1936 Cover of the Brochure for the
Leopold Stokowski - Philadelphia Orchestra US National Tour
1936 Recordings of Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra
1936 was a productive recording year for Stokowski and the Philadelphia
Orchestra. Remarkably, these 1936 recordings were accomplished in a
surprisingly few recording sessions, concentrated in only three days.
All the recordings in the first half of 1936 were recorded on
Wednesday, January 15, 1936.
They consisted of the Wagner Meistersinger Prelude to Act 1,
Bach's "Air on the G-String", and Bourée from the
English Suite no 2 in a Stokowski transcription, Panis Angelicus
by Franck, the Prelude to Act 3 of Tannhäuser, a re-recording of
the Saint-Saëns "Danse macabre", Valse Triste by Sibelius,
and a re-recording of the Brahms Symphony no 1. Whew ! --- all this in
one day of recording, a tribute to the abilities of this great recording
team: Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Not
surprisingly given the time limits, nearly all of these sides were done in
one take, except for the Brahms Symphony.
Prior to the January 15, 1936 recording session Stokowski had
conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra Concerts from the beginning
of the season in October, 1935, and during the first two weeks
of 1936, just prior to the January 15, 1936 recording session.
He then took his accustomed winter break until April. Then,
in April and May, 1936, Stokowski took the Philadelphia Orchestra
on a national tour across the United States (with a stop in
1936 - The National Tour of Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra
On January 2, 1936, after two years of indicating informally that he
would leave the Philadelphia Orchestra, Stokowski notified the Philadelphia
Orchestra Association Board that he would no longer continue as Music Director
of the orchestra 2. The Association Board had by this
time yielded to all of Stokowski's recent demands, but it seems that
Stokowski had had enough 3.
This announcement might have caused a dramatic reaction in previous years.
However, the previous two years of conflict between Leopold Stokowski and
the Philadelphia Orchestra Association Board, reported in detail in the
press for many months, blow by blow had dulled public interest.
It would seem that most of the emotion related to Stokowski's decision,
after more than 23 years as head of the Philadelphia Orchestra had
become exhausted. The announcement that Eugene Ormandy would be
released from his Minneapolis Orchestra contract, and would become the
new Music Director of the Philadelphia Orchestra seems to have been met
more with curiosity than with furore 3. In some ways,
therefore, the immense achievements of Stokowski in elevating the
Philadelphia Orchestra to the level of a perhaps a dozen great world
symphony orchestras may have been overlooked at that conjuncture.
However, Stokowski's time as conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra was
far from over.
Stokowski did achieve one of the objectives which he had been
seeking for at least a decade. The Orchestra Association Board
agreed to a transcontinental tour by the Philadelphia Orchestra.
This would be financed by RCA Victor records, and would include 33
concerts in 27 cities over 35 days.
: 1936 Philadelphia Orchestra Tour Map
The Philadelphia Orchestra's tour from Boston to Toronto to Holdrege,
Nebraska (a small town on the train route Chicago to California),
and then back from San Francisco to New York was the first transcontinental
tour by a major US symphony orchestra 4.
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January, 1936 Wagner Meistersinger - Act 1 Prelude
The first recording session of 1936 was on January 15, 1936.
First, Stokowski and the orchestra recorded the
Prelude to Act 1 of Die Meistersinger by Richard Wagner.
Stokowski made several cuts at the end of the score, but it is not apparent
whether this was due to the timings of the sides of the 78 RPM disks, or
for editorial reasons. Several sections of this performance were
recorded at excessive levels, by the Victor engineers, causing some
transient distortion, but not too objectionable.
This work was one of the early additions to Stokowski's repertoire.
He programmed it during his 1910-1911 second Cincinnati season on
February 17 and 18, 1911. This performance is tight and energetic,
but also with sumptuous string sonorities. This is an excellent
example of the benefits of Stokowski's priority on sound and sonority
- as well as a moving performace. The underlying bass support from
the orchestra greatly adds to the fine gravity of the performance.
This recording was issued on three 12 inch (30 cm) Victor Red Seal
sides 17567 sides A and B, 17568 side A, matrices CS 94644-1 or 94644-1A,
CS 94645-1 or 94645-1A, and CS 94646-1 or 94646-1A .
In later years, the filler for this album was the March 27, 1940 Lohengrin
Prelude to Act 3 in Victor album M-731.
In Europe, the Gramophone Company issued this recording on disks
DB 6040 and DB 6040 side 1.
Click here to listen to (download) the 1936 recording of the Meistersinger
Act 1 Prelude
January 1936 Bach Suite no 3 in D major, BWV 1068 -
Movement 2 - Air
Bach wrote four Orchestral Suites, BWV 1066–1069. The third Suite,
3 in D major, BWV 1068 was scored for 2 oboes, 3 trumpets, timpani with a
small string orchestra. The second movement of this Orchestral Suite,
Aire is particularly famous. This fame came, among other
reasons due to a transcription by August Wilhelmj (1845-1908)
which is popularly known as "Air on the G String".
Stokowski made an orchestration of this piece, and first recorded it on
January 15, 1936.
This movement of the Bach Suite no 3 was issued on the two sides of a Victor 10 inch Red Seal
disk number 1843 in Musical Masterpiece album M-401 (or in Britain on HMV DA 1605) matrices
BS 94647-1, BS 94648-1.
Click here to listen to (or download) the Air from the Bach Suite no 3
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1936 - Bach - English Suite 2 in a minor BWV 807 -
Also on January 15, 1936, Stokowski recorded another of his orchestrations
of music by Bach. This was a movement (fifth movement:Bourée)
from the Bach English Suite no 2 in a minor, BWV 807.
This Stokowski arrangement of the music from the Bach English Suite,
BWV 807 illustrates, as well as any the effect of what Stokowski
was accomplishing. The score which resulted cannot be said
to be an orchestration, since the music does not simply transform
the notes into an orchestral score. It is not exactly an
arrangement, either. Perhaps the best description is a
transformation, in the hands of Stokowski.
There are certain common effects of Stokowski's transformations
of Bach, found in his performances. Two of the key characteristics
of the Bach originals is a solid, uniform rhythmic pulse, and the contrast
of fugueal voices, playing off against each other. Stokowski in
his performances typically does not keep this solid, uniform rhythmic pulse, but
rather varies and modulates the tempoes to make contrasts. Also, the
contrapuntal voices tend not to be displayed and played against one
another. Rather, Stokowski likes to emphasize echo effects,
perhaps similar to what he would have experienced as an organist,
with contrasting pipe choirs coming from different parts of a
church. This recording exhibits these performance characteristics
- listen and see if you agree.
The contrast between these approaches - the baroque performance practice
versus the more opulently romantic approach may be seen in this music
from the English Suite no 2. Listen to the first half minute of
this music played by Glenn Gould in 1977 versus the Stokowski version
recorded in 1936.
Click here to listen to the Glenn Gould and Stokowski beginning of BWV 807
Even if you prefer your Bach as a Glenn Gould or perhaps a Nicholas
Harnoncourt might play it, still, the Stokowski transformation
is technically well done, and clearly achieves what Stokowski
was intending to do. Also, his claim that his 'arrangements'
were a means for the general public to hear the many Bach works which
otherwise would not be given public performance seems supported.
The historic listing of concert performances of Bach's orchestral music
available to the public would seem to be "few and far between".
This performance was issued on a Victor 10 inch (25 cm) Red Seal disk
Victor 1938, and in Europe on HMV DA 1639.
Click here to listen to the 1936 Stokowski version of Bach English
Suite BWV 807 'Bourée'
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1936 - Franck - Panis angelicus - Stokowski
In 1872, César Franck (1822-1890) composed music for the hymn
Panis angelicus or "The angelic bread",
originally written by Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274). Franck's
compostion was for tenor, harp, cello, and organ, and would have been
played by Stokowski during his career as a church music director.
Among other tenors, this hymn became famous, prior to this recording
as sung by John McCormack (1884-1945).
The orchestration and performance is free from any suggestion of
This work in Stokowski's orchestration fits comfortably on one
78 RPM side, being slightly less than 4 minutes in duration.
It was issued as a filler to the Franck Symphony in D minor
recorded December 30, 1935 and January 15, 1936. The recording
was on Victor Red Seal disk Victor 8964 side B matrix CS 94650-1, or
later 94650-1A or 94650-1H in album M-300.
Click here to listen to (or download) the 1936 Franck Panis Angelicus
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1936 - Wagner - Tannhäuser - Prelude to Act 3
The Prelude to Act 3 of Tannhäuser which depicts Tannhäuser's
pilgrimage, although dramatic, is less performed as a concert piece than,
for example the Overture and Venusberg Music from the beginning of
Act 1, which introduces the opera in the Paris vesion. Stokowski of course
recorded the Overture and Venusberg Music several times,
including in the
fine 1929 recording
Felix Weingartner had previously recorded in Paris the Tannhäuser -
Prelude to Act 3 in a cut version with the Orchestre de la Société des
Concerts du Conservatoire, for British Columbia (LX 868) in a calm
performance. Stokowski's recording was the first widely available
during that era. It is atmospheric and alternatively contemplative and
This recording was issued on three sides of 12 inch (30 cm) Victor Red Seal
disks 15313, 15314 side A (with 'Ich ruf' zu Dir, Herr Jesu Christ' on side B)
in Victor album M-530, matrices CS 94651-1, CS 94652-1, CS 94653-1, again,
all first takes. In Europe, the Gramophone Company issued the recording
on DB 3254 and DB 3255 with the Tchaikovsky Solitude.
Click here to listen to (or download) the 1936 Wagner Tannhäuser - Act 3 Prelude
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Sibelius - Valse Triste from Kuolema
Also on this busy recording day of Wednesday, January 15, 1936 was Stokowski's
first recording of Valse Triste from Kuolema (he was to
make two other commercial recordings of the work in the 1940s).
The Finnish writer Arvid Järnefelt (1861-1932) was Jan Sibelius'
brother-in-law. Järnefelt wrote in 1903 his drama Kuolema,
for which Sibelius wrote incidental music. Sibelius's music
was in six section, of which the first was entitled "Tempo di valse
lente". Sibelius the next year adapted this music into the
concert piece Valse Triste, which gained its immediate popularity.
This work was published as opus 44 no 1.
Stokowski's reading of this atmospheric work is a dramatic, romantic
performance without being sentimental - a fault sometimes a feature of
later conductor's performances. This gorgeous recording with the
luxurious strings of the Philadelphia Orchestra has been restored by
Dan Harvey from a pristine original disc.
Dan is a Jazz and Classical Music Archivist based in
Indianapolis. His fine restoration of this recording
shows that not only was the performance a great
performance, but also the sound captured by the Victor engineers was
remarkable for 1936. Also, as Dan has remarked " ... the
portamenti in the strings is to die for ... ". Thanks for
the restoration Dan! Click on the link below to enjoy this
dramatic performance, giving joy even more than 75 years after its
Valse Triste was issued on side A of a 12 inch (30 cm) Victor
Red Seal disc Victor 14726 coupled with the 1937 recording of
Sibelius The Tempest. In Europe, it was issued by
EMI on HMV DB 6009 with The Tempest and HMV DB 3318 coupled
with the 1936 Franck Panis Angelicus. The matrix was
CS 94656-1. Again, the first take of Valse Triste
was used, a clue to how Stokowski and the Philadelphians were able
to record so many different works during that
one recording session of January 15, 1936.
Click here to listen to (or download) the 1936 Sibelius - Valse Triste
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1936 Brahms Symphony no 1 in c minor
Also on this busy recording day of Wednesday, January 15, 1936,
Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra recorded again the Brahms
Symphony no 1 in c minor. This recording was intended to replace the
blazing performance recorded in 1927, now perhaps regarded by Victor
as being somewhat aging. But, as was often the case
in the 1930s re-recordings of the repertoire from the Philadelphia
amazing series of recordings 1926-1929, the new recording,
although a good reading, did not reach the legendary 1927 Brahms First
in vitality and conviction.
The second movement demonstrates tonal beauty, but has been considered by
several critics as being somewhat "episodic" .
The mellifluous third movement shows the greatness of the Philadelphia
string choirs, woodwind and brass sections achieved during the 1930s,
a beautiful example of the "Philadelphia Sound" under Stokowski.
The fourth movement of this recording, allegro achieves the repose
and beauty, followed by incisive energy of Stokowski's best readings of
this Brahms symphony. The Brahms First Symphony seems to have been
one of Stokowski's favorites, gauged by
the number of performances during his long career.
This recording was issued on five 12 inch (30 cm) Victor Red Seal disks
8971, 8972, 8973, 8974, 8975, matrices 2A92871-3, 2A92872-2, 2A92873-2,
2A92874-5 or 2A92874-5A, 2A92875-1, 2A92876-2, 2A92877-3, 2A92878-3,
2A92879-2, 2A92880-1 in album M-301. In Europe, EMI issued the
recording on or HMV DB 2874 DB 2875, DB 2876, DB 2877, and DB 2878.
Click here to listen to (or download) the 1936 Brahms Symphony no 1 in c minor, movement 1
Click here to listen to (or download) the 1936 Brahms Symphony no 1 in c minor, movement 2
Click here to listen to (or download) the 1936 Brahms Symphony no 1 in c minor, movement 3
Click here to listen to (or download) the 1936 Brahms Symphony no 1 in c minor, movement 4
1936 - Autumn Recording Sessions of Stokowski and the Philadelphia
Following the Philadelphia Orchestra's National Tour in April and May, 1936
and following the beginning of the Autumn concert series, Stokowski and
the Philadelphia Orchestra returned to recording over two sessions on
November 15 and November 28, 1936. Again,
these two days of recording were highly productive.
A new recording of the Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody no 2 was followed by a
re-recording of the Stokowski orchestration of the Bach Passacaglia and
Fugue in c minor (which he had previously recorded in 1929). Other Stokowski
orchestrations recorded that day were the Sarabande from Bach Violin
Partita no 1, and of a Tchaikovsky song 'Solitude', and a three disk recording
of Stokowski's arrangement of music from Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov.
That was all on November 15, 1936 !
Then, on Saturday, November 28, 1936, Stokowski and the Philadelphians recorded
four more works. There were two major Wagner excerpts from Parsifal: the
Act 1 Prelude and the Good Friday Spell music from Act 3, both included in a
Victor Musical Masterpiece album M-421. This was followed by two Bach-Stokowski
transcriptions, of an aria from the St. Matthew Passion, and of the chorale prelude
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1936 - Liszt - Hungarian Rhapsody no 2 in c sharp minor
In both his 1920 and 1926 recordings, Stokowski delivered an
interpretation of this orchestral show-piece significantly
different from other leading conductors. The opening theme
is played very slowly by Stokowski, followed by a rapid reading of the
second theme, nearly to the extreme of playing. What seems to me as a
'mannered' Stokowski interpretation of the Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody becomes
nearly a caricature of itself in this 1936 performance. Each
phrase seems tailored for maximum drama and effect,
but (it seems to me) more to feature Stokowski than to feature the music.
The total effect is somewhat like the more extreme excesses of Mengelberg's
'interpretations', where an episode-by-episode performance style is imposed
on the music in a way which seems extrinsic to the score. The
orchestration of this piece (originally for piano, and number 4 of the
19 Rhapsodies - traditionally numbered 2 in its orchestral setting) seems
to be a Stokowski adaptation of the orchestrations by Franz Doppler and Karl
In 1937, the Gramophone magazine, which was not always an admirer of
Stokowski recordings seemed to have liked this one.  In 1937,
it wrote, in an unusually informal style:
":...Some of the Philadelphia recordings have been too much for us,
but this cosmic presentation of the Agrarian Rhapsodoodle is a
crackerjack of tonal triumphs not to be missed..." 5
Have a listen to this 1936 recording by clicking on the link below and
judge for yourself. The recorded sound is very good,
and the playing by the Philadelphia Orchestra precise and
nuanced. The volume of the forté sections and the length
required the second side of this Victor disk 14422 to have
a smaller than usual label to allow the grooves to penetrate
futher toward the center of the disk.
This recording was issued on a Victor Red Seal 12 inch disk
14422 and in Europe on HMV DB 3086 matrices CS 03100-1,
Click here to listen to (download) the 1936 Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody no 2
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1936 - Bach - Passacaglia and Fugue in c minor BWV 582
Following the Liszt - Hungarian Rhapsody no 2, also on November 16,
1936, Stokowski recorded another of his arrangements of Bach organ
works. This was a delicate orchestration/arrangement of the
Passacaglia and Fugue in c minor BWV 582. Recall that Stokowski
and the Phildelphia Orchestra had recorded this arrangement previously
on January 28 and May 1, 1929 on Victor Victor 7090 and 7091.
In his definitive book on Stokowski and the Bach organ works, Rollin
Smith quotes from what Stokowski wrote in the Program Notes for the
second tour of the All-American Youth Orchestra in 1941 1:
'Bach's Passacaglia is in music what a great Gothic cathedral is in
architecture - the same vast conception - the same soaring mysticism
given eternal form...The Passacaglia is one of those works whose content
is so full and significant that its medium of expression is of relative
unimportance; whether played on the organ, or on the greatest of all
instruments - the orchestra - it is one of the most divinely inspired
contrapuntal works ever conceived...' 1
This recording was issued Victor on two Victor 12 inch (30 cm) Red Seal
disks 14580, 14581 in M-401 matrices CS 03102-1, CS 03103-2, CS 03104-2,
CS 03105-1. In Europe it was issued by HMV on DB 3252 and DB 3253.
Click here to listen to (download) the 1936 Bach - Passacaglia and Fugue BWV 582
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1936 - 'Synthesis' (Stokowski arrangement) of Music from
Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov
Stokowski, throughout his career was one of the finest conductors of music
by Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881). Stokowski recorded the music of
Mussorgsky from the acoustic era in 1922
until nearly the end of his recording career in 1975. As well as performing
his own orchestrations of Mussorgsky's 'Pictures at an Exhibition', he often performed
his arrangement of music ('Symphonic Synthesis') from Mussorgsky's unfinished opera
For convenience, the mp3 recordings, below, are organized into three parts: 'Music 1'
'Music 2' and 'Music 3'. This 'Symphonic Synthesis' was released by Victor
as Musical Masterpiece album M-391 containing 3 Victor 12 inch (30 cm) Red Seal
disks 14546, 14547, 14548. Matrices were all first takes: CS 03108-1,
CS 03109-1, CS 03110-1, CS 03111-1, CS 03112-1, CS 03113-1.
'Music 1' includes music from the scenes in the 'Courtyard of the
Novodevichiy Monastery' from Part 1, Scene 1, where the people urge Boris
to become Tsar.
'Music 2' includes music from the 'Coronation Scene of Boris' from
Part 1, Scene 2. This scene, in which Boris is crowned Tsar, is
introduced by dramatic bells, and leads to a crescendo of orchestra and
bells proclaiming Boris' coronation. The bells of the coronation
fade, followed by the deep chimes of a monastery. This is
the scene at the 'Monks in a Cell in the Chudov Monastery" from
Part 2, Scene 1, in which the monk Grigoriy conceives of the idea
of posing as the Tsarevich heir whom Boris murdered. The next
music comes from the scene at the 'Inn on the Lithuanian Border
(Siege of Kazan)' from Part 2, Scene 2. The monks Varlaam
and Grigoriy enter, and Varlaam sings of of Ivan the Terrible's
siege of Kazan where 83,000 Tartars died.
Coronation of Boris from 2008 San Francisco Opera Production
'Music 3' includes the scene called 'At the Cathedral of Vasiliy
the Blessed' from Part 4, Scene 1, in which a crowd gathers at the
cathedral where Boris is at mass. The crowd is teasing an
idiot. The crowd begs for bread and Boris, departing, asks
for the idiot's blessing. Boris departs with the words of
the idiot that he cannot bless a murderer. Next in this Music
3 is the concluding scene describing the "Death of Boris in the Kremlin'
from Part 4, Scene 2, in which, after a dramatic scene, Boris dies to
the dramatic tolling of bells.
This is dramatic music and a blazing recording. The sound is
good, but we could perhaps wish for the dynamic range and sonic
impact found in the recording technology of a later generation.
Click here to listen to (download) the 1936 music from 'Music 1' of Boris Godunov
Click here to listen to (download) the 1936 music from 'Music 2' of Boris Godunov
Click here to listen to (download) the 1936 music from 'Music 3' of Boris Godunov
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1936 - Bach Violin Partita no 1 BWV 1002 - Sarabande
In November, 1936, Stokowski and the Orchestra recorded his orchestration of
the fifth movement of the Bach Violin Partita no 1 in b minor BWV 1002,
marked Sarabande. The original is of course for solo violin,
but the music is made perhaps more accessible for some listeners in the
transformation for orchestra. This recording includes a beautiful solo
for English horn played by
John Minsker, (a Curtis Institute graduate of Marcel
Tabuteau) who had just joined the Philadelphia Orchestra from the Detroit Symphony.
Click here to listen to (download) the Bach Violin Partita no 1 BWV 1002
1936 - Chorale Prelude "Mein Jesu was für Seelenweh befällt
Dich in Gethsemane" BWV 487
During the November 28, 1936 recording session, Stokowski recorded his
orchestration of the Chorale Prelude "Mein Jesu was für Seelenweh befällt
Dich in Gethsemane" BWV 487 ("My Jesus, deep grief and bitter pain falls
on You in dark Gethsemane"). Although given a BWV (Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis)
number in the Bach Catalogue, scholars state that the melody is not by Bach, and the
bass arrangement with the melody is also not thought to be by Bach. However,
it is beautiful music. Also, Stokowski's statements that many of Bach's
works would not have been heard, except by means of the orchestral arrangements
which he made is likely in this case. Stokowski's arrangement seem more
popular than the original composition, not frequently performed.
This recording was issued on a Victor Red Seal 12 inch (30 cm) disk 14582 in
M 401, coupled with the Stokowski orchestration of Passacaglia and Fugue in
c minor BWV 582, which had been recorded two weeks earlier.
The matrix number of the recording is CS 03127-1, and in Europe, it was issued on
HMV DB 3405.
Click here to listen to (download) the 1936 Chorale Prelude
Mein Jesu was für Seelenweh befällt Dich in Gethsemane
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