1937 Stokowski - Philadelphia Orchestra Recordings
In 1937, as in previous
years, the Philadelphia Orchestra recordings were done in two sessions:
in the Spring and in the Autumn. The Spring recording session for
Stokowski took place in the Academy of Music in Philadelphia on two
Mondays: April 5 and April 19, 1937. Stokowski had not
conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra in either concert or recording
sessions between the end of November, 1936 and
the first week of April, 1937.
The April 5 session included two Stokowski orchestrations: 'Claire de lune'
from Debussy's 'Suite bergamasque' and the Bach-Stokowski music from
the Cantata no 4 'Jesus Christus, Gottes Sohn', also known as 'Christ lag
in Todes Banden', BWV 4. Also programmed
was a re-recordings of the orchestral spectacular which Stokowski and the
Philadelphians had recorded in the 1920s: the Polovtsian Dances from
Borodin's opera Prince Igor.
Two works were recorded on April 5, 1937 which Victor did not release.
These were a Gypsy Dance by Joaquin Turina, and a re-recording of the
Strauss 'Dance of the 7 Veils' from Salome. However, the first
work recorded in that April 5, 1937 session was the Prelude to Act 1 of
Wagner's opera Tristan und Isolde.
1937 - Prelude to Act 1 of Wagner's opera Tristan und
On Monday, April 5, 1937, just after the concerts of April 2 and 3,
Stokowski recorded the famous Prelude to Act 1 of Wagner's dramatic
opera, Tristan und Isolde. Stokowski had conducted Wagner:
Parsifal his Act 3 excerpts from Parsifal in the April 2 and 3
subscription concerts. He had conducted the Act 1 Prelude to
Tristan und Isolde more than two dozen times in previous concerts,
but this was the first Philadelphia performance since 1934.
This was also Stokowski's first commercially released recording of
the Act 1 Prelude to Tristan. In the acoustic era, Stokowski
and the Philadelphia Orchestra had attempted to record this Prelude
during three different recording sessions in 1922. None of these
were released. We can only imagine how difficult such an
atmospheric and delicate piece of music such as this Act 1 Prelude
would have been to capture within the difficulties and
limitations of the acoustic process.
The second side of this recording was re-recorded at the orchestra's
recording session of November 7, 1937. The result was
released on three sides of Victor Red seal 12 inch
(30 cm) disks: Victor 15202, 15203 A in M-508 matrices
CS 07553-1, CS 07554-2, CS 07555-1. This performance is well-played,
but seems perhaps to lack the ultimate passion and mystery which
Stokowski evoked in certain later recordings, including the
1973 Royal Philharmonic Orchestra recording late
in his career. This 1937 performance is still satisfying
and deeply felt, and preferable to my ears to the Albert Coates
or Alfred Hertz or Karl Elmendorf recordings which may
have been the alternatives at that time.
Also on April 5, 1937, Stokowski recorded his orchestration of 'Jesus
Christus, Gottes Sohn', the fourth movement of Cantata no 4 ('Christ Lag In Todesbanden')
BWV 4. The original Bach orchestration of the Cantata is for 1 cornet, 3 trombones,
2 violins, 2 violas and continuo, with soloists and chorus. However, this fourth movement
of the Cantata is scored for only two violins and continuo with Tenor. By clicking on
the link below, you can listen to the first minute of a baroque instrument performance
of this aria, so as to contrast it with Stokowski's arrangement for full orchestra.
As you can hear, the Stokowski orchestration for full strings and winds is heavier, more inflated
and played more slowly than today's baroque instrument performance of this inspired work.
The more fleet and joyous performance of the baroque orchestra seems more appropriate to this
joyous music which celebrates the conquering of death which has lost its sting. However, this
1937 performance likely provided enjoyment of music which otherwise, in that era, might not have
This recording was issued on Victor Red Seal disk 14583 in M-401,
and in Europe on HMV ED 178 matrix CS 07558-1. It was coupled
with the November 16, 1936 Stokowski recording of his orchestration
of Bach's Violin Partita no 1 in b minor BWV 1002, movement 5 'Sarabande'.
1937 - Borodin - 'Polovtsian Dances' from 'Prince Igor'
Prince Igor is an opera written by Alexander Borodin (1833-1887)
composed over several decades. However, the opera was still
unfinished at Borodin's death in 1887. Over then next three
years, it was arranged, edited and completed by Nikolai
Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908) working with Alexander Glazunov
(1865-1936). The completed opera was then given its
premier in 1890.
On April 29, 1925, during the very first electrical recording session
of the Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra, the second
recording they made, just following the historic recording of
Danse macabre was the
1925 Stokowski recording of the Polovetzki Dances. Now, a dozen years later, Stokowski
recorded a new arrangement and orchestration of music from
Prince Igor. This is an extended recording,
more than sixteen minutes of music from Borodin's opera, compared
with 4 minutes in the 1925 excerpts. This 1937 recording
consists of three episodes linked togerther in Stokowski's
orchestration and arrangement:
- Dance of the young Maidens
- Final Dance, Act 2
In Stokowski's arrangement the chorus is eliminated and the music
given primarily to woodwinds and strings.  It is a vigorous
performance. To retain Stokowski's linkages, the mp3 file
below is of the full sixteen minutes as a continuous flow.
However, this makes the file large at 15 megabytes, which may
lead to a slow download, depending on your internet connection
This April 7, 1937 recording was issued on three sides of Victor
Red Seal 12 inch (30 cm) disks, catalogue 15169 and 15170 in
Victor Musical Masterpiece album M-499. In Europe it was
issued on HMV DB 3232 and DB 3233. The matrices are CS 07559,
CS 07560, CS 07561, and CS 07562.
Click here to listen to (download) the 1937 Borodin - Polovtsian
Dances from Prince Igor (large file)
1937 - Stravinsky - Petrushka (1911 version)
In 1937, following the concert performance of the music from Stravinsky's 1911 ballet 'Petrushka'
on April 16 and 17 April, 1937, Stokowski recorded the music on April 19. Stokowski had
not performed Petrushka in Philadelphia often, the only previous performances being the concert
pairs of January 14, 15, 1927 and November 12, 15, 1935. This recording is of the 1911 version
of the ballet, with fuller, more ample orchestration. Stokowski seems to have preferred
the 1911 version throughout his career, even after Stravinsky introduced the 1947 revised
version, scored for a smaller orchestra (and also providing Stravinsky with a new flow of
well-earned copyright income.)
This recording is beautifully played and is one of the best sounding recordings of 1937.
The balance and impact are significantly better than what had been achieved during the
excellent period 1926-1929. Listen for example to the bite and impact of the tuba parts.
I have tried to correct some problems of intonation of the otherwise superb playing of the
trumpets in a few places. Stokowski generally performs the score 'straight' except for
some minor changes, such as the altered drum roll part at the introduction to the Dance of the
Ballerina at about 15:10 in this recording. Also listen to the beautiful interplay among
the bassoon, trumpet and flute (
Saul Caston and
William Kincaid) at this point.
I decided to keep the 1937 recording of Petrushka in one continuous
mp3 recording, because of the disruptive effects of breaking it into parts.
However, as a result the mp3 file is large - slightly less than 30MB, so
it will take several minutes to download, depending on your internet
1937 - Franck - Grand pièce symphonique in f sharp minor
opus 17 - Andante
Following the Petrushka recording, on April 19, 1937, Stokowski also
recorded his orchestration of the Andante - the second movement of the
César Franck (1822-1890) Grand pièce symphonique in f sharp
minor opus 17. This organ work was originally written by Franck
(1822-1890) in about 1861, and was part of Stokowski's repertoire as
César Franck in about 1870
The Grand pièce symphonique is a large work, which prepared
the way for other massive organ works such as those of Louis Vierne
(1870-1937) and Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937). It also seems
to be a precursor to Franck's most successful work, the
Symphony in D Minor. Vincent d'Indy (1851-1931), Franck's student
and admirer wrote:
"...his Grand Pièce in F sharp minor, is
really a symphony in three movements, and displays all the
characteristics of this form of composition: the first movement is
built on two ideas in sonata-form proceeded by an introduction
which reappears in the course of the development; the Andante is
in the form of a song, the second section of which, by reason of
its rapid tempo may be regarded as taking the place of a Scherzo
(the composer returned to this plan of construction later in his
Symphony in D.)..." 1
Stokowski's reading of this work seems to me somewhat maudlin,
although it could be argued that this is not antithetical to the
late romantic sentiment of the period of the original work's
composition. The orchestration seems particularly effective,
in accord with the organ original.
This recording was issued on the A
side of Victor 12 inch (30 cm) Red Seal disk 14947, matrix CS 07602-1.
It was coupled with Stokowski's November 16, 1936 recording of his
orchestration of a Tchaikovsky song, which Stokowski named
Click here to listen to - download the 1937 Franck's Grand pièce symphonique - Andante
In November, 1935, Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra had recorded excerpts
of two works, the Rhumba movement from the Symphony no 2, and the Dance
of the Workers by the Philadelphia composer Harl McDonald.
On April 19, 1937, Stokowski and the orchestra returned to McDonald,
recording his Concerto for Two Pianos.
Harl McDonald in about 1935. photo:
University of Pennsylvania Archives
Harl McDonald was born in Boulder, Colorado on July 27, 1899.
He joined the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania in 1927,
and joined the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia in the 1920s.
Helater 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 Orchestra Manager of the Philadelphia Orchestra,
working closely with both Leopold Stokowski and Eugene Ormandy, and
also toured with the orchestra. McDonald was elected
to the Board of Directors of the Philadelphia Orchestra Association.
He died suddenly in Princeton, New Jersey in 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.
McDonald's Concerto for Two Pianos seems a well-crafted
composition, with the influence found in the other McDonald works
recorded by Stokowski of a Cuban or Latin music influence, with at
times almost a 1930s Big Band effect in places. The comment on
the Latin influence is based only on listening to the Stokowski recordings
of Harl McDonald's music, since I am unaware of any recording of
his music by other groups.
The pianists of this performance had Curtis and Juilliard
backgrounds. Jeanne Behrend
(1911-1988) was from Philadelphia and graduated from the Curtis
Institute in 1934, and later taught at the Juilliard School, the
Philadelphia Conservatory of Music, and at Temple University.
She married Alexander Kelberine (1903-1940), born in Russia and
they formed a piano duo team for several years, before Kelberine's
untimely death in 1940.
Harl McDonald's Concerto for Two Pianos was written in 1936 and
recorded April 19, 1937. It was issued on three Victor 12
inch (30cm) Red Seal Disks, catalogue numbers 15410, 15411, and
15412 in album M-557. For a work of this nature during the
depression years, it was also somewhat surprisingly issued in
Europe on HMV DB 5700, HMV DB 5701, and HMV DB 5702. The
matrices are CS 07596, CS 07597, CS 07598, CS 07599, CS 07600,
and CS 07601.
Click here to listen to (download) the Harl McDonald - Concerto for
Two Pianos - movement 1
Click here to listen to (download) the Harl McDonald - Concerto for
Two Pianos - movement 2
Click here to listen to (download) the Harl McDonald - Concerto for
Two Pianos - movement 3
During the April 19, 1937 recording session, Stokowski and the
Philadelphians re-recorded one of their most successful recordings
of the early electrical era: The Invitation to the
Dance (Aufforderung zum Tanz), opus 65 by
Carl Maria von Weber. This work was originally written for piano,
and was orchestrated several times, including by Berlioz and by
Felix Weingartner. This performance seems to be based on a
Stokowski orchestration combining Felix Weingartner's version
with further changes by Stokowski.
The performance, although well-played and in agreeable sound is another
example of a work recorded with finesse and inspiration in the golden
Philadelphia recording era of 1926-1929, which, when re-recorded in the
1930s seems to lack the full measure of the inspiration of the earlier
Weber recording of May 2, 1927 was one of the
finest (and also one of the best-selling) Victor Red Seal recordings
of that era.
Yet, this is a very good performance unto itself. The portamento
of the strings at the beginning, already out of fashion in orchestral
playing in the 1930s gives this performance a "salon orchestra"
feeling which seems totally appropriate.
Click here to listen to (download) the 1937 Weber Invitation to the
1937 - William Byrd - Earl of Salisbury Pavane and Gigue
During the April 19, 1937 recording session, Stokowski recorded
his arrangement of two works by William Byrd (1543-1623). These
were a Pavane written for the Earl of Salisbury, joined to a gigue.
These were two dance pieces originally composed for clavichord,
one hundred years before Bach, and sumptuously orchestrated by
William Byrd (1543-1623)
This recording was issued on two sides of a Victor Red Seal 10 inch
(25 cm)disk catalogue number 1943 and in Europe on HMV DA 1637.
The matrices are BS 07603-1, BS 07604-1.
Edward Johnson, the widely recognized musical scholar
and expert on Leopold Stokowski has written an article on Leopold
Stokowski and British Music, in which he references this performance
of the music of William Byrd.
Click here to read the
Edward Johnson article on
Leopold Stokowski and British Music.
Although this arrangement and performance do not follow what we
regard as today as 'authentic' performance principles,
Stokowski's arrangement of this music is light, elegant
and enjoyable. Have a listen by clicking on the link, below.
Click here to listen to (download) the 1937 Byrd - Earl of Salisbury
Pavane and Gigue
The November 7, 1937 recording session was made up of French music -
that is, if Chopin can be counted as French, which I believe the
French would certainly do. It also included some of the
best Stokowski recordings of the later 1930s.
Claude Debussy - Nuages from Three Nocturnes
On September 27, 1928 and May 2, 1929, Stokowski had made what was
likely the first successful gramophone record of Nuages,
the first of the Trois Nocturnes written by Claude
Debussey in 1899 wrote his Three Nocturnes: Nuages, Fêtes, and
Sirènes, each having a different texture. Although Debussy
did not accept the "impressionist" label for his
compositions, Nuages does present an image or impression
of the formless nature of clouds, with the changing textures
that evoke the subject of the title.
This is a beautiful and evocative recording doing full justice to the
composition. Listen to the georgeous English horn playing
of John Minsker, English horn of the Philadelphia Orchestra
This recording was made in two consecutive first takes, and issued
on a Victor Red Seal 12 inch (30 cm) disk, catalogue number 15814 in
album M-630. In Europe, it was issued on HMV DB 3596.
The matrices are CS 014371-1, CS 014372-1.
Click here to listen to (download) the 1937 Debussy -
Nuages from Three Nocturnes
Frederic Chopin (orchestrated by Stokowski) -
Mazurka in A minor opus 17 no 4 and Prelude in D minor,
opus 28 no 24
Stokowski during his career orchestrated and performed a number
of Chopin's works from their piano form, including:
- Mazurka no 13 in a minor opus 17 no 4
- Mazurka no 17 in b flat minor opus 24 no 4
- Polonaise in A opus. 40 no 1
- Prélude no 4 in e minor opus 28 no 4
- Prélude no 24 in d minor opus 28 no 24
- Waltz no 7 in c sharp minor opus 64 no 2
He recorded two of these orchestrations on November 7, 1937 in the
Academy of Music: the Mazurka in A minor opus 17 no 4 and
the Prelude in D minor, opus 28 no 24. I believe these
orchestrations are best appreciated by considering them as new
works inspired by the Chopin originals. The orchestrations
and performances of these two works are dramatic and played with
evident virtuosity by the Philadelphia musicians.
The Mazurka seems to me to be fully effective as presented in its
orchestral clothing, without reference to the effect of the
original piano work. The Prelude, however seems to me less
successful. When an orchestral score is reduced for
piano, the repeated playing of piano notes to imitate the
legato of strings is often unsuccessful. Similarly,
Stokowski's orchestration of the frequent Chopin trills,
dramatic and striking when played on the piano, seems to be
less successful when given to
the brass instruments to trill - an artificial effect.
The Mazurka in A minor opus 17 no 4 was released on two sides of
a Victor 10 inch (25 cm) Red Seal record catalogue number
1855. In Europe, it was issued on a 10 inch (25 cm) Gramophone
disc: EC 78. Matricies are BS 03124-1, BS 03125-1.
The Prelude in D minor, opus 28 no 24 was issued on Victor 1998,
matrix CS 014370-1. The flip side contained the Stokowski
orchestration of Stravinsky's Pastorale. This record's
European counterpart was Gramophone DA 1639
Click here to listen to (download) the 1937 Chopin Mazurka in A minor
Click here to listen to (download) the 1937 Prelude in D minor
Paul Dukas (1865-1935) wrote L'Apprenti sorcier (Sorcerer's
Apprentice) in 1897, so the compositon was only 40 years old
and Dukas had only recently died when this recording
was made. Dukas had studied at the Paris Conservatoire
where he became a life-long friend of his fellow student
Claude Debussy, although Dukas would seem musically from an
earlier period. The composition was based on Goethe poem
The Sorcerer's Apprentice (Der Zauberlehrling),
written 100 years before, and was widely known - at least in Germany.
Paul Dukas in about 1915
The Paul Dukas composition L'Apprenti sorcier (Sorcerer's
Apprentice) was to become well-known and often associated with Stokowski
and Mickey Mouse, due to the successful and entertaining segment in
Walt Disney's movie Fantasia - but that was in the future
(two years later).
The August 1938 Gramophone review of this recording was admiring
as to the playing and of Stokowski's control of the piece:
"...How fat is this bassoon : a masterly broomstick, this,
sardonic in its slyness. Accompanying it are draughts of magic
(with now and again a tiny Wagnerian tincture. The working up
is exciting and yet beautifully controlled)..." 2.
The recording of this work, later considered by some as a
"lollipop", is given a serious and virtuoso reading here,
with a threatening tone as the Sorcerer's Apprentice becomes in
deeper and deeper troubles, but also with a dash of humor.
For those who have listened often to Stokowski's Fantasia
performance, this 1937 recording is both more profound in its
treatment of Dukas' compostion, and more complete. Although
perhaps not intended as a showpiece for orchestra, in the hands
of the Philadelphians, it does demonstrate the greatness of
all choirs. The bassoon solo would be performed by the 22
year-old Sol Schoenbach, since unfortunately Walter Guetter
succumbed to cancer the previous May 1, 1937.
This recording was issued on three sides of Victor 12 inch (30cm)
Red Seal disks numbers 17501 and 17502 Side A,
coupled with the Prelude to Act 3 of Ivan the Terrible
in Victor Musical Masterpiece album M-717. In Europe, it
was issued on HMV DB 6038 and 6039 Side A coupled with the
Sibelius Berceuse from The Tempest, opus 64 on the
fourth side. The matrix numbers are CS 014367-1, CS 014368-1,
and CS 014369-1, again, all first takes.
Click here to listen to (download) the 1937 Stokowski -
Dukas - L'Apprenti sorcier
Jean Sibelius's Incidental Music to Shakespeare
drama The Tempest opus 109 - Berceuse
During the November 7, 1937 recording session, Stokowski also
recorded, for the first time, his arrangement of
a movement from Jean Sibelius's Incidental Music to Shakespeare
drama The Tempest opus 109 which Sibelius wrote in
1925 and 1926. This was one of Sibelius's last completed
works, and the music here: the Berceuse comes from one
of the Suites of the original incidental music which Sibelius
arranged. The music accompanies the Act 1, scene 2 in which
Miranda falls asleep, perhaps because of a magic spell by
her father, Prospero. The music has an appropriately dreamy
and evocative spirit, beautifully played by Stokowski and the
Philadelphia strings, with a harp accompaniment by
Edna Phillips, Principal harp of the Philadelphia Orchestra
Stokowski's performance is atmospheric and ethereal, but not
mannered or sentimental, which a number of other conductors
have done. This is a beautiful and sumptuous recording with the
luxurious strings of the Philadelphia Orchestra 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, Dan has remarked on the beauty of
the Philadelphia Orchestra strings. You will hear how correct
he is in this appreciation. Thanks for
the restoration Dan! Click on the link below to enjoy this
dramatic performance, giving joy even more than 75 years after its
This recording was issued on a 10 inch (25 cm) Victor Red Seal
Disk catalogue number 14726 B - the flip side of the
January 15, 1936 recording of the Sibelius Valse Triste. In Europe,
this evocative recording was issued by the Gramophone Company on HMV DB 6009
with the same coupling. It was also issued on HMV DB 3318 coupled
with the 1936 Franck Panis Angelicus The matrix number is
CS 94656-1. As was
his habit during much of the 1930s, Stokowski approved the first take for
Following their November 1937 recording of the first Debussy
Nocturne - Nuages, Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra
turned to the second Nocturne - Fêtes in December.
They would not complete recording the Nocturnes with the third
"scene", as Debussy called them, until the
April 9, 1939 recording of Sirènes.
Following the dreamy atmosphere of Nuages, Fêtes is a brilliant
orchestral work beginning with a rhythmic swirl of color
of full orchestra with harp. There are effects
of a brass band that is reminiscent of the band of the
Garde Républicaine at a festival. How exhilerating to
hear the full Philadelphia Orchestra playing such
brilliant music! The music repeats several times until
the end when the festival procession and its band recedes
into the distance.
This superb recording was issued on two faces of a Victor Red Seal
10 inch (25 cm) disk, catalogue number 2034, also included in
album M-630 containing the Three Nocturnes. In Europe it
as issued on HMV DA 1742. The matrices are BS 014391-3 and
Frederic Chopin (orchestrated by Stokowski) -
Mazurka in B-flat minor opus 24 no 4
During this December 12, 1937 session, Stokowski recorded a third
Chopin orchestration of that November-December recording period.
Stokowski's version of Chopin's Mazurka in B-flat minor opus 24 no 4
is perhaps further removed from the musical effect of Chopin's
original than with his recordings of the Mazurka in A minor or the
Prelude in D minor of the previous month. Stokowski's
orchestration slides among orchestral washes of kaleidoscopic
colors. In contrast, Chopin's original is chiseled, with
flinty sparks. As with other Stokowski orchestrations
of Chopin, this recording is best appreciated as a new work
inspired by the themes composed by Chopin, rather than
as an arrangement of the original masterwork.
This recording was issued on a 12 inch (30 cm) Victor Red Seal
disk 18267 in album M-841, and does not seem to have been issued by
HMV. The matrix number was CS 014393-1, and it was coupled with
the with Glière Symphony no 3 Ilya Mourometz.
Johann Sebastian Bach (orchestrated by Stokowski) - Prelude and Fugue in e minor
BWV 555 Victor 11-8577 in M-963 matrix CS 014394-1 (with Ich ruf' zu dir)
1937 - Eric Satie - Gymnopédie no 1 and no 3
Éric Satie (1866-1925), or Erik Satie, as he later spelled
his name was an original composer who was important in the musicial
avant-garde of Paris at the turn of the century. He composed
three "Gymnopédie", as he called them, for piano in about
1888. Each is in a style unconventional for the period, using
mildly dissonant chords. They are short, gentle, and
To aid the recognition of this friend's music, Claude Debussy
in 1897 orchestrated two of the Gymnopédie. These
were the first and the third Gymnopédie, since Debussy
considered the second not amenable to orchestration. Debussy
also reversed the numbering of Satie's compostions, with the orchestration
of Satie's first Gymnopédie entitled Third Gymnopédie by
Debussy, and the reverse for Satie's third Gymnopédie.
Stokowski's performances are light and atmospheric, and bring alive
the gentle beauty of these compostions. Gymnopédie no 1 and
Gymnopédie no 3 where paired on a Victor 10 inch (25 cm) Red Seal
disk catalogue number 1965. HMV's issue in Europe was on
HMV DA 1688. The matrix numbers were BS 014395-1 and