1939-1940 Recordings - Leopold Stokowski

and the Philadelphia Orchestra

 


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The Walt Disney 1940 film Fantasia with music performed by Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra

 

 

Leopold Stokowski - Philadelphia Orchestra

Recordings of 1939 and 1940

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1939-1940

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Stokowski's Absence 1937 - 1939

 

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 sorcière 4.  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 22 minutes.

  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 Club 8 "...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).

 

Click here to listen to the beginning of the April, 1939 Ponchielli 'Dance of the Hours'

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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.

 

Click here to listen to the 1939 Strauss 'On the beautiful blue Danube'

 

Click here to listen to the 1939 Strauss 'Tales from the Vienna Woods'

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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 this recording.

  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.

 

Click here to listen to (or download) the 1939 'Ivan the Terrible - Prelude to Act 3'

 

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1939 - Debussy - The Third Nocturne - "Sirènes"

 

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.

 

Click here to listen to (download) the 1939 recording of Debussy's Sirènes

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1939 - Shostakovich Symphony no 5 in d minor, opus 47

 

Shostakovich Symphony no 5 - Stokowski begins with a slow tempo that creates the atmosphere for this highly atmospheric reading.  Portamento is a feature throughout this movement.

 

Click here to listen to (or download) the 1939 Shostakovich Symphony no 5 - mvmt 1

 

Click here to listen to (or download) the 1939 Shostakovich Symphony no 5 - mvmt 2

 

Click here to listen to (or download) the 1939 Shostakovich Symphony no 5 - mvmt 3

 

Click here to listen to (or download) the 1939 Shostakovich Symphony no 5 - mvmt 4

 

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.

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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 paintings is:

1 'Gnomus', Promenade,

2 'Il vecchio castello' (Old Castle), Promenade,

3 'Tuileries',

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),

8 'Catacombs',

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:  mastering@terra.com.br   

 

In the the mp3 recordings, below, Stokowski's movements are, for convenience, grouped into five parts, as follows:

 

Part 1:

 Promenade

1.   Gnomus  (The Gnome)

 

Part 2:

Promenade

2.   'Il vecchio castello'  (The Old Castle)

(3.  'Les Tuileries' was not included by Stokowski)

 

Part 3:

4.   Bydlo (the Polish wooden cart)

 Promenade 

5.   Ballet des poussins dans leur coque   (Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks)

    Hartmann's sketch for Unhatched Chicks

 

Part 4:

6.   Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuyle 

(7.   'Limoges, le marché' was not included by Stokowski)

8.   Catacombae, Cum mortuis in lingua mortua  (Catacombs)

 

Part 5:

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')

 

Click here to list to (download) Mussorgsky-Stokowski 'Pictures at an Exhibition' Part 1

 

Click here to list to (download) Mussorgsky-Stokowski 'Pictures at an Exhibition' Part 2

 

Click here to list to (download) Mussorgsky-Stokowski 'Pictures at an Exhibition' Part 3

 

Click here to list to (download) Mussorgsky-Stokowski 'Pictures at an Exhibition' Part 4

 

Click here to list to (download) Mussorgsky-Stokowski 'Pictures at an Exhibition' Part 5

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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. 

 

Part 1:

-   Introduction, Royal March of the Lion

-   Hens and Roosters

-   Wild asses (quick animals)

-   Tortoises

-   The elephant

-   Kangaroos

 

Part 2:

-   Aquarium

-   Persons with long ears

-   The cuckoo in the depth of the woods

-   Aviary

-   Pianists

-   The swan

-   Finale

 

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.

 

Click here to listen to (download) Carnival des animaux - Part 1

 

Click here to listen to (download) Carnival des animaux - Part 2

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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). 

 

Click here to listen to the first minute of Bach's Trio Sonata BWV 525, organ followed by Stokowski.

 

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 CS 043657-1.

 

Click here to listen to the 1939 orchestration of Bach's Trio Sonata BWV 525 movement 1

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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 Organ 2 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.

 

Click here to listen to the 1939 Choral Prelude 'Ich ruf' zu Dir, Herr Jesu Christ'

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The 1940 Victor Recordings

 

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.

 

Click here to listen to (download) Glière's 'Ilya Mourometz' - movement 1

 

Click here to listen to (download) Glière's 'Ilya Mourometz' - movement 2

 

Click here to listen to (download) Glière's 'Ilya Mourometz' - movement 3

 

Click here to listen to (download) Glière's 'Ilya Mourometz' - movement 4

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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 for yourself.

 

Click here to listen to (download) the 1940 recording of Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune

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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 (1899-1955). 

  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. Faulkner (1806-1874).

 

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.

 

Click here to listen to (download) the Harl McDonald - Legend of the Arkansas Traveler

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1940 - Wagner - Lohengrin - Prelude to Act 3

 

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.

 

Click here to listen to (download) Stokowski's 1940 recording of the Prelude to Act 3 of Lohengrin

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1940 - Ernest Bloch - Schelomo

 

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.

 

I am awaiting a better pressing of this work

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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'

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1940 - Shostakovich - Symphony no 6

 

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.

 

Click here to listen to (download) the 1940 Shostakovich Symphony no 6 - movement 1

 

Click here to listen to (download) the 1940 Shostakovich Symphony no 6 - movement 2

 

Click here to listen to (download) the 1940 Shostakovich Symphony no 6 - movement 3

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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 collaboration.

 

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.

 

Click here to listen to (download) the 1940 Mozart Sinfonia Concertante - movement 1 Allegro

 

Click here to listen to (download) the 1940 Mozart Sinfonia Concertante - movement 2 Adagio

 

Click here to listen to (download) the 1940 Mozart Sinfonia Concertante - movement 3 Andante

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1940 - Ottocar Novacek - Perpetuum Mobile opus 5 no 4

 

This work was originally written for violin and piano, and later arranged by Novacek for violin and orchestra.  Stokowski orchestrated the work for symphony orchestra.

 

 

Click here to listen to (download) the 1940 Novacek Perpetuum Mobile

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1940 - Wesendonck Lieder - 'Im Treibhaus' 'Träume' 'Schmerzen'

 

Three Wesendonck Lieder:

 

III - 'Im Treibhaus' (1858)

V - 'Träume' (1857)

IV - 'Schmerzen' (1857)

 

  

Click here to listen to (download) the 1940 III - 'Im Treibhaus' (1858)

 

Click here to listen to (download) the 1940 V - 'Träume' (1857)

 

Click here to listen to (download) the 1940 IV - 'Schmerzen' (1857)

 

Helen Traubel, soprano 

 


 

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1   Hunt, John.  Leopold Stokowski. Discography. Concert Register.  Published by John Hunt.  1996.  ISBN: 0-952827-5-9.
2  pages 170-171. Smith, Rollin.  Stokowski and the Organ.  Pendragon Press.  2004.  ISBN 157647103-9.
3  pages 379-383  Daniel, Oliver.  Stokowski A Counterpoint of View.  Dodd, Mead & Company.  New York.  1982.  ISBN 0-396-07936-9
4  pages 293-311.  Gabler, Neal.  Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination.  Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.  2007.  ISBN-13: 9780679757474.
5  pages 360-361.  Starr, Kevin.  The Dream Endures: California enters the 1940s.  Oxford University Press, USA.  2002.  ISBN-13: 9780195157970.
6  page 4.  Disney and Stokowski Will Try Something New for the Movies.  The Clearfield Progress. Clearfield, PA. April 3, 1939.
7  page 2.  Disney Idea.  The Indiana Evening Gazette. Indiana, PA. April 7, 1939.
8  Fanning, Jim.  15 Fascinating Facts about Fantasia.  D23: The Official Disney Fan Club.  referenced text downloaded July, 2011.  http://d23.disney.go.com/articles/120210_NF_FEAT_Fantasia.html  

 


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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