Leopold Stokowski Orchestrations


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Leopold Stokowski Orchestrations

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Stokowski's Orchestration of Debussy's Prélude pour piano number 10 "La cathédrale engloutie"

 

Stokowski, Orchestrations, and Musical Arrangements

 

In addition to the notes, below, please visit the excellent Transcriptions of Leopold Stokowski page having an extensive commentary by Leopold Stokowski's student and colleague Maestro José Serebrier by clicking HERE.

 

Stokowski's First Organ Transcriptions

 

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 Lucien Cailliet 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 record effectively. 

 

In fact during the mid 1920s, the Philadelphia Orchestra employed a full-time contrabass clarinet.  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 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 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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2   pages 146, 147. Smith, Rollin. Stokowski And The Organ. Pendragon Press. 2004. ISBN 157647103-9

 

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