1930 Recordings of
Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra
Stokowski Recordings with the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1930
In 1930, Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra recorded much less music than during the three previous rich years of 1927, 1928, and 1929. Perhaps this was due to Victor caution, following the great stock market crash of the previous October, 1929. In any case, there were only four days of recording during the year 1930: Saturday, 15 March 1930, and following the final concert of the Philadelphia Orchestra 1929-1930 season, on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday 28, 29 and 30 April 1930.
From these sessions, thirteen 78 RPM sides were issued. As an indication of the direction of Stokowski's interests at that period, it is remarkable that 7 of these 13 sides were of Stokowski transcriptions or orchestrations. Five sides of Baroque music, and two sides of Debussy piano music. The other two recordings were of works Stokowski and the Orchestra had performed during this 1929-1930 season: Sibelius Finlandia, and the Tchaikovsky 1812 Overture.
1930 also was a year in which Stokowski decided to make a number of changes of musicians in the Philadelphia Orchestra. The records do not definitively show whom Stokowski dismissed, except in a few cases. However, the March 3, 1930 issue of Time Magazine was explicit regarding some cases:
"Conductor Leopold Stokowski of the Philadelphia Orchestra was censured by many last week for ousting nine of his players. Four: Clarinetist Paul Alemann, Horn-player Otto Henneberg, Violinist Marius Thor, Oboeist Edward Raho - had been with the orchestra from 18 to 26 years. Probable reason for their dismissal: too old, stale." 3
As well as these four, Daniel Bonade, Principal clarinet, Vincent Fanelli, Principal harp, Gardell Simons, Principal trombone, Fabien Koussewitzky - double bass and nephew of Serge Koussevitzky who later adopted the stage name of Fabian Sevitzky as a conductor - Max Pollikoff, violin, Herman Weinberg, violin, Sheppard Lehnhoff, viola, Milton Prinz, cello, and Joseph Wolfe, English horn departed during 1930.&nnbsp; Some of them or perhaps all) had been dismissed by Stokowski. To replace Gardell Simons as Principal trombone, Stokowski hired Simone Belgiorno who was trombone instructor at the Curtis Institute and who had been Principal trombone at the Cincinnati Symphony, at the Metropolitan Opera, Boston Symphony Assistant Principal trombone, and Cleveland Orchestra Principal trombone. However, according to Philadelphia Orchestra trombonist Harold McKinney, Simone Belgiorno "only lasted 14 weeks with Stokowski...", so did not finish the 1930-1931 season.
At the same time, Stokowski hired a number of Curtis Institute students directly into the Philadelphia Orchestra even before they had graduated. These included Melvin Headman - fourth trumpet, Robert McGinnis - Clarinet, and Robert Bloom - English horn, who entered the Philadelphia Orchestra directly from the Curtis Institute in 1930, although they 'officially' graduated in the Curtis Class of 1935.
Stokowski Produces Music Drama and Ballet
Stokowski at this time also wanted to find means to expand into ballet and opera. He planned, raised funds, and pushed ahead against opposition from the Board of the Philadelphia Orchestra and some of his supporters to mount productions of Schoenberg's music drama Die glückliche Hand opus 18, and a full ballet production of Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps, with Martha Graham dancing the Sacrificial Maiden. The three performances of these two works in Philadelphia and in New York City, partially sponsored by the League of Composers in April, 1930 sold out, justifying Stokowski's gamble that they would succeed 4. Financially, they were less successful, with the cost and also the uncompromising line Stokowski took with the Philadelphia Orchestra Board in the confrontation as to these productions leaving hard feelings that were to grow during the first half of the 1930s.
The first session of 1930 was on Saturday, 15 March 1930. At this session, Stokowski continued recording his orchestrations, or more accurately, his transcriptions and re-arrangements for large symphony orchestra of Baroque music which he had initiated during 1927 and 1929. These were arrangements of music by Handel and Bach.
The 15 March 1930 recording session began with a recording of Stokowski's orchestration and re-arrangement of the Pastoral Symphony from Handel's Messiah.
The "Pastoral" from Scene 3 of the Messiah has been one of the most popular 'bonbons' (as Sir Thomas Beecham would say) from any of Handel's works. It has been arranged for what seems to be nearly any combination of instrumentals. I have seen offers for sheet music for the "Pastoral" arranged for saxophone trio, for clarinet trio, accordion, trumpet and horn, among many others.
Messiah may be Handel's greatest work, and certainly his most performed. The first performance in the Music Hall in Dublin on the April 13, 1742 was reported to be a total success. This may have contributed to Handel's increasing composition of Oratorios, rather than his previous work producing Italian-style operas.
The "Pastoral" occurs at the beginning of Scene 3 of the Messiah which describes Christ's birth. The nativity of the Messiah is told through the annunciation by the angels to the shepherds. Stokowski would have performed this music numerous times with church chorus, both in London and in New York, prior to his conducting career.
This recording was issued on a Victor 12 inch (30 cm) Red Seal disc 7316, matrix number CVE 47958-4A, with Stokowski's transcription of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier Book 1 - Prelude 24 in b minor, BWV 869 on the flip side. In Europe, the Gramophone Company issued the recording on HMV D-1938. Click here to listen to (download) the 1930 "Pastoral" from Handel's Messiah
Also on 15 March 1930 in the Academy of Music, Philadelphia, Stokowski recorded another of his orchestrations of a Chorale Prelude. This was Aus der Tiefe rufe ich ('Out of the depths I cry to Thee, O Lord'), BWV 745. In fact, most scholars now believe this work was not composed by Johann Sebastian Bach. There is speculation that Bach's son Carl Phillip Emanuel Bach arranged this chorale prelude based on his father's Cantata 131, BWV 131 using the same musical theme.
Bach's Cantata 131 with the theme Aus der Tiefe rufe ich
For me, this Bach-Stokowski orchestration is not as varied nor as interesting as the original work for organ, since it does not fully include the varied contrapuntal interplay and contrasts of the original, but only the straight theme and variations. This, taken with its length of 6 1/2 minutes, contrasted with a typical performance on pipe organ of 4 minutes means that it may overstay its welcome to some ears.  However, the performance never becomes overblown nor lapses into superficial sentimentality. The Gramophone in its review highly praised this recording.
"...This record will be valued by all true Bach enthusiasts, which cannot be said of all Bach arrangements for modern orchestra. Stokowski is at his best. He gives a plain, dignified reading, allowing nothing that could possibly be called unwarranted, eschewing all mere effect; how simple a reading may be judged from the fact that the general effect is of very little more than a flow of simple, smooth, uneventful string work. Some may say, too austere but any austerity is in the music, just good Bach. The recording is of the best..."
Rollin Smith states that this Stokowski orchestration was first performed by Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra on March 15, 1924 2, exactly six years to the day prior to this recording.
This Bach orchestration was released on one Victor Red Seal 12 inch disk 7553 (in Britain on an HMV 12 inch disk DB 1789), matrices CVE 47971-3A, CVE 47972-3. This was Stokowski's only recording of this orchestration of BWV 745, and his score does not seem to have been published.
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, 28, 29 and 30 April 1930, following the final concert of the Philadelphia Orchestra 1929-1930 season, Stokowski and the Orchestra returned to the Academy of Music for more recordings. Recall that the historic Wall Street stock market crash had just occurred at the beginning of this season, in late October, 1929.
The first work they recorded on 28 April 1930 was a dramatic performance of the Sibelius symphonic poem Finlandia. This work was written in 1899 and revised in 1900, and was still a work considered modern and 'difficult'. However, Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra had been performing it regularly for the previous 15 years. Also recall that Stokowski and the Philadelphians had made a pioneering acoustic recording of Finlandia in April, 1921.
Sibelius circa 1896
The sound of this 1930 recording is fine, although the second side of this Victor disk 7412, matrix CVE 56835-2A has some slight overload distortion on all copies I have heard. This does not seem to be an impediment to the enjoyment of the work, especially in the restoration by the audio mastering and restoration expert, Marcos Abreu, offered in the link below.
Marcos Abreu's restoration seems to me excellent, transparent and subtle. He has added a very slight amount of ambiance to the recording, which adds some needed 'air', yet retains the original sound. You can contact him at Marcos Abreu - Audio mastering and restoration services, email address: email@example.com Thanks Marcos !
Beyond the sound, this performance is electric with excitement. The Gramophone Magazine appreciated this performance in wrote:
"...There is a fine flare in this Finlandia; fire and weight too, and dignity, not surpassed in warmth by anything I know...' 1.
A slight negative is a cut from bars 191 to 214 that Stokowski makes at the end of the work. This is a cut of about 15 seconds of music at of the finale, which consists of a drum-roll, followed by repeated chords. This eliminated music, as written by Sibelius, normally follows the last notes of the music we hear in the Stokowski recording. Stokowski does not seem to have explained his reasons for this cut, but presumably he felt this ending was repetitive and superfluous to what is still a dramatic ending.
A full orchestra was used in the Academy of Music: 18 first violins, 18 second violins, 13 violas, 12 celli, 10 double basses, 4 flutes, 4 oboes, 4 bassoons, 5 clarinets, 3 trumpets, 4 trombones, 8 horns, 1 tuba, 2 harps, 2 percussion and tympani.
This April, 1930 recording was issued on a Victor 12 inch (30 cm) Red Seal record number 7412 (or in Europe on HMV DB 1584), matrices CVE 56834-2A (and in later years, CVE 56834-1) and CVE 56835-2A, issued in 1930.
Tchaikovsky's 1812 Festival Overture in E flat major, opus 49 (to give it it's full title) was composed in 1880. Today, this work is a staple of the concert hall, and a famous piece to show off the quality of someone's Hi Fi system and speakers. However, in 1930, this work was not so frequently recorded, even if often performed.
Stokowski's 1930 recording as a performance is dramatic and well-played. However, the recording, although done by Victor in the Academy of Music in Philadelphia, is of a surprisingly 'in your face' acoustic sound. It also seems that the microphones must have been placed unusually close to the orchestra. Stokowski gave constant attention to and was actively involved in the recording process, which helped him have recordings consistently superior in sound to most of his contemporaries. However, this is not an example of superior sound, and we can only conjecture if Stokowski was experimenting with a closer, more direct microphone placement or perhaps that the Victor engineers were not those who had produced the amazingly open and effective recordings of 1926-1929. Since Stokowski was so much 'hands on' during recordings, I would speculate that Stokowski may have been seeking more impact from this dramatic music. The bass from this recording is surprisingly 'boomy' considering its venue in the Academy of Music. I have attempted to compensate for this very close microphone placement with equalization and with added acoustical ambiance.
In spite of the miking, this is an effective and exciting recording, with many examples of virtuoso playing. Listen, for example to Marcel Tabuteau's gorgeous oboe solo during the first minute. Also, the beautiful Philadelphia Orchestra string sound of this orchestra at the height of its form. A nuanced and exciting performance.
Again, here, Stokowski cuts several bars of music from the conclusion of the Overture, presumably because he found them repetitive, or perhaps bombastic. In any case, for those familiar with this work, the sudden ending may come as a mild surprise. Another interesting effect at the ending is that Stokowski does not have the tubular bells damp their chimes at the end, but allows them to reverberate for several seconds. Perhaps he liked this effect, suggesting a cathedral celebration. In any case this seems to me a nice effect.
This recording was issued in 1930 on two Victor 12 inch (30 cm) Red Seal disks 7499, 7500 (or in Europe, HMV DB 1663, DB 1664) matrices CVE 56836-2A (CVE-56836-1 in later years), CVE 56837-2A, CVE 56838-2A, CVE 56839-3A.
(note that this is a large file - about 18 megabytes)
Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687), born in Italy was active in Paris. From several of his compositions, Stokowski transcribed and orchestrated three pieces which he recorded on one 12 inch (30 cm) Victor Red Seal disc 7424. On side A of this disc was the Nocturne from the 1681 ballet Le Triomphe de l'Amour, On side B was the Prelude to Lully's 1674 opera Alceste followed by a March from the 1675 opera Thésée.
These performances are lush and stately - fully upholstered Lully with a full string section and woodwinds.
The matrices for Victor 7424 were CVE-56840-2A for the Nocturne, and CVE-56841-2A for the Prelude and March. In Europe, the recording was released by the Gramophone Company on HMV DB-1587.
Between 1909 - 1913, Debussy wrote his first book of Préludes for piano, which are today considered as perhaps the most successful music that is referred to as 'impressionist' - a term rejected by Debussy. The mood and atmosphere of these 12 works of the first book provide a vivid impression of each of the subjects selected by Debussy. Consider simply the titles he employed, such as "Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l'air du soir" ("Sounds and perfumes turn in the evening air") to appreciate that these musical evocations intend to communicate a sensual impression.
The tenth of the twelve Préludes of the first book is entitled La Cathédrale Engloutie ('The Engulfed Cathedral'), and marked by Debussy 'Profondément calme'. This orchestration by Stokowski and the 1930 performance certainly fulfills that instruction. Note also the delicate bassoon solo Walter Guetter and the mellow trumpet solo by Sol Caston in this recording made on April 30, 1930.
The recording of 'La Cathédrale Engloutie' was issued on a 12 inch (30 cm) Victor Red Seal disk 7454, matrices CVE 56842-2 and CVE 56843-3 in Victor album M-116. In this same album were the September 27, 1928, May 2, 1929 recording of Debussy's Nocturne - 'Nuages', and the April 4, 1931 recording of Debussy's 'Danses sacrée et profane' with Edna Phillips, harp, and the Mignon Gavotte of May 4, 1929.
Stokowski's score of his orchestration of Debussy's Prélude pour piano number 10 'La cathédrale engloutie'
Note on listening to the Stokowski recordings
The recordings in this site are files in mp3 format (128 mbps) encoded from my collection. Links to the mp3 files are located in two places:
First - in the page covering the year of the recording. For example, links to a 1926 recording are found in the page: 1926 - Stokowski - Philadelphia Orchestra Recordings
Second - in the Chronological Discography page. For example, links to a 1926 recording are also found in the electrical recordings chronological discography page: Chronological Discography of Electrical Recordings This page lists all the electrical recordings from 1925 to 1940 made by the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Leopold Stokowski and issued by Victor, including of course the 1926 recordings.
The mp3 files in this site are (usually) encoded at 128 mbps. This means that the files are of different sizes, according to the length of the music. For example, the second electrical recording, the April 29, 1925 Borodin ‘Polovetzki Dances’ is small (3.6MB). In contrast, the 1929 Le Sacre du Printemps file is large. Le Sacre du Printemps part 1 is 14MB and Le Sacre du Printemps part 2 is 16MB.
This means that a large file will take a longer time to download, depending on your internet connection speed. Please keep this in mind when you click to listen to - download a particularly music file. You may click the link to the music file, but need to wait a number of seconds or even minutes to listen to the file.
If you have any comments or questions about this Leopold Stokowski site, please e-mail me (Larry Huffman) at e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Rosters of Musicians of some Great Orchestras:
Leopold Stokowski - Philadelphia Orchestra Acoustic Recordings 1917-1924:
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Leopold Stokowski and Development of Recording:
1 page 25. D1584 (12 inch, 6 sides) - Philadelphia Orchestra,
conducted by Stokowski: Finlandia (Sibelius).. Gramophone Magazine.
London. December, 1931.
3 Names Make News Time Magazine.
New York, New York. March 3, 1930.
5 page 16. The Gramophone. London May, 1933.