From December, 1937 until March, 1939, Stokowski did not conduct the Philadelphia Orchestra
either in concert, or in Victor recordings. However, Stokowski was active in Hollywood
during this period, which led to involvement of the Philadelphia Orchestra
in the historic Walt Disney film Fantasia.
The Birth of Walt Disney's movie Fantasia
In 1937, Walt Disney was searching for a new starring role for Mickey Mouse, in part
because Donald Duck had become so popular, and Mickey was becoming 'second banana'.
In 1938, Walt Disney selected the story of 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice' as a new starring
role for Mickey 4. Walt Disney met Leopold Stokowski in Chasen's Restaurant
in Hollywood in 1938, and Stokowski offered to conduct the music for The Sorcerer's
Apprentice free of charge, because of his interest in the project 3 (note:
when the Fantasia project expanded, Stokowski did receive a fee). In
July, 1937, Disney had already secured the rights to Dukas' music
L'Apprentie sorcière4. Recall that Stokowski and
the Phildelphia Orchestra had made
a successful recoring of the Sorcerer's Apprentice in November, 1937
With this recording objective, Stokowski arrived in Los Angeles
January 2, 1938 to record the Sorcerer's Apprentice with a hand-picked
orchestra of 85 Hollywood session musicians3.
These recordings had some technical difficulties as to synchronization,
but Stokowski approved them and they were used in the final film.
However, Walt Disney had decided that The Sorcerer's Apprentice short
film needed to be expanded to a full-length movie, in order to be
financially viable. After discussing added musical selections with
Stokowski, Disney secured the rights to Le Sacre du Printemps in
April, 1938 5. In December, 1939, Stravinsky
visited the Disney studios, and although in later years he was
critical of Fantasia, Stravinsky at the time seemed
supportive. There was later further criticism of Stokowski
and Disney's music choices, particularly in editing the music.
The Beethoven Pastoral Symphony, for example was cut in half to
Stokowski with Walt Disney in California, 1939 (great shoes !)
Stokowski and Disney listened to dozens of different musical
possibilities, including Rachmaninoff and Wagner 3, and
in the end added the Bach-Stokowski Toccata and Fugue in d minor,
music from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker, Ponchielli's Dance of the Hours,
and Mussorgsky's Night on Bare Mountain to join the already selected
L'Apprentie sorcière, the Pastorale symphony, and
Le Sacre du Printemps.
Stokowski also convinced Disney to record in Philadelphia with the Philadelphia
Orchestra, and recording took place in the Academy of Music in April 3-7, 1939
3,6,7. It is beyond the scope of this web site
to describe in any detail the resulting masterpiece film, but as well
as Mickey as the Sorcerer's Apprentice, the many memorable scenes include
the hippos as ballet dancers in Ponchielli's Dance of the Hours, and
the Tyrannosaurus rex in the primeval world of Le Sacre du Printemps.
Fantasia was issued in 1941 and 1942, and was released again many times
over the years, and continues even today to play in some theaters.
It has been widely sold in DVD, in several restored versions.
The music sound track of Fantasia by Stokowski and
the Philadelphia Orchestra has never been out of the recording
catalogues, since it was first issued by Disney Studios on LP in 1957 in
stereo on Disney's newly-formed record label: "Disneyland Records".
Fantasound and its Restoration
The original sound track of Fantasia was recorded optically on film,
in a system called "Fantasound", which was shown only in
about 14 specially-equipped theaters. According to Jim Fanning in
D23: The Official Disney Fan Club8 "...where
nine separate optical tracks were recorded, isolating various
sections of the orchestra. This was mixed down to three main
tracks with a special additional notched track (known as the TOGAD
or tone-operated gain-adjusting device track), used to trigger
relays for transferring the music to the many Fantasound
speakers throughout the theater..."
Unfortunately, the original film audio masters were recorded on
nitrocellulose film, as were movies through the 1940s.
Nitrocellulose film, unless refrigerated, was found to spontaneously
deteriorate into a gooey, unusable mass. Nitrocellulose
film for movies was superseded in 1948 when Eastman Kodak introduced
cellulose triacetate base film stock. However, less than 15 years
after the 1942 release of Fantasia, when Disney was preparing
the soundtrack for release on 33 1/3 LP disk, they found that the
soundtrack on film had already partially deteriorated. A few
sections, such as the narration by Deems Taylor were unusable.
However, Disney was able in 1955 to mix the surviving materials down
into a three track version on magnetic tape. This is version
which is the basis for all versions the Stokowski - Philadelphia
Orchestra recording on LP, on CD, or on DVD.
The Disney - Stokowski - Philadelphia
Orchestra recordings are not available to us in any other source than the
published Disney albums, so are not reproduced here. Also, there are likely
to be copyright issues as to their reproduction. However, as a brief
reminder of their attraction, the link below gives a few minutes of the beginning
of their April, 1939 recording of Ponchielli's 'Dance of the Hours' (Stokowski's
only recording of this music).
1939 Stokowski - Philadelphia Orchestra Victor Recordings
In April, 1939, just after the Fantasia recordings, Stokowski and the
Philadelphians recorded for Victor in two sessions on April 9 and April 20,
1939. The April 9th session began with the money-making recordings of
two Johann Strauss II waltzes: 'On the beautiful blue Danube', and 'Tales
from the Vienna Woods'.
1939 - Strauss Waltzes - 'On the beautiful blue Danube' and 'Tales
from the Vienna Woods'
These two recordings of Johann Strauss II waltzes, "On the Beautiful
Blue Danube" ("An der schönen blauen Donau") and
"Tales from the Vienna Woods" ("Geschichten aus dem
Wiener Wald") were made in the Academy of Music on April
9, 1939. They were intended to replace
the famous June, 1926 recordings of these Johann Strauss II works
by Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra. The 1926 recordings
were the first recordings made by the Philadelphia Orchestra
in the Academy of Music. In the summer of 1926, Victor had just
installed the new Westrex electrical recording system in the basement
of the Academy of Music. These 1926 recordings were a dramatic
improvement on all orchestral recordings made previously, whether
in the U.S. or in Europe. They are still admired
and referred to today, as being important historic landmarks.
The 1926 recordings of "On the beautiful blue Danube"
, and "Tales from the Vienna Woods" were also best-selling
Victor recordings, and made significant profits for
Victor, although separate sales numbers are not available. By 1939, Victor
likely felt that the 1926 recordings, fine as they were, had become outmoded by
the better reproduction technology of 1939. Since these were definitely
money-makers, they arranged a new recording of both for the very first recording
session of 1939.
These 1939 recordings are elegant and of course show the Philadelphia Orchestra as
the virtuoso band which it had become under Stokowski (and now also Ormandy).
However, for me, these two waltzes lack the final measure of the magic of those
great pioneering 1926 recordings. The 1926 Strauss waltzes could realistically
be said to have been the first totally satisfying reproductions of a great symphony
orchestra since the invention of recoding by Edison 50 years earlier.
However, these 1939 disks continue to give a full measure of pleasure. They
were released on a Victor 12 inch (30 cm) Red Seal disk 15425, matrices CS 035416-1
and CS 035417-1. In Europe, they were released on HMV DB 3821.
1939 - Rimsky-Korsakov - The Maid of Pskov - Act 3 Prelude -
"Hunt and Storm"
The 1872 opera by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, 'The Maid of Pskov' was
revived in 1909 by Diaghilev in Paris under the name "Ivan the Terrible".
It is this latter name which Stokowski used as the labeling title for
2008 revival, St. Petersburg of The Maid of Pskov -
sets, costumes by Fyodor Fyodorovsky
The music is used as the Prelude to Act 3, of the opera, and is referred to as
the "Hunt and Storm" music.
Stokowski in November and December, 1937 had recorded the first two of
Debussy's Nocturnes for orchestra: "Nuages" and "Fêtes". Stokowski
seems to have had less affection for "Sirènes", since he played and
recorded it less than "Nuages" and "Fêtes". In fact, earlier in
the electric era, Stokowski recorded only "Nuages" and "Fêtes" in 1929
and 1927, respectively. Of course, today,
performances and recordings are nearly always of all three Nocturnes.
Indeed, for me at least, this third of Debussy's three Nocturnes completed
in 1899 is the least successful. It seems relentlessly ethereal, and
at nearly 12 minutes in length and considerably the longest of the three
movements, is perhaps overlong by one-third.
However, Stokowski and the Philadelphians give a beautiful performance, and
the virtuoso character of each of the orchestra Principals adds to the enjoyment
of this recording. The somewhat negative comments above regarding this
movement do not apply to this fine performance, which continues to give
pleasure today, even with the sonically stunning recordings now available.
Shostakovich Symphony no 6 - Stokowski made the Western premiere of this symphony,
plus the first recording of the work. Again, the first movement is at a slower
pace than was later usual. Check the break at 3:30 in the final movement.
1939 - Mussorgsky - Pictures at an Exhibition - Stokowski Orchestration
On November 17, 1939 Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra gave the premiere
of Stokowski's orchestration of Modest Mussorgsky's '
Tableaux d'une Exposition' -
'Pictures at an Exhibition'. Ten
days later, on November 27, 1939, Victor recorded Stokowski
and the Philadelphians performing this work in the Academy of Music.
The original composition was written by Mussorgsky in 1874
and were his musical impressions of 10 (or perhaps 11) pictures, or
tableaux by Mussorgsky's friend Viktor Hartmann (1834–1873), shown at
a retrospective exhibition of Hartmann's works. Hartmann
had died unexpectedly of an aneurysm the year before Mussorgsky
wrote 'Pictures at an Exhibition'. Hartmann's death is said
to have made a deep impression on Mussorgsky, and Mussorgsky (who
also died young 1839-1881) later recounted that he composed
these piano pieces in only six weeks.
In his original piano composition of 1874, there are ten 'tableaux', linked
by 'Promenades'. Mussorgsky composed the promenade music to represent
an exhibition visitor walking from picture to picture.
The original piano score order, with the numbered
1 'Gnomus', Promenade,
2 'Il vecchio castello' (Old Castle), Promenade,
4 'Bydlo' (a heavy Polish cart), Promenade,
5 'Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks',
6 'Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuyle', Promenade,
7 'Limoges, le marché' (Marketplace at Limoges),
9 'Baba-Yaga's Hut on Fowl's Legs',
10 'Great Gate of Kiev'.
The Stokowski orchestration is made up of 10 sections, counting
both Promenades and Tableaux, but not exactly
corresponding to Mussorgsky's original piano composition.
Stokowski left out two of the original piano tableaux:
3. 'Tuileries', depicting children fighting after games, and
7. 'Limoges, le marché' ('Marketplace at Limoges').
Stokowski is said not to be convinced that these
two movements were in fact composed by Mussorgsky, but perhaps to have been
added by Rimsky-Korsakov. Stokowski further seems to have
found these movements to be more French than
Russian. Both of these tableaux are lighter and more dance-like,
unlike the dark, Slavic tone which characterized much of Mussorgsky's
compositions. Leopold Stokowski was one of the twentieth century conductors
most in tune with the compositional style of Mussorgsky, and deeply read into
Mussorgsky's scores. Certainly, it is this dark Russian tone which
Stokowski wanted to assure in his orchestration of in this music.
Stokowski's score for 'Tableaux d'une Exposition' 1939
Stokowski also revised sections of Mussorgsky's score to gain what he said in
an interview was a more 'Slavic' musical tone. Further,
in his performance, the heavy old Polish wooden cart moves
quite rapidly, while 'Catacombae' - Catacombs - is taken
at a dramatically slow, and very effective pace.
Stokowski's orchestration, although not widely adopted as was the Ravel
orchestration commissioned by Koussevitzky, is particularly effective.
Modest Mussorgsky was one of the composers with whom Stokowski seems in most
artistic affinity. Just as Stokowski was not particularly attracted
to Mozart or Bruckner, his affinity for Mussorgsky and Brahms is manifest.
Also, Stokowski's orchestration is, to my ears more 'Slavic' or 'Russian', as he
claimed. It is also more dramatic and exciting than the Ravel version, and
sometimes verges on being brutal (or perhaps dramatic is a better description).
Several modern restorations of this 1939 recording have appeared over
the years, but none to my ears has been completely satisfying.
For this reason, we are particularly fortunate that Marcos Abreu, the
recording engineer and restoration master has turned his skills to this
performance. The mp3 files below are in no doubt the finest restoration
of this 1939 recording up until today. Marcos's results provide an impact
comparable to the modern sonic spectaculars to which we have become accustomed.
Marcos Abreu has brought these disks to life, yet without interfering with, or
altering their original qualities.
These are most satisfying restorations, which are now shared with us.
Thank you Marcos ! You can contact Marcos Abreu, audio mastering and
restoration services, email address:
In the the mp3 recordings, below, Stokowski's movements are,
for convenience, grouped into five parts, as follows:
1. Gnomus (The Gnome)
2. 'Il vecchio castello' (The Old Castle)
(3. 'Les Tuileries' was not included by Stokowski)
4. Bydlo (the Polish wooden cart)
5. Ballet des poussins dans leur coque
(Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks)
Hartmann's sketch for Unhatched Chicks
6. Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuyle
(7. 'Limoges, le marché'
was not included by Stokowski)
8. Catacombae, Cum mortuis in lingua mortua (Catacombs)
9. 'La cabane sur des pattes de poule'
('Baba Yaga's Hut on Fowls' Legs')
10. 'La grande porte de Kiev'
('The Great Gate of Kiev')
1939 - Saint-Saëns - Carnival des animaux ('Carnival of the Animals')
Recall that in September 1929, Stokowski recorded the Camille Saint-Saëns
Carnival des animaux ('Carnival of the Animals') in a famous
early electrical recording from the Victor Talking Machine Company.
Carnival des animaux has been regularly one of Saint-Saëns'
most popular works. Other, more 'serious' works, such as the
five very fine Saint-Saëns piano concerti, and of course the often
recorded Saint-Saens Organ symphony (number 3) are impressive and
marked by greatness. However, the Carnival des animaux
continues to be one of his most-performed works. Yet, it seems
that Saint-Saëns was concerned that Carnival des animaux
would be considered frivolous, and undermine his musical
reputation. Saint-Saëns did not allow the work to be published
during his lifetime, except the famous music of the Swan movement.
Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921)
Listed below are the movements, and also indicated is how they fall in the
two .mp3 music files, Part 1 and Part 2 (my organization, which is not
in the Saint-Saëns score) which you can download.
- Introduction, Royal March of the Lion
- Hens and Roosters
- Wild asses (quick animals)
- The elephant
- Persons with long ears
- The cuckoo in the depth of the woods
- The swan
Although this recording does demonstrate the continuing virtuoso
nature of the Philadelphia Orchestra at the end of the 1930s,
to my ears it does not always retain the spark of inspired involvement
that made the September, 1929 recording one of the finest recorded
performances --- and also one of the best-selling albums of the
78 RPM era. The two pianists here were Jeanne Behrend and
Sylvan Levin. The cello in The Swan was played by
Benar Heifetz, and, as in 1929, the gorgeous flute is
William Kincaid. The beautiful clarinet soloist is by
Daniel Bonade in one of his last Philadelphia recordings.
This recording was issued by Victor in Musical Masterpiece
Album M-785 containing three Victor 12 inch (30 cm) discs:
18047, 18048, and 18049. In Europe, the EMI issued this
recording on HMV DB 5942, DB 5943 and DB 5944.  Matrices
were CS 043651-1, CS 043652-1, CS 043653-1, CS 043654-1,
CS 043655-2, CS 043656-1, almost all first takes.
November, 1939 - Two Stokowski - Bach Orchestrations
The 1939 recording year concluded on November 27, 1939 with two
Stokowski orchestrations of works by Johann Sebastian Bach.
These were movement 1 of the Trio Sonata no 1 in E flat major BWV 525,
and the Chorale Prelude 'Ich ruf' zu Dir, Herr Jesu Christ', BWV 639.
Bach - Trio Sonata in E flat major, BWV 525
The Trio Sonata in E flat major, BWV 525 was the first of six such
sonatas composed by Bach in about 1730, at the beginning of Bach's
time in Leipzig. Bach scholars believe these organ sonatas were
intended by Bach as instruction for his oldest son Wilhelm Friedemann
Bach (1710-1784). What is amazing is that Bach succeeds to weave the
three voices of what might be three instruments, for example, a
violin, flute and continuo - such as in Bach's Musical Offering into
one organ work. Yet, scholars say this was not originally a
Trio Sonata for three instruments, transposed to the organ, but
newly-written by Bach for organ or pedal harpsichord with these three
voices played by one organist (two on the keyboard and one in
pedal). Another example of Bach's manifest genius.
Listen to the three voices played in the first minute of the original
organ work (played by Lionel Rogg), compared with Stokowski's
adaptation for a reduced orchestra (note: I have slightly
re-pitched the Stokowski recording to bring it closer to the
key of the organ).
As you can hear, Stokowski has done a skillful job of dis-aggregating
the three voices into the music of several instruments taking up the
three voices. A distinguished and scholarly job by Stokowski,
so have a listen by clicking the link
below. This recording was released by Victor as 12 inch (30
cm) Red Seal disk 11-8576 in album M-963. The matrix was
Bach - Chorale Prelude 'Ich ruf' zu Dir, Herr Jesu Christ' BWV 639
Another trio was the Chorale Prelude 'Ich ruf' zu Dir, Herr Jesu Christ',
BWV 639. Rollin Smith in his profound book on Stokowski and
the Organ2 observes: '...Since the organ piece begins
on the last beat of the measure, Stokowski...wrote a brief sequence
leading into Bach's fourth beat...Then, to extend the work to at
least three and one-half minutes, he repeats the last phrase by altering
Bach's final major chord to F minor and going directly to the Eb chord
on the last beat of the fifth measure before the end...Finally, Stokowski
extended the concluding arpeggio one note by making Bach's eighth-note
C a sixteenth-note, and adding a final sixteenth-note A, to emphasize
the major tonality...' 2.
Recall that on October 13, 1927, Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra
had previously recorded this work, coupled, on the other side of
Victor 6786 with his 1927 arrangement of Bach's Prelude no 8
in e flat minor BWV 853, from the Well Tempered Clavier.
In this arrangement of BWV 639, Stokowski used reduced strings,
and adding only oboe, bassoon and flute, an example of restraint and
a sensitive orchestral adaptation. This recording
was released by Victor as part of album M-963, on 12 inch (30 cm)
disk 11-8576, matrix number CS 043658-1.
1940 was the final year of Stokowski conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra
as Music Director. By 1940, much of the world, but not yet the
United States was enmeshed in the growing total-war that was World War 2.
One of the consequences of this for Victor, and for the 1940 recordings was that
the high quality shellac ingredient for the material Victor (and others) used
in pressing 78 RPM records was difficult to import from Southeast Asia, the
principal source. Consequently, the quality of Victor pressings of these
1940 recordings was not as high as in previous years. Also, the disk
surfaces were noisier. Some of this difference can be overcome by modern
processing, but in any case, the 1940 Victor recordings are not sonically the
equal of the recordings since the Philadelphia Orchestra returned to the
Academy of Music for recording in 1936.
1940 - Reinhold Glière - Symphony no 3 in b minor - 'Ilya Mourometz'
The first recording of 1940 by Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra
took place in the Academy of Music on March 27, 1940. Just before
Philadelphia, Stokowski had been conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic
in January and February, 1940 1. In this first recording session
of 1940, Stokowski took up a work he programmed for his last pairs of
subscription concerts for the season, March 15-16, in Philadelphia
and March 19, 1940 in New York City. This was of the Symphony
no 3 in b minor, titled Ilya Mourometz by Reinhold Glière.
Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov (1859-1935), Stokowski, Reinhold Glière (1875-1956)
during Stokowski's first visit to the Soviet Union in 1931
The inspiration for Glière's symphony was the semi-mythical Russian hero
Ilya Mourometz, a medieval warrior knight.
The full score of Glière's 'Ilya Mourometz' in performance is about 75 to 80
minutes long, but here Stokowski with extensive editing has reduced it to
about 45 minutes, said to be with the approval of Glière. Stokowski made
Ilya Mourometz one of the symphonies of his core repertoire, and
deserves substantial credit for its eventual success, both from this pioneering
Philadelphia recording and Stokowski's 1957 Houston Symphony recording.
The dramatic and brooding Russian character of the score also well accords with
Stokowski's dramatic style and preferences. Stokowski also saves the score
from the overheated performances (to my ears) of otherwise admired conductors
such as Hermann Scherchen, Ferenc Fricsay and Sir Edward Downes.
1940 - Debussy - Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune'
Also in the Academy of Music on March 27, 1940, Stokowski and the
Philadelphia Orchestra recorded Debussy's "Prélude à l'après-midi
d'un faune'. Recall that Stokowski and the Philadelphia
Orchestra had recorded a famous
1927 version of the Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune'
, one of the most popular of Stokowski's
early recordings. It would seem that Victor and Stokowski
decided it was time for a more technically up-to-date recording
of this work. However, this March 27, 1940 recording
was apparently not a success, and was never issued.
Consequently, after the Bach-Stokowski recording of 'Es ist Vollbracht'
from St. John's Passion, in the sumptuous Stokowski orchestration
described below, on December 8, 1940, the Philadelphia Orchestra
next tried again to record the Prélude à l'après-midi d'un
faune'. This was one of the last recordings made by
Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra while Stokowski was
Music Director. It is a fine recording, although many today
believe it lacks the ultimate bit of magic of the March 10, 1927
recording. Listen, by clicking of the link below, and judge
1940 - Harl McDonald - 'Legend of the Arkansas Traveler'
During the March 27, 1940 Academy of Music recording session,
Stokowski recorded another work which he had programmed during
his concerts in March, 1940. This is another composition by the University of Pennsylvania
Professor of Music and later Manager of the Philadelphia Orchestra Harl McDonald
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 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 both Leopold Stokowski and Eugene Ormandy. He was
also elected to the Board of Directors of the Philadelphia Orchestra
Association. He died suddenly 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. Harl McDonald's 'Legend of the Arkansas Traveler' was composed
in 1939. The original music which inspired this work was a song
popular in Arkansas and the south composed by "Colonel" Sanford C.
The extended violin solo georgeously played by
Alexander Hilsberg, represents
the violin playing of the Arkansas fiddler
to whom the Arkansas traveler mistakenly advises to repair his leaking roof
rather than fiddle all day.
The recording session of March 27, 1940 was not yet over ! Two more
works, much different one from the other were also recorded. First
was the Prelude to Act 3 of Wagner's Lohengrin. In stark contrast,
Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra completed a jam-packed day of
recording with Ernest Bloch's cello concerto, 'Schelomo'.
This March 27, 1940 recording was Stokowski's first of the Prelude
to Act 3 of Wagner's 1850 opera 'Lohengrin'. It was issued in
1940 as part of Victor Musical Masterpiece album M-732. The
recording was on Victor Red Seal 12 inch (30 cm) disk 17568, issued
in Europe on HMV DB 5853.  The matrix number was CS 047815-1.
March 27, 1940 was not yet over for the Philadelphia Orchestra recordings.
Next, Stokowski and Emanuel Feuermann, cello performed what is essentially
a cello concerto. Schelomo was composed in 1916.
This recording was issued in Victor Musical Masterpiece album M-698, on five
12 inch (30 cm) sides on Victor 17336, 17337, 17338 A. Side B of the
last disk was blank. Matrices were CS 047816-2, CS 047817-1,
CS 047818-1, CS 047819-1, CS 047820-1 matrices CS 047816-2, CS 047817-1,
CS 047818-1, CS 047819-1, CS 047820-1, nearly all first takes.
1940 - Bach - 'Es ist Vollbracht' from St. John's Passion
On December 8, 1940, Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra returned to the
Academy of Music for recording,
beginning with a Bach-Stokowski transcription. It was 'Es ist Vollbracht
!', aria number 58 (or movement 30) from Bach's St. John's Passion BWV 245, in
a Stokowski orchestration. Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra had
previously recorded this transcription on October 22, 1934, Victor 8764.
Bach's original score was for a (boy) Alto singer,
accompanied by viola da gamba, plus two violins, a viola, and continuo, of course
far less than the full strings and winds used by Stokowski. This original
text can be heard in a wonderful 1950 performance by Peter Schreier, then only 14,
and before his successful professional career, with Anton Spieler, cello and Hans Otto,
organ continuo and conductor Rudolf Mauersberger.
Peter Schreier - boy alto
Click on the link below to
hear the beauty
of Bach's music which inspired Stokowski's arrangement and orchestration.
Click here to listen to (or download) the Peter Schreier singing Bach's 'Es ist Vollbracht'
The text 'Es its Vollbracht' - 'It is accomplished', Christ's last words on
the cross, begins with quiet and meditative music reflecting on the Passion of
Christ, but then transitions to an allegro, celebrating and affirming that death is
vanquished. This aria, with its celebration allegro interruption
('Der Held aus Juda'), and its quiet ending is one
of Bach's most sublime works. Stokowski has captured the spirit of this music,
except perhaps the first theme of 'Es ist Vollbracht', in which Stokowski's performance
has given Bach's thought-filled music a reading more lugubrious than it is contemplative.
This recording was released as Victor 11-8578 in M-963.
Soloists in this recording were English Horn: John Minsker, English horn, and
Ferdinand del Negro, bassoon.
Click here to listen to (or download) the 1940 recording of Bach 'Es ist Vollbracht'
As was described above, Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra
had tried, unsuccessfully, to record Debussy's 'Prélude à l'après-midi
d'un faune'. The re-try on December 8, 1940 recorded just after
the Bach-Stokowski 'Es ist Vollbracht' was a success. This allowed
Stokowski and the Philadelphians to make the world premiere recording
of the Shostakovich Symphony no 6 in b minor, opus 54. Stokowski
and the Philadelphia Orchestra had made the U.S. premiere of this
Shostakovich symphony, and in fact the first performance outside the
Soviet Union, on November 29, 1940. Shostakovich's Symphony no
6 in B minor opus 54 was completed by Shostakovich in 1939, and
given its première later that year by Evgeny Mravinski and the
Leningrad Philharmonic on November 21, 1939.
Then, on December 8, 1940, just nine days after Stokowski's premiere, and
slightly more than one year after its Russian premiere, Stokowski and the
Philadelphia Orchestra made this first recording 1, one of their
last together for a twenty years. This recording was issued in
Victor Red Seal disks 18391, 18392, 18393, 18394, and 19395 in Victor album
M-867. The final record side was blank in earlier albums, and McDonald's
Legend of the Arkansas Traveler
' was the filler others) Matrices show nearly
all sides were first takes: CS 057541-2A,
CS 057521-1A, CS 057543-1A, CS 057544-1A, CS 057545-1A, CS 057546-1A,
CS 057547-1A, CS 057548-1A, CS 057549-2A.
1940 - Mozart - Sinfonia Concertante in E flat major K 297b
On December 22, 1940, Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra performed their final
recording session together during Stokowski and the Orchestra's 28 seasons together.
This recording session was notable not only because it was their last session (we would
need to wait two decades until they played together again). This recording session
also included several 'firsts' in the Stokowski - Philadelphia recording
Notable among these was their second recording of a work by Mozart, the
Sinfonia Concertante in E flat major, K 297b, for oboe, clarinet, horn, bassoon and
orchestra. This was the first Stokowski - Philadelphia Orchestra recording of
a work by Mozart since May, 1919, when they recorded the
third movement, Minuetto, of the Symphony number 40
. As was noted in the
analysis of Stokowski's Repertoire
, the music of Wolfgang
Amadeus Mozart was not an important part of the music performed by Leopold Stokowski, not
only during his time with the Philadelphia Orchestra, but more broadly. However, this
1940 performance of the Sinfonia Concertante in E flat major, K 297b is a clean and satisfying
account, and displays the virtuoso abilities of the Orchestra.
This Sinfonia Concertante featured the first chair player of the Philadelphia Orchestra
in their prime as soloists:
Marcel Tabuteau, oboe,
Bernard Portnoy, clarinet,
Sol Schoenbach, bassoon, and
Mason Jones, horn.
These beautiful and musical
solos fit Mozart excellently, perhaps even better than Stokowski's accompaniment,
which is clean and attentive, but perhaps not displaying the ultimate in the
delicate magic that Stokowski so often brought to his finest recordings.