lyuba").
Evangeline and Luba had boarded at Boulogne, France, and Leopold
joined them on board at the next port in Southampton.
Leopold and Evangeline had previously reunited with Lyuba in
Switzerland where Luba had stayed while her parents toured Asia.
From Switzerland, the three went to Paris at the end of the
Summer of 1928. Stokowski at some point went on to London.
Stokowski on board SS Orinoco arriving from Southampton
with Luba 2
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1927 - A Year of Intensive Stokowski Recording
During this period of international travel, and because
he missed the Philadelphia Orchestra season of
1927-1928, Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra
of course did no recording. However, the year of 1927,
prior to Stokowski's departure, was one of Stokowski's most
intensive and also most successful recording periods.
Stokowski and the Victor Talking Machine Company apparently
intended to fill the Victor vaults with sufficient Stokowski
recordings to carry them through late 1928 when he would return.
This intensive recording program of Stokowski and
the Philadelphians extended from March 1927 until late
October 1927, just before he and Evangeline departed to
New York to board their ship to Europe, the beginning of nearly
one year of extended travels.
Stokowski's Victor Red Seal recordings during 1927 included
Bach, Berlioz, Bizet, Debussy, Glazunov, Ippolitov-Ivanov,
Liszt, the Stravinsky Firebird Suite and
four major symphonies: Beethoven Symphony no 7,
Brahms Symphony no 1, the Franck Symphony in D minor
and a new recording of the Dvorak New World Symphony.
Each of these recordings would become among the most famous and
successful of Stokowski's long recording career.
With this intensive explosion of creativity,
the symphonies in particular are among the most inspired
recordings ever made by Stokowski during his
60 years in the recording studio. They are also
among the first electrical recordings to provide
listeners with the sound picture which Stokowski so
assiduously cultivated in his orchestral performances.
For that matter, for many who purchased these albums, these
were their first hearing of a full symphony orchestra playing
these symphonies (or any symphony). The radio was not yet
broadcasting full symphony orchestra concerts, and many people
lived hours away from the few cities which in that era
supported a symphony orchestra.
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1927 - Wagner - Götterdämmerung - Closing Scene
On January 6, 1927, Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra
began their 1927 recording sessions with Wagner. They
recorded the last three sides of Wagner's Overture to Rienzi,
begun in November, 1926 (
click here to read about the 1926 Rienzi
Then, as a 'filler', they recorded and additional side of the
Closing Scene from Wagner's die Götterdämmerung.
This is the music after Brünnhilde has ridden Grane onto
her funeral pyre. The Rhine overflows, Hagen attempts
to seize the ring, but the Rhine maidens regain it.
In the distance, the sky is filled with fire, Valhalla is
revealed consumed in flames. Valhalla then collapses
with Wotan and the gods seated within. Brünnhilde,
through her love for Siegfried has cleansed the world of its
corruption. Underlining this transformation, the key of
the final music changes from E flat to D flat, concluding
Wagner's four operas telling the story of the Ring.
This of course is a dramatic story and dramatic music, and
is matched by a stirring performance by Stokowski, although
perhaps lacking the ultimate magic of Stokowski's
1933 recording of this music. The score of
this closing scene is slightly cut. Music
that usual takes about 5 1/2 minutes to play, is
cut to just over 4 minutes so as to fit onto one 78 RPM 12
inch side. The playing by the Philadelphia
Orchestra is at the peak of its form, with silky, lush strings,
and a performance that is dramatic, yet not
over-blown. Have a listen.
Click here to listen to (download) the 1927 Wagner - Götterdämmerung Closing Scene
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1927 - Excerpts from Bizet's Carmen
On Thursday, March 10, 1927, on Saturday, April 30, and then on the
following Monday, May 2, Stokowski and the Philadelphians recorded
a number of excerpts from George Bizet's 1873 opéra-comique Carmen.
First, on March 10 in the Academy of Music, they recorded two
10 inch (25 cm) Victor Red Seal sides, the
Prélude to Act 1 of Carmen and
the Prélude to Act 4, entitled
The prelude to Act 1, matrix number BVE 22812-5 was on the first side
of Victor Red Seal 10 inch (25 cm) disc 1356, and the prelude to Act 4
Aragonaise, matrix BVE 38211-1 was on the other side.
The Prelude to Act 4 begins with a gorgeous oboe solo by
Marcel Tabuteau. This oboe theme continues to be interweaved
throughout the piece.  Also, when you listen to this music,
you will notice the flair and beautiful sheen of the
Philadelphia strings. This seems unmatched by other orchestral
recordings of that era. What a beautiful performance, and in
The following April 30, 1927, continuing with Carmen excerpts,
Stokowski recorded the prelude to Act 3 entitled Intermezzo,
and the entr'acte, or prelude, entitled Les dragons d'Alcala
which is played as an introduction to Act 2 of the
opera. "Les dragons" were the soldiers stationed in
Seville, and one of whom is Don José. The music of the
Intermezzo and of Les dragons d'Alcala were
combined by Stokowski onto one side of a 12 inch (30 cm)
Victor Red Seal disc 6873, matrix CVE 37494-2. What
beautiful playing of the Intermezzo theme ! On the other
side of this Victor disc 6873 is the Gypsy Dance from Act 2,
matrix number CVE 37498-1.
, flute and
, clarinet, and the strings of the Philadelphia Orchestra
are at the top of their form. 89 musicians made this
recording, including 33 violins, 9 double basses, 4 flutes
and 4 oboes, 6 horns, and generally the full orchestra.
This recording shows what a great symphony orchestra the Philadelphia
had become under Stokowski, arguably unsurpassed
in the world (at least on the surviving evidence of recordings
of the period).
Daniel Bonade, clarinet and William Kincaid, flute in their later years
These two excerpts were issued on the first side of a 12 inch
(30 cm) Victor Red Seal 6873, matrix number CVE-37494.
In the last Bizet session that year on May 2, they recorded
three other excerpts from the Carmen Suite. First was the
Gypsy Dance also known as Danse Bohème
from Act 2. This was issued on the second side of
Victor Red Seal 6873, matrix number CVE-37498-1. This was
followed by the March of the smugglers, or to give
it its French title: Marche des contrebandiers from Act 3
and also the Soldiers changing the Guard or
Avec la garde montante from Act 1.
These excerpts had been recorded only 4 years previously
using the acoustic process (see the
1923 versions of Avec la garde montante and
Marche des contrebandiers
"Marche des contrebandiers" was issued on one
side of Victor Red Seal 12 inch disc 6874,
matrix CVE-27902-2 and "Avec la garde montante",
matrix CVE-27903-2 was on the other side. The
sound of the Marche des contrebandiers, while
good is not so transparent and wide ranged as,
for example, the Danse Bohème.
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Listening to the 1927 Music from Carmen
Overall the sound of these discs are remarkably good, recorded more than
85 years ago. Recall that this was only two years after the
introduction of electrical recording. In particular, listen to
the Danse Bohème and see if you don't agree. The
musical excerpts below are listed in
the order of their appearance in the opera, Act by Act, since the
original 78 RPM discs do not indicate any particularly order, and
the discs were all sold separately.
Click here to listen to (download) the Carmen Act 1 Prelude
Click here to listen to (download) the Carmen Act 1
'Soldiers Changing the Guard'
Click here to listen to (download) the Carmen Act 2 Gypsy Dance
Click here to listen to (download) the Carmen Act 3 Prelude and
Act 2 Prelude 'Les dragons d'Alcala'
Click here to listen to (or download) the Act 3 'March of the Smugglers' from Carmen
Click here to listen to (download) the Carmen Act 4 Prelude - 'Aragonaise'
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1927 - Debussy Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun
Stokowski's other March 1927 recording sessions began on March 3 and
continued on March 10 in the Academy of Music.
During these sessions, as well as the Carmen
excerpts, they finished a revised side for the 1926 Liszt Hungarian
Rhapsody no 2. Then, during the March 10 session, Stokowski
and the Philadelphia Orchestra made a famous recording of the
Debussy Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun
(Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune).
Debussy wrote his evocate music inspired by a Mallarmé poem of that
same title. Its compositional style, breaking with classical and
romantic traditions is considered by many as the beginning of
Twentieth Century modernism in music, even though written in 1894.
The Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune begins with a gorgeous
flute solo played by
William Kinkaid. The recording,
which was from takes 8 and 9 of the March 10 recording session,
shows the strings of the Philadelphia Orchestra in their full
glory. Debussy's score has a delicate orchestration, and this
recording uses a full orchestra of 16 first violins, 17 second violins,
13 violas, 12 celli, 9 double basses, 4 flutes, 4 oboes, 5 clarinets,
4 bassoons, 6 French horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, 2 harps,
tympani, and percussion.
Stokowski performed and recorded Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune
many times over the next 50 years, but this 1927 recording, even with
its early sonics, must be among his very best performances, still
moving and inspiring more than 80 years later.
This recording was issued on two double-sided Victor Red Seal
12 inch (30 cm) discs Victor 6762 and 6763, coupled with the
May 2, 1927 Weber Invitation to the Dance. In Europe,
it was issued by the Gramophone Company on HMV D 1768.
The matrices were CVE-21057-9 and CVE-21058-8.
Click here to listen to (download) the 1927
Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune
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1927 Bach - Toccata and Fugue in D minor BWV 565
Then on April 6, Stokowski recorded the first of his famous
Bach organ transcriptions for full orchestra: the Toccata and Fugue
in D minor BWV 565. This was Stokowski's first recording of
one of his orchestrations of a Bach organ work, and his most
well-known to the public as a result of this and later
richly upholstered, rubato filled orchestral
texture is not an effect to which I have become
accustomed, even with many re-hearings.
The more transparent Bach organ works, such as
the Bach Passacaglia and Fugue BWV 582, work
better, particularly in a lighter orchestration.
Stokowski argued that, except for these
orchestrations, the public was unlikely to have
access to these great works of Bach.
Listen, and judge for yourself.
Click here to listen to (download) the 1927 Bach -
Toccata and Fugue in D minor BWV 565
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April 1927 - Beethoven Symphony no 7
April, 1927 also witnessed the first American recording of the complete
Beethoven Symphony no 7, and what a fantastic recording it was.
Stokowski was not thought of as one of the leading conductors of
Beethoven, as were Furtwängler, Toscanini, Weingartner, or even Mengelberg or
Koussevitzky. Stokowski never recorded all nine Beethoven symphonies,
either commercially or privately. However, in these series of 1927
recordings of the majestic pillars of the classical music repertoire,
such as the 1927 Brahms Symphony no 1, the 1927 Schéhérazade, the 1927
Dvorak New World symphony, and this Beethoven Symphony no 7, Stokowski and
the Philadelphia Orchestra were at their blazing best. Also, I
believe that the recorded quality Stokowski and Victor obtained in the
Academy of Music in Philadelphia were unmatched by other orchestras and
recording companies of the late 1920s.
In 1927, Stokowski also adopted the
felicitous practice of adding a side of
explanation to his listeners of major works
being recorded, explaining themes
and structure. Although to some,
today, these Stokowski talks seem
superficial and exaggerated as to content,
it should be kept in mind that for many and
perhaps most listeners, this would be their
first hearing of the work being performed.
In fact, given the infancy of radio, and the
fact that movies were still silent at that
time, these recordings could well be many
listeners first exposure to orchestral
Please click on the links below to listen to (download)
this recording, including the Stokowski analysis
to themes and structure of this symphony, which
was issued by Victor as M-17 in the Musical
Click here to listen to (download) the Stokowski 1927 Beethoven Symphony no 7 movement 1
Click here to listen to (download) the Stokowski 1927 Beethoven Symphony no 7 movement 2
Click here to listen to (download) the Stokowski 1927 Beethoven Symphony no 7 movement 3
Click here to listen to (download) the Stokowski 1927 Beethoven Symphony no 7 movement 4
Click here to listen to Stokowski's analysis of the Beethoven Symphony no 7
Stokowski's Score of Beethoven Symphony no 7 Mvmt 4
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1927 - Schubert - Moment musical no 3 in f minor D780
Just after the Beethoven Symphony no 7, on April 6, 1927 in the
Academy of Music, Stokowski and the Philadelphians recorded the
Schubert Moment musical no 3 in F minor (D780-3). This work
was a brief piano piece, orchestrated by Stokowski to which he
gave the title Russian Melody in his orchestration.
This is a remake of the Schubert work that Stokowski recorded acoustically
five years earlier on January 27, 1922.
This recording was issued by the Victor Talking Machine Company on
a 10 inch (25 cm) Victor Red Seal disc 1312, matrix BVE 25941-8.
It was coupled with the October 11, 1927 recording of the ballet music
from Rosamunde. This Schubert recording does not seem to have
been issued by the Gramophone Company, although an HMV catalogue
number was assigned: 7-906.
Click here to listen to (download) 1927 the Schubert Moment musical no 3
1927 - Brahms Symphony no 1 in c minor opus 68
Then, during April 25, 26, and 27 in the Academy
of Music in Philadelphia, Stokowski and the
Philadelphians recording one of their most
famous and satisfying recordings: the 1927 Brahms
Symphony no 1 in C minor.
Stokowski, throughout his career, was one of the great
conductors of Brahms's Symphony no 1. Also,
Stokowski seems to have programmed the Brahms First or
the Brahms Third at critical points of his career, where
the success of a concert was important for him. These
1927 recording sessions brought us some of Stokowski most
memorable recordings from any era. This Brahms Symphony no 1
is certainly one of them, and perhaps his finest performances
of that symphony, and a highpoint of his career.
This 1927 recording was issued as Victor Musical Masterpiece album
M-15. It was made up of five 12 inch (30 cm) Victor Red Seal
discs 6658 through 6662. In Europe, the Gramophone Company
issued the symphony on HMV D 1499 through HMV D 1503 and in France
on La voix de son maître discs W 998 through W 1102.
The matrices were CVE 37483-2, CVE 37484-2, CVE 37485-2, CVE 37486-1,
CVE 37487-1, CVE 37488-2, CVE 37489-1, CVE 37490-2, CVE 37491-1,
and CVE 37492-2.
A full orchestra was used in the
Academy of Music, consisting of 18 first violins, 18 second violins,
13 violas, 11 celli, 9 double basses, 4 flutes, 4 oboes, 4 bassoons,
5 clarinets, 6 French horns, 4 trumpets, 3 trombones, a tuba, and tympani.
This recording stayed in the Victor catalog, selling
well year after year, until the new 1936 recording of the
work was issued on Victor Red Seal M-301. The 1936 Brahms,
while a good recording, does not in my opinion match the
inspiration, sweep, and orchestral brilliance of this 1927
Click here to listen to (download) the 1927 Brahms Symphony no 1 in c minor - Mvmt 1
Click here to listen to (download) the 1927 Brahms Symphony no 1 in c minor - Mvmt 2
Click here to listen to (download) the 1927 Brahms Symphony no 1 in c minor - Mvmt 3
Click here to listen to (download) the 1927 Brahms Symphony no 1 in c minor - Mvmt 4
Click here to listen to (download) Stokowski's analysis of the Brahms Symphony no 1
in c minor
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1927 - Schubert Symphony no 8 in b minor Unfinished
Monday, April 25 through Thursday, April 28, and Saturday, April 30,
and the following Monday and Tuesday, May 2 and 3, 1927 were intensive
recording sessions for Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra. (The
concerts in the Academy of Music on April 29 and 30 were the final concerts
of the 1927-1927 Philadelphia Orchestra season). These recording
sessions also produced some of the most successful recordings they ever made
together: finishing the Symphony no 7 in A, the Brahms Symphony no 1 in c,
and the Symphony no 8 in b 'Unfinished'.
Each of these recording may well have been the finest recordings Stokowski
made of these works, including during the fifty years of recording yet
ahead of Stokowski. This was certainly the case for the Brahms Symphony
no 1 and the Schubert 'Unfinished', which Stokowski never surpassed (in my
opinion) with the Philadelphia or other orchestra recordings.
Also, the sound of these 1927 recordings is remarkably clear, clean, and
wide-ranging, particularly considering that Victor had been using the
electrical recording process only two years. Contemporary U.S. and
European orchestra recordings of the era do not match these three works
either in interpretation, or in sound. Also, Stokowski brought a
concentration, and inspiration, and a breadth and depth of vision to these
recordings that were somehow lacking in his later efforts. This was
indeed a miraculous year for Stokowski, the Philadelphians and for Victor.
Recall that Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra made a recording for
Victor of this Schubert symphony using the acoustic recording process
almost exactly 3 years previously. It is interesting that the
timing of each of the two movements are within seconds of each other
in both the acoustic and the electrical versions, running a total of
about 22 1/2 minutes.
Enjoy listening to this fine performance of the Schubert
'Unfinished' symphony by clicking on the links, below.
Click here to listen to (or download) the 1927 Schubert Symphony no 8 - movement 1
Click here to listen to (or download) the 1927 Schubert Symphony no 8 - movement 2
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1927 - Glazunov - Scènes de ballet -
Then on May 2, 1927, Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra
recorded Glazunov's Danse orientale from his
Scènes de ballet opus 52. This work, which Glazunov
wrote in 1894, was a concert piece, not intended for dance or ballet.
The Danse orientale was the sixth movement in this concert
work. Stokowski used a full Philadelphia Orchestra of
17 first violins, 17 second violins, 13 violas, 12 cellos, 9 double basses,
4 flutes, 4 oboes, 5 clarinets, 4 bassoons, 6 horns, 4 trumpets, 3 trombones,
a tuba, 2 harps, tympani, and percussion. This is an atmospheric
and definitely "oriental" reading which makes this somewhat
light-weight work seem to be music of merit.
This recording was issued on a ten inch (25 cm) Victor Red Seal disc
1335 B, side B, coupled with the Ippolitov-Ivanov Caucasian Sketches
Procession of the Sardar. In Europe the Gramophone Company
issued it on HMV 8-633. The matrix number was BVE-37499-1.
Click here to hear Glazunov's Danse orientale from Scènes de ballet
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1927 - Carl Maria von Weber - Invitation to the Dance
Carl Maria von Weber wrote his Invitation to the Dance
(Aufforderung zum Tanz) opus 65 in 1816 for piano;
a piece not intended as a waltz for dancing, but rather an
evocation of the waltz. This piano piece became popular as an
orchestral work, recorded often in the acoustic era. For example,
Édouard Colonne had recorded it in 1907 for Pathé. (
Click here to listen to the
1907 Colonne recording of Invitation
to the Dance. In fact, according to C. G. Arnold
3 there were 13 other orchestral recordings of this
work during the acoustic recording era alone. This count
increased to 14 with the Stokowski - Philadelphia Orchestra
1919 fine acoustic recording of Carl Maria von Weber's
Invitation to the Dance,
in the orchestration by
Felix Weingartner. Now, for this 1927 recording
of in the Academy of Music, Stokowski recorded what was
perhaps his finest recording of this work made during his
sixty years of recording, this time in the Berlioz orchestration.
The Weber Invitation to the Dance was recorded
May 2,1927 in the Academy of Music with a full orchestra consisting
of 17 first violins, 17 second violins, 13 violas, 12 celli,
9 double basses, 4 flutes, 4 oboes, 5 clarinets, 4 bassoons,
6 horns, 4 trumpets, 3 trombones, a tuba, 2 harps, tympani,
and 3 percussion.
This recording was issued on on a Victor 12 inch (30 cm)
double faced Red Seal disc catalogue 6643 matrix
CVE 37495-1 and CVE 37496-2. In Europe, it was issued by
the Gramophone Company in HMV D 1285 and in Germany Electrola
disc EJ 166.
The performance and sound are
both fully satisfying, with and openness and freedom that Stokowski
did not seem to capture in his later recordings with the Philadelphia
Orchestra, with his All-American Youth Orchestra, or with "His" symphony
orchestra. The precision and detail of the playing of the Philadelphia
Orchestra in this recording may have been less than would be their trademark
in the second half of the twentieth century but it remains fully satisfying.
Also, it is in precision, detail and ensemble that the contemporary leading
European orchestras seem to be lacking, at least as witnessed by their
Click below to hear this grand 1927 performance.
Click here to listen to (download) the 1927 Weber 'Invitation to the Dance'
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And 1927 Philadelphia Recording Was Not Yet Finished !
As they say in show business: "But wait ! you ain't heard nothin
yet! There's more !" And this certain applies to the wonderful
year of 1927 filled with recordings made by Stokowski and the Philadelphia
To continue to listen to (or download) Stokowski's 1927 recordings made in
October, 1927, just before he and Evangeline sailed for Europe
and Asia, click here: