1932 - Schoenberg - Gurrelieder - Live Performance of April 11, 1932
Arnold Schoenberg and his Gurrelieder score
In 1932, which was by most economic measures the most depressed year of the
Great Depression, Stokowski convinced the Board of the Philadelphia Orchestra
to mount the monumental 'Gurrelieder' of Arnold Schoenberg. Yet more
surprising, he convinced Victor to record the work. The music of Schoenberg
was perhaps not as widely avoided by the public as it was later to become.
Rather, it was unknown. Yet this famous recording was artistically a great
success, and over the years, economically a moderate success. Since its
issue in 1933, it has been nearly continuously available in 78, 33 1/3, and CD
formats. It is also an excellent performance which is still a reference
today. An added advantage is that it is sonically one of the most
successful Philadelphia Orchestra recordings of the 1930s.
This work was recorded by Victor during three performances on Friday, Saturday and
Monday, April 8, 9 and 11, 1932. Ward Marston writes of these recordings
in his notes for the beautiful and superbly done Andante album 4978 containing
this work. He reports that 25 78 RPM sides were recorded during the April
8 premiere, using two cutting turntables alternating sides. However, this
April 8 recording was not complete, stopped presumably due to difficulties
in the performance. Ward Marston reports that the April 9, 1932 performance
was recorded in Victor's new 33 1/3 RPM format (later issued in Victor long
playing album LM-127 on 5 long-play disks). The Victor recording of the April
11, 1932 performance was used in the eventual 78 RPM issue of this work in Victor
Musical Masterpiece album M-127. Please see the album details of
Andante 4978 in the page on 'CDs of
Stokowski - Philadelphia Orchestra'
, and buy the Andante album now, while still available. Ward Marston's
restorations of this Schoenberg recording, and a number of other superb
recordings in the Andante album are a revelation, and also beautifully presented.
The selection of Schoenberg's Gurrelieder by Stokowski reflects two interests of
Stokowski during his career. First is the attraction of producing a massive,
new and unknown score to generate public excitement and to showcase a new work as
well as the orchestra. It was said at the time that Stokowski was seeking
to reproduce the dramatic success of his
1916 US premiere of the massive Mahler Symphony no 8
, the 'Symphony of a Thousand'.
Second was Stokowski's attraction to the
lushly scored music of the late romantic era, of which Gurrelieder was one of
the last examples. This was linked also to the story of a legendary love.
Gurrelieder is based on the Danish poem by Jens Peter Jacobsen (1847-1885) recounting
the tragic medieval love story of the Danish King Valdemar IV (1320-1375),
with Gurrelieder having clear reflections of the love story of Wagner's
'Tristan und Isolde'. In fact, as we see below, Stokowski did in fact
also record extensive excerpts from 'Tristan und Isolde' during this month of April,
This April 11, 1932 performance, as well as the April 8 and 9 performances
took place in the Philadelphia Metropolitan Opera House, so as to
accommodate the large forces, said to number 532 musicians, and an expanded
audience. The recording reproduced here is from the April 11, 1932
performance. The performers were:
Jeanette Vreeland, soprano - Tove
Rose Bampton, mezzo-soprano - Waldtaube
Paul Althouse, tenor - Waldemar
Robert Bette, tenor - Klaus-Narr/Klaus the Jester
Abrasha Robofsky, bass - Bauer/Farmer
Benjamin de Loache - narrator
Princeton Glee Club, Alexander Russell, director
Fortnightly Club - Henry Gordon Thunder, director
Mendelssohn Club - Bruce Carey, director
The Chorus of the Philadelphia Orchestra - an eight part mixed chorus
A note on the choruses: Stokowski does not seem to have been as scrupulous
as might be the practice today as to the quality of the singing of his
choruses, even though early in his career, he was a church chorus
master. However, the chorus preparation and performances here seem,
by today's standards, to verge on the amateur. this is in contrast
with the professionalism and excellence required by Stokowski from his
This recording was issued by Victor in album M-127 on fourteen 12 inch (30 cm) Red Seal
disks, 27 sides, plus one side of Stokowski's analysis. Disks were Victor 7524,
7525, 7526, 7527, 7528, 7529, 7530, 7531, 7532, 7533, 7534, 7535, 7536 and 7537.
In other sets, the disk numbers were Victor 11-8061, 11-8062, 11-8063, 11-8064,
11-8065, 11-8066, 11-8067, 11-8068, 11-8069, 11-8070, 11-8071, 11-8072, 11-8073
and 11-8074. In Europe, HMV issued the recording on DB 1769, 1770, 1771, 1772,
1773, 1774, 1775, 1776, 1777, 1778, 1779, 1780, 1781 and 1782.
The mp3 music sections of the recording are organized as follows:
1. I. Orchestral prelude
Gurrelieder opens with lyric music evocative of a peaceful, sylvan setting of
stillness and repose. This is late romantic music, with no flavor of
the later twelve-tone style Schoenberg was to adopt.
Click here to listen to (download) Gurrelieder Part 1 - Prelude
2. Waldemar and Tove:
II. Nun dampft die Dammrung jeden Ton - Now twilight muffles every sound (Waldemar)
III. O, wenn des Mondes Strahlen leise gleiten - Oh, when the moonbeams glide softly (Tove)
IV. Ross! Mein Ross! Was schleichst du so trag! - Steed! My steed! Why do you
crawl so! (Waldemar)
V. Sterne jubeln, das Meer, es leuchtet - Stars rejoice, the sea gleams (Tove)
Gurrelieder opens with music of peace and repose. 'Now twilight muffles every sound'
sings King Waldemar, who then goes to the Castle Gurre to visit his beloved Tove.
Waldemar urges his horse to take him more rapidly to Tove.
Click here to listen to (download) Gurrelieder Part 1 - 2. Waldemar and Tove - II, III, IV, V
3. Waldemar and Tove:
VI. So tanzen die Engel vor Gottes Thron nicht - The angels never danced so
before God's throne (Waldemar)
VII. Nun sag' ich dir zum ersten Mal - Now I say to you for the first time (Tove)
VIII. Es ist Mitternachtszeit - It is the hour of Midnight (Waldemar)
Because of Tove's love, Waldemar sings that the world dances more beautifully
than the angels dance before God, and Tove's love sings more beautifully
than the harp.
Schoenberg's rich, lyrical music here is both inspiring and accessible, so different from the
later, difficult Schoenberg music which generated the public's antipathy to Schoenberg's music
in general. This antipathy, which seems not to have lessened much over the last 90 years,
is a reaction to the more severe and sometimes arid dodecaphonic style Schoenberg adopted after
World War 1, and for which he is knowsn. These are Schoenberg's compositions based on tone
rows of 12 unrepeated notes (for example, in the Variations for Orchestra opus 31 of 1928).
Click here to listen to (download) Gurrelieder Part 1 - 3. Waldemar and Tove - VI, VII, VIII
4. Tove and Waldemar:
IX. Du sendest mir einen Liebesblick - You cast me a loving glance (Tove)
X. Du wunderliche Tove! - Wonderful Tove! (Waldemar)
We witness the deep and unfulfilled love between King Waldemar and Tove
in this lush music.
Click here to listen to (download) Gurrelieder Part 1 - 4. Tove and Waldemar - IX, X
5. XI. Orchestral Interlude
Click here to listen to (download) Gurrelieder Part 1 - 5. Orchestral Interlude
6. XII. Tauben von Gurre! Sorge qualt mich - Doves of Gurre!
Full of sorrow I am - Song of the Wood Dove (Wood Dove)
The Song of the Wood Dove, one of the most famous of Schoenberg's
compositions, tells Waldemar of Tove's tragic death at the orders of Waldemar’s
jealous, vengeful wife Queen Helwig.
Click here to listen to (download) Gurrelieder Part 1 - 6. Song of the Wood Dove
7. XIII. Orchestral Prelude and Herrgott, weisst du, was du tatest - Lord God, do you
know what you did? (Waldmar)
In this short Part 2, following an orchestral interlude which evokes a sad and
pensive mood, followed by music of tragic turbulence, Waldemar condemns God for
cruelty because of Tove's death. Waldemar sings: ...Lord God, your heavenly
hosts endlessly sing your praise, but you badly need somebody to tell you where
you are wrong....'
Click here to listen to (download) Gurrelieder Part 2 - 7. Waldemar condemns God
8. Die Walde Jagd - The Wild Hunt - Part 1
In Part 3, particularly dramatic is the 'Wild Hunt'. In death, the hunter
King Waldemar is condemned to forever come from the shadows each night to awaken
his vassals from the dead. Each night, they pursue a wild hunt across the
skies, terrorizing the living. The Farmer sings of this terror, and advises
all to bar their doors. Unfortunately, the bass, Abrasha Robofsky, as the
Farmer, is the weakest of Stokowski's soloists, and fails to make the most of
The score in the Wild Hunt is dramatic, with deep tubas and music
evoking chains, swords and shields as the dead arise to take to the hunt.
XIV. Erwacht, König Waldemars Manne wert! - Awake, Waldemar's worthy men! (Waldemar)
XV. Deckel des Sarges klappert und klappt - The coffin lid rattles and bangs (Bauer/Farmer)
XVI. Gegrüsst, o König, an Gurre-Seestrand! - Hail, oh King, on the shores of Gurre! (Waldemar's Men)
XVII. Mit Toves Stimme flüstert der Wald - With Tove’s voice the forest whispers (Waldemar)
Click here to listen to (download) Gurrelieder Part 3 - 8. The Wild Hunt - Part 1
9. Die Walde Jagd - The Wild Hunt - Part 2
XVIII. Ein seltsamer Vogel ist so 'n Aal - A strange bird is the eel (Klaus-Narr/Klaus-Jester)
XIX. Du strenger Richter droben - Judge, so harshly reigning above (Waldemar)
XX. Der Hahn erhebt den Kopf zur Kraht - The cock lifts his head and crows (Waldemar's Men)
Stokowski's performance fully realizes the grotesque humor of Klaus, the Jester, in his
song about 'a strange bird is the eel' and his experiences with King Waldemar.
Klaus the Jester is compelled each night to rise from the dead to pursue the wild hunt
across the skies. The tenor, Robert Bette, delivers a fine performance of this
macabre spectacle, inspiring many memorable performances in later years by others in this
Click here to listen to (download) Gurrelieder Part 3 - 9. The Wild Hunt - Part 2
10. Des Sommerwindes wilde Jagd - The Summer Wind’s wild hunt
XXI. Orchestral prelude
XXII. Herr Gänsefuss, Frau Gänsekraut - Sir Goosefoot, dear Mother Goose
XXIII. Seht die Sonne - See, the sun rises (Chorus)
In this section, following the account of Waldemar's constant, unfulfilled nightly
search for his beloved Tove, Gurrelieder ends with a beautifully evocative conclusion
picturing the surging of the Summer Wind in the forest in the morning. The
Speaker and mixed choruses provide an ending which evokes a vision of the wild
wind sweeping away at each sunrise the tragedy of the previous day. And so
concludes Gurrelieder in a wash of sound written with genius by Schoenberg, and
produced with genius by Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra in this
(Note that in section XXII - 'Herr Gänsefuss, Frau Gänsekraut', or 'Sir Goosefoot, dear Mother
Goose', the narrator, Benjamin de Loache makes a mistaken early entry. This mistake, not
present in the April 9,1932 long-play recording, remains uncorrected in the mp3 reproduction,
Click here to listen to (download) Gurrelieder Part 3 - 10. Des Sommerwindes wilde Jagd
For both the 78 RPM recording in M-127 and the 33 1/3 RPM long-play version
in album LM-127, Stokowski recorded an analysis of Gurrelieder. The
LP version of Stokowski's analysis was of course longer, but not
really more informative. Stokowski's analysis shows not only
his conviction as to the greatness of this music, but effectively
provides the new listener (which was virtually everyone) with insight
into the work, and encouraged the interest to listen. Click on the
link below to listen to Stokowski's stimulating analysis, with musical
examples played by Sylvan Levin.
The analysis was recorded in the Camden Church Studios (probably) on
April 15, 1932. This 78 RPM side was included
on Victor disk 7524 in M-127, matrix CVE 72621-1.
Click here to listen to (download) the Gurrelieder Analysis by Stokowski
On April 16, 1932, Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra recorded just one
work, but a lengthy one: Stokowski's 'Symphonic Synthesis' of Wagner's opera
Tristan und Isolde, composed between 1856 and 1859. This recording on six
78 RPM sides also required a re-take recording session on April 23, 1932.
These recordings were made in the acoustically dead Camden Church Studio number 1,
so I have added some acoustic ambience to the transcribed recording.
Stokowski's score of his orchestration - transcription of Tristan & Isolde
(note the change from 'arranged' to 'freely transcribed' by Leopold
This recording was issued on four 12 inch (30 cm) Victor Red Seal disks, numbers
7621, 7622, 7623, and 7624 in Musical Masterpiece album M-154.  In Europe, the
recording was on HMV DB 1911, DB 1912, DB 1913 and DB 1914. Matrices were:
CS 72062, CS 72063, CS 72065, CS 72066, CS 72068, CS 72069, CS 72071, and CS 72075.
Click here to listen to (download) the the 1933 Liebesnacht and Liebestod music of Tristan & Isolde
1932 - Sibelius - Symphony no 4 opus 63
Recorded April 23, 1932 in Camden Church Studio number 1, Stokowski's
recording of the Sibelius - Symphony no 4 in a minor, opus 63 was the
first recording of this work. This performance is intense, brooding
and beautifully played. The recording is satisfactory, in spite of
the reduced orchestra complement of less than 50 musicians and recording
in the smaller, acoustically muffled Camden Church Studio number 1.
This recording was issued on four Victor 12 inch (30 cm) Red Seal records
in album M-160. Individual disks were Victor 7683, 7684, 7685, 7686,
matrices CS 72076, CS 72077, CS 72079, CS 72080,
CS 72081, CS 72082, CS 72083, CS 72085, CS 72086
This recording places Stokowski on the level of Sir Thomas Beecham and Serge
Koussevitzky, the two other leading Sibelius interpreters of the era (not to
mention Sibelius's colleague Georg Schnéevoigt, 1872-1947). Have a listen
to the mp3 files below to experience this pioneering recording, by clicking
on the links below.
Arcady Dubensky was born in Vyatka, Russia, in what is now the
Republic of Tatarstan in the Russian Confederation on October 15,
1890. He studied violin at the Moscow Conservatory beginning
in about 1900, and graduated in 1909 1. At the Moscow
Conservatory, Dubensky studied violin with Jan Hrimaly (1844-1915) and
counterpoint with Alexander Ilyinsky (1859-1920) 2.
Arcady Dubensky was Concertmaster of the Moscow Imperial Opera Orchestra
from about 1910-1919. Following the Russian Revolution, Dubensky
went to Constantinople, Turkey. Dubensky then made his was to
the U.S. in 1921. Arcady Dubensky joined the violin section of the New
York Symphony under Walter Damrosch. Dubensky was then a violinist in
the New York Philharmonic, following the New York Symphony Society integration
into the Philharmonic in 1928. Dubensky became a US citizen
in 1927. Dubensky remained with the violin section of the New York
Philharmonic until the end of the 1952-1953 season. In the 1930s and 1940s,
Dubensky concentrated on his musical compositions, which were extensive, and
sometimes for unusual musical groupings (e.g. Piece for eighteen toy trumpets,
Prelude and Fugue for four Bassoons) 2.
Arcady Dubensky's work for speaker and orchestra,
'The Raven' based on the Edgar Allan Poe, poem was written in about 1931
and published in 1933. The original poem was published in January 1845.
The work involves a speaker, in this recording
Benjamin de Loache, declaiming the poem to a background of music consisting of
a standard orchestra. The musical style is conventional for the period in
which is was written; not at all avant-garde. The performance by de Loache
is somewhat histrionic.
Édouard Manet's illustration of 'The Raven'
Stokowski also performed Dubensky's 'Fugue for 18 Violins' with
the Philadelphia Orchestra in April, 1932
2. Arcady Dubensky died in Tenafly, New Jersey
(suburban New York City) in October, 1966.
This recording was issued by Victor in a 'Picture Disk' format in late 1932.
This format was a 10 inch (25 cm) 78 RPM disk molded from a clear plastic
material, with a paper laminated inside the disk. The laminated paper had
an illustration of a raven, and the words of the Edgar Allan Poe poem.
The issue was on Victor disks number L-2000 and L-2001, laminated
Picture Disks, matrices BSHQ 69483, BSHQ 69484, BSHQ 69485, BSHQ 69486.
According to Ward Marston's excellent restoration work, the original recording
was made on sound film, and then transcribed to the Picture Disk format.
The material on which Picture Disks were stamped was inferior as to reproduction,
producing a noisy surface. As a result, the Picture Disk sound is noisier
to contemporaneous 78 RPM Victor Red Seal recordings.
Victor Picture Disks The Victor series of Picture Disks was launched in late
1932, probably to increase sales in this depression year. However, the venture
seems to have been unsuccessful, since these picture disks a rare, indicating low sales.
Tim Brooks in his very interesting review of the book "Picture Disks of
the World" 3 at:
http://www.timbrooks.net/reviews-music/lindsayPDWREV.cfm states that
states that 30 Victor Picture Disks from the 1930 so far. They all now can fetch
very high prices from collectors, in the hundreds of dollars. Apparently, one of the
most valuable is the Victor Picture Disk devoted to Caruso, disk 17-3001.
1 Page 76. Evens, David. The Lighter
Classics in Music'
Arco Publishing Company. New York, New York. 1961.
2 page 188-190. Howard, John Tasker. Our Contemporary
Composers - American Music in the Twentieth Century. Pierce Press.
March, 2007. ISBN-13: 9781406742749.
3 Lindsay, Joe with Peter Bukoski and Marc Grobman. Picture Discs of the World.
Price Guide and International Reference Book For Picture Records: 1923-1989.
BIOdisc. Scottsdale, Arizona. 1990. ISBN 0-9617347-2-8.
If you have any comments or questions about this Leopold Stokowski
site, please e-mail me (Larry Huffman) at e-mail address: