Stokowski's Orchestration of Debussy's Prélude pour
piano number 10 "La cathédrale engloutie"
Stokowski, Orchestrations, and Musical Arrangements
As described in the short
Biography of Leopold Stokowski
, as an organist in New York, prior to his conducting career,
Stokowski transcribed many instrumental works for the organ. The 1907
advertisement for a Wagner - Palestrina concert, below, is one example.
These transcriptions were, of course, instrumental scores transcribed for the
organ. Transcription of Stokowski's favorite organ and other keyboard
works for symphony orchestra were a natural counterpart. Stokowski seems to
have wanted to present his favorite music in whatever medium in which
he happened to be working.
Stokowski Orchestration of Music of Johann Sebastian Bach
Stokowski's love and understanding of Bach is of course not surprising, given his ten
years as a church organist. Stokowski made at least 37 orchestrations
or transcriptions of the music of Bach. His first transcription seems to
have been prepared in the Summer of 1914 during Leopold and Olga Stokowski's
stay at their villa in Munich. This was of the aria from Saint John's Passion
Es ist vollbracht, BWV 245, which Stokowski eventually recorded with
the Philadelphia Orchestra in
1934 on a double sided 10 inch Victor Red Seal disk Victor 1985.
The first Stokowski orchestration of a Bach organ work for full symphony orchestra
which Stokowski performed seems to have been of the Passacaglia and Fugue in
c minor BWV 582, which Stokowski first performed with the orchestra on February 10,
1922 2. Stokowski later recorded the Passacaglia in 1929 (click on
1929 Bach Passacaglia and Fugue
to read about and listen to this transcription.)
He also performed it several times during every
Philadelphia Orchestra season he conducted from 1922 to
1940, excepting only in 1928 and 1933.
In a later interview, Stokowski stated
that the first Bach work he orchestrated was the
Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 582. However,
the first Bach orchestration, or perhaps better described as an
arrangement seems to have been the Wachet auf portion
of the famous cantata of 1731 ('Wachet auf, ruft uns die
Stimme', or 'Sleepers Awake!', BWV 140), which
John Hunt's Leopold Stokowski Discography and Concert Register
(1996) with additonal information from
Robert M. Stumpf, II, lists as being performed March 19 and 20, 1915.
The famous transcription of the Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565 was
performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra in February 1926. Also, at the concerts
of December 8 and 9, 1926, Stokowski gave the first performance of
his Bach transcription of Komm Susser Tod. This was arranged
for viola and string orchestra.
There have been a number of authors seeking to
demonstrate that Stokowski did not orchestrate
these works, in particular claiming that
of the Philadelphia Orchestra conceived and created the
orchestrations. However, contemporary accounts give support to Stokowski as
the originator of these transcriptions, even if Cailliet prepared the score.
The image below of the Stokowski manuscript of BWV 565 from the University of Pennsylvania
Library archives shows the orchestration with Stokowski's labeling and notes.
Stokowski orchestration of Bach Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565
Stokowski's Orchestration of French Music
In his orchestration of Debussy's tenth Prélude of Volume I,
La cathédrale engloutie, Stokowski used a
contrabass clarinet in his orchestration, perhaps inspired by his
re-orchestration necessary with acoustic recordings where the contrabass clarinet
was added to reinforce or in fact replace string bass instruments which did not
In fact during the mid 1920s, the Philadelphia Orchestra employed a full-time
Frédéric Parme was the orchestra's contrabass
clarinetist from 1925 to 1927, continuing Stokowski's
practice of hiring predominantly French-trained wind players.
The Stokowski orchestration of Mussorgsky's Pictures
at an Exhibition
The Stokowski orchestration of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition,
is another famous transformation. Source books
indicate that Mikhail Tushmalov (1861-1896), a lesser
Russian composer was the first to orchestrate Pictures
in about 1891, but including only of 7 of the 10
pictures. Sir Henry Wood also produced an
orchestration of Pictures in 1915, but he apparently
also made major changes to the original composition
rather than a faithful orchestration of the piano
composition. Ravel produced his famous
orchestration of the complete 10 pictures in 1922 under
a commission by Serge Koussevitzky.
Stokowski introduced the Ravel orchestration of Mussorgsky's piano
work in November, 1929, after Koussevitzky's performance
exclusivity of the Ravel orchestration ended.
Stokowski's score for 'Tableaux d'une Exposition' 1939
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 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')
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