Stokowski conducted no concerts during the 1927 - 1928 Philadelphia Orchestra season,
which began in September 1927, but he and the orchestra recorded intensively in
the Academy of Music during October, recording hundreds of 78 RPM sides, of which
38 sides were eventually released. Stokowski and the orchestra recorded in
the Philadelphia Academy of Music on October 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 11, 12, and 13,
1927, a more intensive recording schedule than any other month in Stokowski's
tenure as conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra. He was to leave for
Europe and Asia, and was away from November, 1927 until early September, 1928.
In many ways, this was also a golden period, since Stokowski and the Philadelphia
Orchestra produced some of the finest recordings they made together during
23 years of recording 1917-1940.
Franck d minor Symphony of October, 1927
For the first of their October, 1927 recordings, Stokowski and the Philadelphians
made the first electrical recording of the Franck Symphony in d minor
on October 3 and 4, 1927. Piero Coppola in France and Sir Henry Wood in
Britain had both recorded acoustic versions of the Franck symphony on
eight sides in 1924. The Wood version was a creditable account in spite of
the acoustic limitations. In contrast, the Piero Coppola acoustic recording
with the Orchestre Pasdeloup is wretchedly played, and the sound is
muffled. Both acoustic versions are, as usual, significantly cut, running ten
minutes shorther than Stokowski's electrical recording (the acoustic recordings
being just over 30 minutes, compared with Stokoski's just over 40 minutes).
Stokowski and the Philadelphians
recorded the complete symphony on ten electrical sides
in the Academy of Music on November 3, 1927.
In his large-scale 1927 recordings, Stokowski made another important innovation.
This was the inclusion of a side in which Stokowski analyzes and illustrates
the principal themes of the album's music. This 'talk side' was
included in four 1927 symphonic recordings: Ludwig van Beethoven - Symphony
no 7, Johannes Brahms - Symphony no 1, Antonin Dvorak - Symphony no 9,
and this recording of the Caesar Franck - Symphony in D minor.
The analysis of the Franck symphony had been recorded October 6, 1927
in Victor's Camden Church Studio. This 'talk side' includes Artur
Rodzinski, Stokowski's assistant conductor, whom Stokowski had discovered in
Poland and brought to Philadelphia. Rodzinski was at the piano, playing
themes from the Symphony as Stokowski commented.
This performance is permeated with a lush romanticism appropriate to the period
of composition. Some listeners may find less favor in the somewhat
episodic treatment of sections of the score and also the speeding up and slowing
down of parts of Stokowski's performance. This speeding and slowing, not
necessarily indicated in the score, is also characteristic of the famous Mengelberg
Concertgebouw reading of this work. However, to my ears the Mengelberg
interpretation is more mannered than the clean and dramatic Stokowski reading.
However, all in all, this 1927 Stokowski recording is rich and satisfying, and
must have been a revelation to the many gramophone listeners who had never had
the opportunity to hear this work played in concert. The playing is integrated
and of a virtuoso level. Listen, for example, to the beauty of
Anton Horner's horn theme in the second movement.
The Franck Symphony in D minor in three movements with the analysis was issued as
Musical Masterpiece album M-22 in 1928. This included five Victor twelve inch
(30 cm) Red Seal disks, catalogue numbers 6726, 6727, 6728, 6729, and 6730.
In Europe, the recording was issued on Gramophone Company D 1404, D 1405, D 1406,
D 1407, and D 1408. The matrices are CVE 34730-3 CVE 34731-4, CVE 34732-3,
CVE 34733-3, CVE 39340-2, CVE 39341-1, CVE 39342-1, CVE 39343-1, CVE 39344-1,
and CVE 39345-1. Note that this recording was primarily made up of first
1927 - Dvorak - Symphony no 9 in e minor opus 95 'From the New World'
Following the Franck Symphony, which had been recorded Monday and Tuesday October 3 and 4,
1927, on Wednesday and Saturday, October 5 and 8, 1927, Stokowski and the Philadelphia
Orchestra recorded the Dvorak - Symphony no 9 in e minor opus 95 'From the New World'.
This was a re-recording of the Dvorak Symphony no 9 which he had recorded just two years
previously among his first electrical recordings in May of 1925 (see
1925 recording of the Dvorak
Symphony no 9
). The 1925 recording was a success, both
artistically and as to album sales. However, it would seem that Stokowski
realized that with the improved recording system now installed in the Academy
of Music, and with his new understanding of how to gain the best results
from the electrical recording process, a new, improved recording was now
called for. The remarkable results proved him to be correct.
What more is there to say about this famous 1927 recording, so often praised
over the years? Its sound is excellent, and the performance is
thrilling. This excellent recording
seems to me the most satisfying of the six commercial recordings Stokowski made of
the New World. This recording was made on Wednesday and Saturday, October
5 and 8, 1927, just before the orchestra's Autumn subscription concert schedule
The 1927 Dvorak - Symphony no 9 replaces the 1925 recording in M-1
description of the 1925 New World, we saw that in 1926, the Victor Talking Machine Company
began to package disk sets into albums, each having the title of "Victor
Musical Masterpiece". This series of albums continued from
1926 to 1951, an impressive achievement. As we saw, the first
album in the Victor Musical Masterpiece series in 1926 was Victor Musical
Masterpiece M-1 album containing the 1925 Stokowski - Philadelphia
recording of the Dvorak Symphony no 9 in e minor opus 95 'From the New
World'. These five Victor 12 inch (30cm) Red Seal disks, catalogue
numbers Victor 6565, 6566, 6567, 6568, 6569 were placed in the first
M-1 album. Then, somewhat confusingly, the new October, 1927
recording of this work was also placed in a Victor Musical Masterpiece album
and again numbered M-1. Further, the individual disks were given the
identical Victor catalogue numbers: Victor 6565, 6566, 6567, 6568, and
6569. However, it is only necessary to listen to the disks to immediately
know which is which. Gone is the 1925 tuba reinforcement of the string
basses, and the bass saxophone. Also, we have the ambiance and sense of
a hall in the 1927 Academy of Music recording, instead of the 'dead' acoustics
of the Victor studio in Camden Building no 15. Listen to the brief
excerpt from the first movement, by clicking the link below, and judge
for yourself. The 1925 excerpt is followed by 1927.
As we have seen, another important Stokowski innovation in his
large-scale 1927 recordings was the inclusion of a side in which Stokowski
analyzes and illustrates the principal themes of the album's music.
In this 1927 Dvorak 'talk side', Stokowski analyzes the symphony,
and Artur Rodzinski, at that time the assistant conductor of the
Philadelphia Orchestra, plays the musical illustrations on the
piano. This analysis is also interesting. To our ears
today, some may judge this Stokowski commentary to be seem superficial
and exaggerated ("...the end is like a blood-red
sunset..."). However, we should recall that for many
listeners, this may have been their first hearing of this symphony.
In fact, in this era before talking movies, and before wide-spread
radio broadcasting of concerts, this recording might have been
a listener's first hearing of any symphony played by a symphony
orchestra. Most people lived at a distance from the dozen or
so US cities having a symphony orchestra which would provide any
opportunity for most listeners to hear such a symphony.
Also, impressive is the beauty and virtuosity of the Philadelphia Orchestra
under Stokowski. Listening to contemporaneous recordings by other U.S. and
European orchestras, I will offer the opinion that no other record company
and orchestra was creating orchestral recordings which matched the sonic
excellence and inspired performances of Stokowski and the Philadelphia
Orchestra in this 1926 to 1929 period. Click on the links below
to listen to this great recording and judge for yourself.
1927 - Ippolitov-Ivanov - Caucasian Sketches opus 10 -
'Procession of the Sardar'
On October 11, 1927 Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra recorded
one of Stokowski's specialties, Ippolitov-Ivanov's Caucasian Sketches
opus 10. This recording of the movement Procession of the Sardar
Stokowski decided to label March of the Caucasian Chief on the
record label to better communicate the subject of the music.
This October, 1927 recording, a remake of
the April, 1922 acoustic recording
was, in my opinion, the most thrilling version of the
seven Stokowski recordings of this work. Although often
considered as a "light classic", I find this performance by Stokowski
transforms the music into a noble and moving evocation of Ippolitov-Ivanov's
score. The Procession of the Sardar was issued on a 10 inch (25 cm)
Victor Red Seal recording catalogue 1335 on Side A. Side B contained the
May 2, 1927 recording of Alexander Glazunov's Scènes de ballet - 'Danse
orientale'. In Europe, the recording was issued by the Gramophone Company on
disk E 521. The matrix number is BVE 26442-5.
Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov (1859-1935), Stokowski, Reinhold Glière (1875-1956)
during Stokowski's first visit to the Soviet Union in 1931
Click on the link below to hear the 'Procession of the Sardar' from
Ippolitov-Ivanov's 'Caucasian Sketches" opus 10.
October, 1927 - Stravinsky - Suite from the Firebird
Another famous recording was made during the October, 1927 recording sessions.
Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra made a new recording of Igor Stravinsky's
Suite from the Firebird, almost three years to the day from
the October, 1924 recording.
And what a contrast in the recording quality in only three years! This is a result
of, not only the revolutionary improvement that was the
Western Electric recording process, but also due to
recording in the acoustics of the Academy of Music in
Philadelphia. Also, because of the freedom of the
electrical recording process, Stokowski was able to use
100 musicians for the 1927 Firebird, compared with only
34 players for the 1924 performance.
To hear the dramatic difference in recording technology
and in hall acoustics, click on the link below that has
one and a half minutes of Part II, the Berceuse music
from the 1924 and then the 1927 performances.
This 1927 recording is atmospheric and a glorious performance,
with the Philadelphia string sound at its most
sumptuous. However, there is a drawback. As
well as the usual minor cuts and instrumentation changes, Stokowski
has made an extensive cut in the finale of the last
movement of the Suite. In fact, Stokowski had made this
same cut in the 1924 acoustic performance, but cuts in
the acoustic era were the norm. The extent of the
cut is more than one minute, significant in sides
running three to four minutes. More significant is
the change in the musical effect of the conclusion of
this remarkable work.
It would seem however that this cut was not for reasons of time.
Stokowski made this same cut, not only in the 1927
recording, but again when he re-recorded it with the
Philadelphians in November 1935, the November, 1940 recording with
the All-American Youth Orchestra and also with the NBC
Symphony Orchestra recording of April, 1942.
felt that the somewhat repetitive nature of the build-up
to the finale was better omitted. Yet others,
presumably including Stravinsky, believed that this
progression adds to the cumulative impact of this
Stravinsky was vocal in his resistance to the changes to
his work in performance, and he likely did not condone
this one, either, although I have seen no record of any
comment by him. Stravinsky was usually careful to
avoid any actions which might reduce his royalties (well
earned) on his compositions.
You can hear for yourself the effects of this change by clicking on the link, below.
First is the ending to the Firebird Suite as conducted by Igor Stravinsky with the
New York Philharmonic in a 1947 US Columbia recording, immediately followed by
the ending in the 1927 Stokowski - Philadelphia Orchestra recording.
All in all, however, this is a stimulating and gorgeous performance
also with beautiful recorded sound. This recording was issued
in February, 1928 on three Victor Red Seal disks, 6773, 6774,
and 6775 A (with the 1927 Khovanshchina Prelude of side B) in Victor
Musical Masterpiece album M-53. Listen to this wonderful
performance by clicking on the links below to hear for yourself.
The mp3 recordings, below, are organized into two parts:
Part 1 - Introduction, Dance of the Firebird, Dance of the Princesses,
the Infernal Dance of King Kashchei. (The Introduction, Dance of Firebird,
and Dance of Princesses are on matrices CVE 30992-4, CVE 30993-4 and the
first half of matrix CVE 30994-4. Dance of King Kashchei is the second
part of matrix CVE 30994-4 and the first half of matrix CVE 30995-5).
Part 2 - Berceuse, Finale (Berceuse is the second half of matrix CVE 30995-5,
and this concludes on matrix CVE 39356-1).
Click here to listen to (download) the 1927 Stravinsky Firebird Suite - part 1
October, 1927 - Berlioz - La damnation de Faust - Rakoczy March
On October 12, 1927 Stokowski recorded a dynamic performance of the
Rakoczy March from Berlioz's La damnation de Faust,
opus 24. This piece, which concludes the first part of Faust,
is also known as the "Marche Hongroise".
Berlioz recounts in his Mémoires
de Hector Berlioz, Deuxième Voyage en Allemagnein a letter to Humbert Ferrand 3 how he came to write
this march with Hungarian themes.
"...Among the number of works which I composed is found
the march which now serves as the finale of the first part
of my legend of Faust. I had written it during the
night that preceded my departure for Hungary. An
enthusiast from Vienna, very well informed on the
customs of the country to which I was going to visit, had
come to find me with a volume of old airs several days
previously. 'If you wish to please the
Hungarians', he told me, 'write a piece based on their
national themes, of which they will be delighted, and
you will tell me upon your return of their hurrahs and
applause. Here is a collection from which you have
only to make a choice.' I followed his advice and
selected the theme of Rákóczy, on which I constructed
the grand march which you know,.." 3
The Stokowski performance of 1927 is vigorous and filled
with character and nuance. The Philadelphians play
with splendor and a brilliant style. The sound of
the recording is excellent, including bass strings and
percussion. The 1927 recording is a triumph.
Stokowski had previously attempted to record this march in 1923
with the acoustic process. It is easy to suppose that the acoustic
recording process was simply not capable of reproducing the brilliance
of the orchestration given to this music by Berlioz. In any case,
Stokowski never approved this acoustic recording for publication.
Compare this with the spirited 1907 acoustic performance by Édouard Colonne
for Pathé. The performance and recording is sufficient to give a
listener some degree of pleasure from the music. However, the limitations
of the acoustic process, and perhaps the Pathé dubbing process, makes the
reproduction of this famous Paris orchestra sound as if made up of
children's instruments. It is another example that only with the
advent of the electrical recording process was is possible for the
record listener to receive a satisfactory impression of a full symphony
orchestra performing immortal works. Have a listen to (or download)
the Édouard Colonne acoustic performance recorded in Paris in about 1907.
As you listen, keep in mind that Édouard Colonne (1838-1910) was the
earliest-born famous conductor who made recordings of the great symphonic
On the final day of this rich week of Philadelphia Orchestra recordings, on
Thursday, October 18, 1927, Stokowski recorded one of the finest performances
of his career. This was of the Prelude to Act 1 of Wagner's opera
Lohengrin. Recall that Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra had
recorded this work in 1924. The
April 28, 1924 recording of the Lohengrin Act 1 Prelude
was surprisingly effective, given the limitations of the acoustic recording
process. However, with the new Westrex electrical recording system installed
in the Philadelphia Academy of Music with its excellent acoustics, this 1927
recording for the first time provided the technical ability necessary to
reproduce this ethereal music.
This recording seems to me the finest of the many fine Stokowski recordings
of this work. It reinforces the concept of 1927 being perhaps the vintage
year of recordings by Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra.
This recording sold well and remained in the Victor catalog until well
into the 1940s.
The 1927 recording was released in April, 1928 as a Victor twelve inch (30 cm)
Red Seal disk 6791 and in Europe as the Gramophone Company disk D 1463.
The matrices are CVE 30021-3 (later CVE 30021-4) and CVE 30022-3.
Stokowski recorded another orchestral showpiece the next day on October 13:
Camille Saint-Saëns - Act 3 Bacchanale from Samson et Dalila, opus 47.
This music comes from the final scene of the opera,
which begins in the temple with a wild bacchanalia.
After this dance, Dalila, and the High Priest and the Philistines
taunt Samson, who prays to God to return his strength.
Samson's prayers are answered, the the opera ends opera with Samson pulling down the temple,
crushing the bacchanalia.
This music proceeds at a breathless pace, emotionally
charged, filled with passion, and with Saint-Saëns' scintillating
orchestration, including castanets to emphasize the
oriental flavor. Stokowski and the orchestra are
at the heights of their virtuosity, and this recording
is also sonically a great success. This recording
remains today one of Stokowski's most brilliant
The Samson et Dalila Bacchanale was issued in the Summer
of 1928 on a 12 inch Victor Red Seal disk 6823, matrix
number CVE-24630-6. This disk also featured the
Rákóczy March from the Berlioz Damnation de Faust on the
Bach - Prelude no 8 in e flat minor BWV 853 from
Book 1 of the Well Tempered Clavier
Bach - Chorale Prelude "Ich ruf' zu Dir, Herr Jesu
Christ" BWV 639
In October 1927, Stokowski and the Philadelphia
Orchestra recorded two of Stokowski's orchestrations of
Bach works. First, on Wednesday, October 12 was
the Prelude no 8 in e flat minor BWV 853 from Book 1 of
the Well Tempered Clavier, composed it is believed in
1722, some 205 years earlier. This prelude has
been arranged over the years for a wide variety of
instrumental combinations. The theme has a sublime
Stokowski's arrangement is not worse than many others,
but the performance, with ample portamento, and lush
strings applies a romantic patina that seems to my ears
to be not as satisfying as the keyboard version, whether
played on harpsichord or a modern grand piano.
the same time as this recording, Wanda Landowska at her
École de Musique Ancienne in Paris was teaching and
popularizing the baroque performance style of Bach keyboard works on
the harpsichord. She had previously, in 1909
written her book Musique Ancienne published in
Paris by Editions Maurice Senart4.
Landowska in her works and teaching struggled against
the romantic retouching and transformation of baroque
works, in particular of Bach. Of course this
Prelude from the Well Tempered Clavier was played by her
many times in her traversal of the 48 preludes and
The alla breve time signature of this prelude
indicates a fast pace, rather than the swooning, lush,
romantic lingering over sonorities of this transcription
Also recorded the next day on Thursday, October 13, 1927 was Bach's Chorale
Prelude "Ich ruf' zu Dir, Herr Jesu Christ" BWV 639 ("I
call to Thee, Lord Jesus Christ") from Bach's
Orgelbüchlein in Stokowski's
arrangement. This is a particularly beautiful and
innovative chorale written in three voice counterpoint.
Stokowski would likely have highlighted the three voices
of the chorale melody when playing it on the organ,
compared with this more homogenized version for
Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov's Schéhérazade opus 35 was recorded by Stokowski and
the Philadelphia Orchestra in a wonderful performance in the Academy of Music
October 8 and 11, 1927. This is a beautiful, and well-recorded performance,
except for some occasional distortion caused by over-cutting of some of the matrices.
Also, Victor does not seem to have released this recording in any of the
more quiet surface versions of their albums. Having noted these
problems, the recording remains wonderful and still satisfying today.
This 1927 Stokowski recording was also the first electrical recording of this
Again, the orchestra's playing is superb. The violin solo is performed gorgeously
and with musical character by Mischa Mischakoff, who was then 32 years old and
Concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra from 1927-1929. Mischakoff
had previously been Concertmaster of the Petrograd (St. Petersburg) Symphony,
the Warsaw Philharmonic, the New York Symphony under Walter Damrosch.
After Philadelphia, Mischa Mischkoff went on to become one of the most famous
concertmasters of the twentieth century with the Chicago Symphony under
Frederick Stock, Toscanini's NBC Symphony, the Detroit Symphony under
Paul Paray, and others. (A great read is Anne Mischakoff Heiles
biography of her father, Mischa Mischakoff entitled Mischa Mischakoff,
Journeys of a Concertmaster8.
Stokowski recorded Schéhérazade throughout his career, beginning
in the Philadelphia Orchestra's acoustic recording period.
Two acoustic movements from Schéhérazade were released. These
were the March 25, 1921 recording of
III: Young Prince and Young Princess
and the May 9, 1919 recording of
IV: Festival at Baghdad
). In fact, this 1927 recording was one
of at least 5 commercial recordings and several other live recordings
of Schéhérazade made by Stokowski during his career.
By 1927, the Philadelphia Orchestra was certainly one of the
great symphony orchestras of the world, and judging from the many
orchestral recordings of the late 1920s, more consistently
excellent than many of the most famous orchestras of Europe.
The 1927 Schéhérazade recording seems to be occasionally overcut,
such as small portions of sides one, three and six of the original
78 RPM disks. Also, there is some change in acoustic perspective
between the Saturday, October 8, 1927 recording session and the
Monday and Tuesday, October 10 and 11, 1927 sessions. This is
likely due to changes in orchestra and microphone placement.
These acoustic differences make the transitions between some sides
(such as from side one to side two at about 4:39) difficult to match.
It was Stokowski's practice at this time (and also later), to make a number of
minor cuts and instrumental changes in this performance of Schéhérazade.
One cut that is not so minor, and surprising is the passage at the end of
‘The Young Prince and Princess’, beginning at figure O (marked Pochissimo più
animato). This passage of 30 bars, cut from the score, shown below,
was made in both Philadelphia versions of Schéhérazade.
This Stokowski - Philadelphia Orchestra performance was not only the first
electrical performance of Schéhérazade, but it was also unmatched
in both interpretation and orchestra playing for a number of years.
The next year, in 1928, Oskar Fried and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
recorded Schéhérazade for DGG/Polydor. The Philippe Gaubert
(1879-1941) recording with l'Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du
Conservatoire was recorded in July 1928 and April 1929, and
issued in 1930 on 11 sides of a French Columbia recording.
the Gaubert recording on
French Columbia and Columbia Masterworks M-126
Neither Fried nor Gaubert come close to matching
Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra. It is
interesting to compare the
conventional, earth-bound performance from Fried, who was normally a
firebrand as a conductor, with the intense and poetic interpretation by
Stokowski. Also, as we have heard in other examples, the famous
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, as recorded at this time does not
match the Philadelphia Orchestra either in virtuosity or in ensemble if
one listens to the entirety of each performance.
Click on the link below to hear the first minutes
of each of the Fried/BPO and Stokowski/PO performances, and judge for
Among the many Stokowski recordings of Schéhérazade in 1927 and 1934 with
the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the later recordings of 1951, the live
performances of 1962, 1964, and the 1975 RPO performance, 56 years after
his first acoustic recording (!), this 1927 Schéhérazade is for me the most
satisfying of all. The performance is both lush and elastic, with
the virtuous solo performances showing the Philadelphia Orchestra at
what may have been its peak level during the years between 1927 and 1929.
Listen by clicking on the links below, and judge for yourself !
1927 - Mussorgsky - Khovanshchina - Prelude to Act 4
Tuesday and Wednesday, October 11 and 12, 1927 were certainly busy days
for Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra. On the 11th, they recorded
Rimsky-Korsakov's Schéhérazade, and Debussy's Fêtes,
and the ballet music from Schubert's Rosamunde. Then,
on Wednesday, they recorded the Prelude to Act 4 from Mussorgsky's opera
Khovanshchina, as well as Stravinsky's Suite from the Firebird,
Stokowski's orchestration of the Bach Prelude no 8 in e flat minor from
the Well-Tempered Clavier, and the Rakoczy March from
Berlioz's La damnation de Faust. Whew!
Mussorgsky's music always seemed to inspire Stokowski, and the dark sonorities
of Mussorgsky's music are beautifully brought out by the rich bass
foundation in the orchestra in Stokowski's performances. In
spite of the sonic limitations of the 1927 recording technology
(although greatly improved in only 2 years), still somewhat restricted
in frequency range and dynamic range, this is a beautiful recording.
This recording was issued on a Victor 12 inch (30 cm) Red Seal disk 6775
(the B side), matrix CVE-27069-5 which was included as the final side in
Victor album M-53. This was the Musical Masterpiece album in which
the main work was the Stravinsky Firebird Suite, recorded the same day.
One of the best-selling Stokowski - Philadelphia orchestra recordings during
the 1920s was of the ballet music from Schubert's Rosamunde recorded in
the Academy of Music October 11, 1927. This was music composed by
Schubert for a now long-forgotten play by Helmina von Chézy (1783-1856);
she had also written the libretto for Carl Maria von Weber's opera
This record was issued on a 10 inch Victor Red Seal record Victor 1312,
matrix BVE 37497-1 in March of the following year, 1928. On the
flip-side was the Schubert Moment Musical in F which Stokowski and the
Philadelphians had recorded in April of 1927.
On October 11, 1927, Stokowski and the Philadelphians recorded the second of
the Claude Debussy Nocturnes, number 2 - Fêtes. The original
title Debussy used when writing these three Nocturnes during 1897-1899
was "Three scenes at twilight" ("trois
scènes au crépuscule"). Debussy had originally conceived
of the works as being for solo violin and orchestra. The music was said
by Debussy to be inspired by paintings by James Whistler (1834-1903), which
which Debussy saw at the home of Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898) in about 1896.
The orchestral texture is particularly beautiful and
evocative, although apparently Debussy altered the
orchestration several times, not being satisfied with
Debussy wrote about this work:
"...The title Nocturnes is to be interpreted here
in a general and, more particularly, in a decorative
sense. Therefore, it is not meant to designate the usual
form of the Nocturne, but rather all the various
impressions and the special effects of light that the
'Fêtes' gives us the vibrating, dancing rhythm of the atmosphere
with sudden flashes of light. There is also the episode
of the procession (a dazzling fantastic vision), which
passes through the festive scene and becomes merged in
it. But the background remains resistantly the same: the
festival with its blending of music and luminous dust
participating in the cosmic rhythm..."6
Stokowski gives us a glorious and atmospheric rendition of Fêtes,
with kaleidoscopic shifts of color. The recording
at times skims over musical details, but the forward
momentum and atmosphere is exhilarating. This is also
one of the very best sounding Orthophonic recordings of
This recording was issued on two sides of a Victor ten inch (25 cm)
Red Seal disk catalogue 1309. The matrices are BVE-39354-2 and
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:
1 Page 301. Daniel,
Oliver Stokowski A Counterpoint of View Dodd, Mead
& Company New York 1982 ISBN 0-396-07936-9
Berlioz, Hector. Mémoires de Hector Berlioz.
Deuxième Voyage en Allemagne à M. Humbert Ferrand. 3ème Lettre.
1861. "...Au nombre des morceaux qui le composaient
se trouvait la marche qui sert maintenant de finale à la
première partie de ma légende de Faust. Je l’avais écrite dans
la nuit qui précéda mon départ pour la Hongrie. Un amateur de
Vienne, bien au courant des mœurs du pays que j’allais visiter,
était venu me trouver avec un volume de vieux airs quelques
jours auparavant. « Si vous voulez plaire aux Hongrois, me
dit-il, écrivez un morceau sur un de leurs thèmes nationaux; ils
en seront ravis et vous me donnerez au retour des nouvelles de
leurs Elien (vivat) et de leurs applaudissements. En voici une
collection dans laquelle vous n’avez qu’à choisir. » Je suivis
le conseil et choisis le thème de Rákóczy, sur lequel je fis la
grande marche que vous connaissez..."
Wanda. Musique ancienne Le Style L'Interprétation.
Editions Senart 1909 Paris.
6 "Le titre Nocturnes veut prendre ici
un sens plus général et surtout plus décoratif. Il ne s’agit
donc pas de la forme habituelle d’un nocturne mais de tout ce
que ce mot contient d’impressions et de lumières spéciales.
Nuages: c’est l’aspect immuable du ciel avec la marche lente et
mélancolique des nuages finissant dans une agonie de gris,
doucement teintée de blanc. Fêtes: c’est le mouvement, le rythme
dansant de l’atmosphère, avec des éclats de lumières brusques,
c’est aussi l’épisode d’un cortège (vision éblouissante et
chimérique) passant à travers la fête, se confondant en elle de
poussières lumineuses participant à un rythme total. Sirènes:
c’est la mer et son rythme innombrable, puis, parmi les vagues
argentées de la lune, s’entend, rit et passe le chant mystérieux
des sirènes. ".
7 Covarrubias, Miguel The Prince of Wales
and Other Famous Americans. Alfred A. Knopf. New York. 1925.
8 Heiles, Anne Mischakoff. Mischa
Mischakoff, Journeys of a Concertmaster. Harmonie Park
Press. Sterling Heights, MI. 2006. ISBN 0-89990-131-X
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