1935 Recordings of Leopold Stokowski

and the Philadelphia Orchestra


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1935 Recordings of

Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra

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Leopold Stokowski in the mid 1930s

 

Leopold Stokowski - Philadelphia Orchestra Recordings in 1935

 

Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra recorded 7 major works in 1935, and all of them in only three days of recording: Monday November 25, Monday December 16, and Monday December 30, 1935 in the Academy of Music.  In this brief period, Stokowski recorded the Franck d minor symphony, Stravinsky's Firebird Suite, a new symphony by University of Pennsylvania composer Harl McDonald, Stokowski's Symphonic Synthesis from Tristan und Isolde, as well as lesser pieces by Handel, McDonald, and Shostakovich.  Quite a recording feat !

 

Aiding this intensive recording schedule was that all of these works Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra had performed in concerts in Philadelphia, New York City, Baltimore, and Washington D.C. in October, November and December 1935.  This practice of performing in concert prior to recording is today the norm, but Stokowski found it efficient, then and used it regularly, thereafter.

 

1935 - Stravinsky - Suite from The Firebird

 

I recall reading a magazine article in about 2001 about the Philadelphia Orchestra which stated that the music from Stravinsky's Firebird had become a featured "orchestral showpiece" for the Philadelphia Orchestra.  The article indicated that the Philadelphians had performed either the Suite or the complete ballet more than 500 times in the recent decades.  However, when Stokowski first performed The Firebird on December 30-31, 1921 and then recorded music from The Firebird in 1924, using the acoustic process, this music was still considered avant-garde and controversial.  Reviews suggest this was still the case when Stokowski again recorded the Suite from The Firebird in 1927 with the new electrical process,   For some, this had not changed by 1935.

 

Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra were active introducing the musical public to this great work across the United States via concerts and radio, and via radio to Canada.  They performed the Suite from The Firebird throughout the 1920s and 1930s:

-  Philadelphia: December 30-31, 1921

-  Philadelphia: February 1-2, 1924

-  Philadelphia: February 16, 1924 excerpts in a lecture concert

-  Philadelphia: March 8-9, 1924

-  Philadelphia: October 17-18, 1924

-  Philadelphia: November 20-21, 1925

-  Philadelphia: December 11-12, 1925

-  Pittsburgh: February 22, 1926

-  Philadelphia: April 5-6, 1929

-  Philadelphia: October 3-4, 1930

-  Philadelphia: November 4-5, 1932

-  Philadelphia: March 9, 1933 Youth concert with excerpts

-  Philadelphia: November 2,3,6, 1934

-  Baltimore: November 7, 1934

-  Philadelphia: October 10, 1935 Youth concert with full Suite

-  Philadelphia: October 11, 12, 1935

-  Birmingham, Alabama: April 22, 1936

-  Dallas: April 24, 1936

-  San Francisco: May 2, 1936

-  Ann Arbor, Michigan: May 16, 1936

-  Philadelphia: March 24-25, 1939

 

In this 1935 recording of the Firebird Suite, Stokowski continued his practice of making an important change to the finale.  To those familiar with the Firebird, this change might seem startling, if they are not forewarned.  As well as his usual minor cuts and instrumentation changes, Stokowski has made an extensive cut in the finale of the last movement of the Suite.  This was the same cut made by Stokowski in the 1924 acoustic performance.  Such cuts in any score recorded during the acoustic era were the norm because of the 4 minute time limit of the 78 RPM side, and also the difficulty of recording acoustically.  However, this same cut of than one minute in the Finale was also made in 1927, and in this 1935 recording, where time seems not to have been a factor. 

 

This cut became Stokowski's practice during his career.  As well as 1924, 1927, and 1935, Stokowski made this same cut in his the November, 1940 recording with the All-American Youth Orchestra and also with the NBC Symphony Orchestra recording of April, 1942.  The musical effect of this change to the conclusion of this remarkable work is notable.  Apparently, Stokowski 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 thrilling finale.

 

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 specific comment by him.  Stravinsky was usually careful to avoid any actions which might reduce his royalties (well earned) on his compositions !

 

In this recording, there is beautiful playing by Walter Guetter, bassoon in this Suite from the Firebird.

 

Stokowski's 1935 recording of the Suite from the Firebird was released by Victor on three 12 inch (30 cm) Red Seal disks Victor Victor 8926, 8927 and 8928 a (with the Shostakovich Prelude opus 34 no 14 in e flat minor as orchestrated by Stokowski on side 8928 b).  Matrices were: CS 92865-2, CS 92866-4, CS 92868-3, CS 92869-3 (later CS 92869-2A), and CS 92870-5.  The Jeu des Princesses and Danse Infernale split matrix CS 92868-3.

 

Stokowski at this time was in the habit of recording and releasing one take of a recording session, if he was happy with the playing of a familiar work.  The continued difficulty of Stravinsky's Firebird in this era, even for a group such as the Philadelphia Orchestra is indicated by the high number of 'takes' necessary before Stokowski was satisfied with the result.

 

Click here to listen to (download) the Firebird - part 1 Introduction, Danse De L'Oiseau De Feu, Jeu des Princesses

 

Click here to listen to (download) the Firebird - part 2 Danse Infernale, Berceuse, Finale

 

1935 - Works by Philadelphia Composer Harl McDonald

 

a promotional record of Harl McDonald's Rhumba Symphony given to members of the Music Teachers National Association by RCA Victor

 

On November 25, 1935, Leopold Stokowski recorded two works by Harl McDonald, composer and Professor of Music at the University of Pennsylvania.  Harl McDonald was born in Boulder, Colorado on July 27, 1899.  He joined the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania in 1927, and later became Director of the Music Department, as well as conductor of several University of Pennsylvania music groups.  Harl McDonald in the 1930s and 1940s became Manager of the Philadelphia Orchestra, working closely with Leopold Stokowski and Eugene Ormandy.  He was also elected to the Board of Directors of the Philadelphia Orchestra Association.  He died in Princeton, New Jersey at the University's McCarter Theater on March 30, 1955.  McDonald was filming a movie on orchestral music and as he rose for a close-up, he collapsed of a heart attack.  Harl McDonald was not yet 55 years old.

 

The excerpts which Stokowski selected were Rhumba, the scherzo movement of McDonald's Symphony no. 2 of 1934, and the Dance of the Workers from his Symphony no #4 - Festival of the Workers of 1937.

  Harl McDonald in about 1935. photo: University of Pennsylvania Archives

 

These works were recorded on two sides of a 12 inch (30 cm) Victor Red Seal disk 8919 A and B.  Several matrices were recorded that afternoon: CS 94619-1 or 94619-1A or 94619-2 or 94619-2A for the Rhumba work, and matrices CS 94620-1 or 94620-1A for the Festival of the Workers.  Somewhat surprisingly, these recordings were issued at the height of the Great Depression not only in the US, but also in the UK under HMV DB 2913.

 

(awaiting better source for the McDonald works)

 

1935 - Handel - Chandos Anthem no 2 in d minor 'In the Lord put I my trust' HWV 247 - Sonata

 

 

On December 16, 1935, Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra returned for their second recording session back in the Academy of Music.  This recording was of Stokowski's arrangement of the first movement, Sonata, from Handel Chandos Anthem no 2 in d minor 'In the Lord put I my trust', HWV 247.  The need for Stokowski's arrangement of this sublime music may be open to question, since Handel wrote this music for a full instrumental group, if not the size of the Philadelphia Orchestra.  The original score indicates and orchestra of strings, plus oboe, bassoon and two recorders (or perhaps equivalent winds).  The result is a full and satisfying sound in Handel's original orchestration.  Stokowski's arrangement features a larger string section, including violas, and a heavier sound.  In the link below, listen to half a minute of this beautiful work by Handel played as we would hear it in concert today, compared with the same section in the Stokowski arrangement. (note: the Stokowski has been re-pitched to be closer to the tuning of the modern performance.)

 

Click here to listen to (download) part of the Chandos Anthem no 2, modern versus 1935 Stokowski

 

This 1935 recording benefits from the sound and atmosphere of the full Philadelphia orchestra returned to their home in the Academy of Music.  This recording was issued in 1936 on two sides of a Victor 10 inch (25 cm) Red Seal recording Victor 1798, matrices BS 94621-1, BS 94622-1.  In Europe, it was issued on HMV DA 1556.

 

Click here to listen to (download) the 1935 Sonata from Chandos Anthem no 2 in d minor

 

1935 - Wagner - Tristan & Isolde - Acts 2 and 3 with Liebesnacht

 

On December 16, 1935 and the following December 30, Stokowski recorded a new, extended arrangement (sometimes call a 'Symphonic Synthesis', but not apparently not called that by Stokowski) of the 'Liebesnacht' music from Wagner's opera Tristan und Isolde.  As we have seen in the 1932 section, Stokowski recorded in April, 1932 excerpts from Tristan und Isolde Act 1, concluding with the Love Music (Liebesnacht) from Act 2.  In this 1935 recording of his symphonic arrangement, Stokowski expands the music from Acts 2 and 3, and concludes the arrangement with a transition from the Act 3 music back to the concluding finale of Act 2 in which Tristan is killed by King Marke.

 

In this arrangement, Stokowski has given the singing of the two protagonists to the orchestra.  The celloes play Tristan's music and violins play Isolde's music, with the interplay retained. 

 

It seems that critics and the public were upset that Stokowski had changed the conclusion of this musical arrangement, or synthesis, from a conclusion with their favorite music of the Act 3 Liebestod aria.  Instead, in Stokowski's initial version, he concluded with the Act 2 finale.  In light of this criticism, in April, 1939, Stokowski re-recorded this section, substiting the Liebestod music as an ending.  The mp3 musical links below are of the December, 1935 recording, with the Act 2 finale as an ending.  You can hear the 1939 Liebestod conclusion by going to the 1939-1940 page of this stokowski.org site.  Note that the mp3 music file of the link, below is some 23 minutes long.  It seemed important to have maintained this music as one, continuous musical experience, and for this reason, it is very large (21 MB), so may take a long time to download, depending of the speed of your internet link.

 

This recording of the Tristan und Isolde music of Acts 2, 3 with 'Liebesnacht' and Finale to Act 2 was released on six sides of Victor Red Seal 12 inch (30 cm) disks 15203 B, 15204, 15205, 15206 A.  The other side of 15206 was left blank during 1930s, and later, 'Adoramus te' added filler as 15206 B in about 1946.  These were in Victor Musical Masterpiece album in M-508.  In Europe, this music was issued on 3 HMV 30 cm disks, HMV DB 3087, DB 3088, and DB 3089.  Matrices were CS 94624-2, CS 94625-1, CS 94626-1, CS 94627-1, CS 94628-1, and CS 94629-2. 

 

Click here to listen to (download) the 1935 Stokowski arrangement of Act 2 and 3 music of Tristan & Isolde

 

1935 - Franck - Symphony in D

 

The Gramophone in their September, 1937 review of this recording found it more episodic, rather than continuous in performance:

 

"...There are some grand key-moves in the recapitulation, on side 4.  When Stokowski keeps the ball rolling, he does it magnificently but there are too many pot-holes in his sentiment.  I rarely feel his work as one whole-all-through adventure...' 1

 

Click here to listen to (download) the 1927 Franck D minor Symphony - Mvmt 1

 

Click here to listen to (download) the 1927 Franck D minor Symphony - Mvmt 2 (awaiting better source)

 

Click here to listen to (download) the 1927 Franck D minor Symphony - Mvmt 3 (awaiting better source)


 

1  page 13. Philadelphia Orchestra, Stokowski: Symphony (Franck).  HMV DB 3226-31. (eleven sides)..  Gramophone Magazine.  London.  September, 1937.  

 


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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