Leopold Stokowski and British Music - by Edward Johnson





Leopold Stokowski and British Music

An Appreciation by Edward Johnson


Reprinted from an article originally appearing in the Classic Record Collector of Winter 2000

and revised by the author in September 2012.


Ralph Vaughan Williams and Leopold Stokowski in 1957


Other Articles about Stokowski:
click here read about Stokowki Transcriptions by José Serebrier
click here to read about Leopold Stokowski and British Music by Edward Johnson
click here to read about Stokowski and Vaughan Williams by Edward Johnson
click here to read about Stokowski's Return to Britain by Edward Johnson
click here to read about Letters to Stokowski by Edward Johnson
click here to read about Stokowski and "His Symphony Orchestra" by James H. North
click here to read a biography of Leopold Stokowski
click here to read about great symphony orchestras of the USA
click here to go to the Home Page of stokowski.org

Stokowski goes native

British born and trained, Stokowski was a dedicated interpreter of his country's music, as Edward Johnson shows


In 1977, the year of Leopold Stokowski's death, an early biographer claimed that despite the maestro's London-based musical education:

"even in his early years as a conductor in America, Stokowski did not play much English music and later on it was conspicuous by its absence from his programmes."


The author of those words could be forgiven, since at that time John Hunt's Leopold Stokowski Discography and Concert Register (1996) 2 was a long way from being published. Although not absolutely complete, it is the concert listing that provides the most fascinating glimpses of the conductor's range, confirming that his commercial recordings were by no means representative of his concert repertoire and showing that English music played a part in his programmes from the very beginning. We find, for example, that while still an organist at St James's, Piccadilly, Stokowski was conducting small theatre ensembles in London, and in November 1904 he performed Elgar’s Salut d'Amour during the interval of a Jerome K. Jerome play.


Click here too see a listing of the all the concerts of Leopold Stokowski 1909-1975


During his three seasons in Cincinnati, from 1909 to 1912, he learnt the basic orchestral repertoire and on November 24, 1911 he gave the US premiere of Elgar's Second Symphony. The Cincinnati Times-Star was unpersuaded of the work's merits:

Elgar does not convey the belief that symphonic writing is the most sympathetic medium for his undeniable genius. The composition is pleasant and it is interesting; but it is not great, nor in any sense convincing."


Undeterred, Stokowski introduced more Elgar to Cincinnati the following year in an all-British programme that included the Enigma Variations. Later, in one of his first concerts in Philadelphia, where he had moved from Cincinnati in 1912, he introduced Elgar's First Symphony to his new audiences and, in October 1918, conducted the Prelude and Angel's Farewell (the composer's orchestral arrangement of the opening and close of The Dream of Gerontius), Carillon and Le drapeau BeIge. Stokowski performed more Elgar in New York in 1922 when he and his Philadelphians accompanied the Belgian cellist Jean Gérardy in the Cello Concerto. The New York Times was unimpressed:

"The thematic material is not rich; it is spun out, sometimes pretty thin …altogether the substance of the concerto is rather tenuous."

Stokowski 1915

  Leopold Stokowski in 1915


Since Elgar was obviously not considered a great composer in America, Stokowski performed little else of his music thereafter, apart from the Enigma Variations. However, following a performance of this work in 1929, he wrote a famous letter to the composer:

"I have just been conducting your Variations in Philadelphia and New York, and feel I must thank you for such a profound and intense musical pleasure as I received from them ... your Variations gave me the most powerful impression of eternal vitality and architectural design - and also of something very difficult to express, a floating upward into a mystical level where time and space seem to cease."


Vaughan Williams's Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis made its Philadelphia debut in October 1926, although one critic found it "grave, sombre and melancholic". Like the Enigma Variations, however, this was one English masterwork that was to remain in Stokowski's repertoire for many years to come.


   Stokowski's score of the Ralph Vaughan Williams Tallis Fantasia 1


The English enfant terrible of those times was William Walton, whose Belshazzar's Feast was programmed by Stokowski during January 1934. The Musical Courier reported that "the chorus of 400 did well and Mr Dudley Marwick sang excellently". Gustav Holst died in May of that year, so as a tribute Stokowski conducted The Planets for the first time the following November. The tragedy is that although by now he had become an inveterate recording artist, none of the music of Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Walton or Holst was to feature on Stokowski's Philadelphia 78rpm recordings. The nearest he came to performing English music on shellac discs was in his own arrangements of Handel's Water Music and Overture in D minor, and two short pieces by William Byrd. Vaughan_Williams_Fantasia_Score.jpg

Click here to listen to Stokowski's 1937 recording of William Byrd - Earl of Salisbury Pavane and Gigue


On leaving Philadelphia, Stokowski formed the All-American Youth Orchestra for two summer tours, 1940-1941. His next major appointment came when Toscanini withdrew from the NBC Symphony at the start of the 1941-1942 NBC season. The war had its own influence on Stokowski's NBC programmes and he often advocated music from Allied countries. England was represented in 1943 by what The New York Times described as "a remarkable performance of Holst's great mystical tone-poem, The Planets" (Cala CD CACD0526). It was followed a month later by a broadcast of Vaughan Williams's Fourth, which the same newspaper declared to have been "a most satisfactory reading of this great symphony" (Cala CD CACD 0528.)


   Cala CACD 0526 (left) features a tremendous 1943 NBC broadcast of Holst's The Planets, while CACD 0528 (right) has an equally electrifying reading from the same year of Vaughan Williams's Symphony no 4. This, and a 1944 broadcast of Butterworth's A Shropshire Lad on the same CD, were Stokowski's only performances of either work.


Stokowski became a chief guest conductor with the New York Philharmonic-Symphony for the 1946-1947 season and in January 1949 gave the New York premiere of Vaughan Williams's Sixth. He immediately made its first recording (Sony compact disk SMK58933), beating Sir Adrian Boult to that honour by 48 hours! "The more I study Vaughan Williams's Symphony in E minor," wrote Stokowski, "the more I have the impression that this is music that will take its place with the greatest creations of the masters". For his Columbia 78rpm sessions several weeks later, Stokowski calmed down somewhat from the hectic tempos he had adopted in his concert performances; but even so, the symphony's total timing of 29'09" makes his the fastest version on record. Reviewing the later LP transfer (Am. Col. ML4214), the American Record Guide wrote: "Stokowski's reading is unblemished by interpretative excursions, and the orchestra gives a stunning performance".


   Cala CACD 0537 with a beautifully restored Vaughan Williams Symphony no 6


In 1952, Stokowski made the first of his two recordings of the Tallis Fantasia - also in New York - with a hand-picked ensemble of top session players described on the LP label as "His Symphony Orchestra" (Victor long play LM 1739; HMV ALP 1205). The American critic Irving Kolodin, in alliterative mood, wrote: "Stokowski and his singing strings are in superlative sonority here, producing prodigies of purple plush passage-playing". The Gramophone was less impressed: "Substantial vibrato in the string tone lends to it a warmth suitable for many works, but quite inappropriate for the remote tranquility of the Fantasia". Nevertheless, the composer was delighted and on September 24, 1952 wrote to Stokowski: "I feel much honoured that you have recorded my Fantasia", attaching his own hand-written copy of the original Tallis hymn tune.


   Stokowski conducts the Tallis Fantasia: (above left) Cala CACD 0542 with His Symphony Orchestra, recorded 1952 for RCA Victor; (above right) Bridge 9074 with the Symphony of the Air, recorded "live" in 1960.  (below): Stokowski's Tallis score with Vaughan Williams' letter pasted on the final page. 1


In May 1954, Stokowski made his first television appearance in England as well as two radio broadcasts with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. He had already conducted Edmund Rubbra’s Fifth Symphony in a 1952 Maida Vale concert ("the greatest performance I have ever heard" was the composer's verdict) and continuing in the same vein the maestro told the BBC:

"One of the things I would like to do is to conduct as much as possible the music of the most talented British composers of today".


His broadcasts included Malcolm Amold’s Beckus the Dandipratt and Alan Rawsthorne's Symphonic Studies, with Amold Bax’s Tintagel and Vaughan Williams’s Dives and Lazarus also featured at Stokowski's own request. Malcolm Arnold was delighted and wrote to the maestro: "Thank you very much for the wonderful performance of my overture Beckus the Dandipratt. I am extremely grateful and consider it a great honour that you should conduct a piece of mine." However, as with so many of Stokowski's broadcasts of the early 1950s, no recordings were made (clearly no one foresaw the creation of the BBC Legends label), so his highly-praised performances of Rubbra, Bax, Rawsthorne and Arnold have been lost in the mists of time.


    Stokowski rehearsing with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, London 1963


For Stokowski's first British TV concert on May 7, 1954, the BBC had requested "a little music by Purcell, whom many regard as the greatest of all English composers", so the conductor duly included his own five-movement Purcell Suite. (It was recorded by Matthias Bamert and the BBC Philharmonic in their Stokowski Transcriptions series and released on Chandos CHAN 9930.) Fortunately, Stokowski's entire programme has survived in the BBC-TV archives - excerpts were used in the video Great Conductors of the Past (Teldec DVD Video 42667).


    Teldec DVD Video 42667 - The Art of Conducting: Great Conductors of the Past.  Excerpts from Stokowski's 1954 BBC TV concert are also uploaded on You Tube: his own five-movement "Purcell Suite" and the finale of Arnold Bax's Tintagel


Stokowski conducted The Planets again on August 28, 1956 with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the following week made its first stereo recording (Capitol long play SP8389). Despite receiving short shrift from the British record critics ("The approach to this score is basically wrong" fumed Trevor Harvey in The Gramophone) the LP sold well over 6,000 copies in the UK alone and when reissued on the Music for Pleasure label achieved further sales of more than half a million. So much for bad reviews ! (EMI Classics CDM5 65423-2)



In August 1961 Stokowski opened the Edinburgh Festival with Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder and an LSO concert which included Tippett's Concerto for Double String Orchestra. At the work's conclusion the composer rushed onto the stage to kiss the maestro's hand. "The composer bowed his delight from the platform" reported one critic, "as well he might, for he'll possibly never hear his fine work better played." Fortunately this concert was recorded and much of it, including the Tippett, was issued by BBC Legends in 2001.


    BBC Legends BBCL 4059-2 containing the Edinburgh Festival August 22, 1961 performance of Michael Tippett's Concerto for Double String Orchestra


On July 23, 1963, Stokowski became the first major international conductor to appear at the Proms in front of a packed Royal Albert Hall. William Glock, the BBC’s new Controller of Music, had wanted some Schoenberg but Stokowski demurred. Although he had championed Schoenberg extensively over the years, he preferred to perform "an interesting composition by a modern English composer". Glock gladly proposed Britten's Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Purcell instead: "It is a brilliant and effective piece" he told Stokowski, "and would be a splendid tribute for his 50th year" (BBC Legends CD BBCL4005-2). 


To read a selection of newspaper reviews of Stokowski's July 17, 1963, all-British London concert click here.


The 1964 Proms saw Stokowski giving a performance of Vaughan William’s Eighth Symphony, a work he had first performed in the composer’s presence in 1957. Many critics had been so besotted by the notion that Stokowski was forever tampering with scores that Noel Goodwin, writing in the Daily Express, claimed there were "two unscored cymbal clashes". In truth, the orchestral parts came from the BBC's own music library and Stokowski played the music exactly as written, as can be heard when following the recording of his broadcast (BBC Legends BBCL 4165-2).


    BBC Legends BBCL 4165-2 containing the September 1964 Royal Albert Hall Proms "live" recording of Vaughan William’s Symphony no 8


The major lacuna in Stokowski's immense discography had been the Enigma Variations, so this omission was rectified with a "live" Phase 4 recording made in Prague during September 1972. Sadly, Stokowski injured himself on his way to the Czech capital; but he insisted in going through with the two concerts and it was from these that the final edit was made. The tentative air is explained by the circumstances, but many critics were still able to hail Stokowski's Czech Philharmonic Enigma for its warmth and nobility. The Elgar scholar Jerrold Northrop Moore reviewed the LP for Gramophone: "The entire performance has an astonishing personality of its own, as has everything Stokowski touches ... it does something vital for the Variations which no other interpretation I know has done ... it is very much a performance for Elgarians as well as Stokowskians" (Cala CD CACD 0524).

Cala 0524

    Cala CACD 0524 with Elgar - Enigma Variations


Luckily, Stokowski recovered sufficiently to conduct the work again in the Royal Albert Hall the following January with the New Philharmonia.  With the maestro in better shape, and an orchestra which - unlike its Czech counterpart - knew the work inside out, the result was a "masterly" performance which, wrote Martin Cooper in The Daily Telegraph, was "the finest I have ever heard". But another fine Stokowski performance went unbroadcast.


Stokowski had given hundreds of premieres over six decades of conducting, and in a BBC concert with the New Philharmonia in 1973 he gave his last - the 28th Symphony of Havergal Brian.  The composer had once described Stokowski as "an individual genius" adding that "it would be an event to hear him perform a symphony of mine".  Stokowski had heard a tape of Brian's Sinfonia Tragica and because of his interest in the work, the BBC producer and composer Robert Simpson sent him the scores of several unperformed Brian symphonies so that he could select one for a "first performance".  Stokowski chose No. 28 - a work Brian had written at the age of 91.  Stokowski was himself 91 when he conducted it, causing reviewer Anthony Payne to contemplate "the uniqueness of the event". A "pirate" LP was issued in California ascribed to Horst Werner and the Hamburg Philharmonic Orchestra (Aries Records LP1607).


  Falsely attributed to "Horst Werner", Aries LP1607 contained Stokowski's Havergal Brian Symphony no 28 with the New Philharmonia


On May 14, 1974, Stokowski made his final public appearance at the Royal Albert Hall when he conducted the New Philharmonia in a performance of Vaughan WilIiams’s Tallis Fantasia. In this reading, wrote Edward Greenfield, "the echo phrases had an ethereal stillness, while the solo strings up front shone like stars" (BBC Radio Classics CD BBCRD9107; reissued on BBC Legends BBCL 4205-2). Stokowski still remained active in the recording studios and returned to the Tallis Fantasia for the last time in August 1975 when he made his second recording of the work for the Desmar label. Here the strings of the Royal Philharmonic took part, leading to reviews quite different to those Stokowski had received a couple of decades earlier: "I have never heard finer string playing than this" wrote Geoffrey Crankshaw in Records and Recording, "with the terraced perspectives of Vaughan Williams's masterpiece conveyed to something near perfection". Happily this was reissued on CD by EMI Classics and also on Newton Classics. This performance remains a golden-toned tribute to one of the 20th century's greatest conductors.


  Stokowski conducts the Tallis Fantasia:

(left) BBC Legends BBCL 4005-2 with the New Philharmonia Orchestra, recorded "live" in 1974;

(right) Newton Classics 8802025 with the Royal Philharmonic, recorded 1975 for Desmar and also reissued by EMI in 1998.


As John Hunt’s Concerts Register shows, Stokowski performed many works by other British composers as well as the obvious masters - such as Walford Davis, Roger Quilter, Hubert Parry, Arthur Bliss, Cyril Scott, Kenneth Leighton, and so on - and my selection does not include his orchestral transcriptions of Byrd, Purcell and Handel or the music of such Commonwealth composers as Percy Grainger, Peggy Glanville-Hicks and Arthur Benjamin. So far from British music "being conspicuous by its absence from his programmes", it is likely that Stokowski played as much of it as any other conductor of a similar eminence who was not domiciled in the UK, and possibly more than those who were.


  Cala CACD 0539 includes the US Premiere in 1958 of Vaughan Williams’s Symphony no 9, described by Percy Grainger as seeming to be "perfect in every way".





This selection is listed alphabetically by composer and sequentially by the year of Stokowski's performances.


John Addison

Carte Blanche Ballet Suite (1963)


Richard Arnell

Black Mountain Prelude (1949)

Ceremonial and Flourish (1957)


Malcolm Arnold

Beckus the Dandipratt (1954)


Arnold Bax

Tintagel (1954)


Arthur Bliss

Mêlée Fantasque (1925)

Introduction and Allegro (1928)


Havergal Brian

Symphony No.28 (1973)


Benjamin Britten

"Soirees Musicales" (after Rossini) (1946)

Passacaglia from Peter Grimes (1946; 1960: 1964)

Piano Concerto (1949)

Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Purcell (The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra) (1953; 1963)

Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings (1972)


George Butterworth

A Shropshire Lad (1944)


Henry Walford Davies

Parthenia Suite (1912)

A Solemn Melody (1920; 1956)


George Dyson

Overture: The Canterbury Pilgrims (1949)


Edward Elgar

Salut d'Amour (1904; 1913)

Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 (1911; 1912)

Symphony No. 2 (1911)

Symphony No. 1 (1912)

Enigma Variations (1912; 1913; 1917; 1920; 1921; 1929; 1946; 1964; 1972; 1973)

Prelude and 'Angel's Farewell' (arranged by the composer) from The Dream of Gerontius (1918)

Carillon (1918)

Le drapeau Belge (1918)

The Music Makers (1920)

Choral Suite From The Bavarian Highlands (1920)

March and Choral Epilogue (1920)

Cello Concerto (1922)

The Dream of Gerontius (1925)

Edward German

Three Dances from Henry VIII (1911; 1913; 1914)


Gustav Holst

Festival Te Deum (1922)

Choral Hymns from the Rig-Veda (1923)

Japanese Suite (1925)

The Planets (1934; 1943; 1956; 1963; 1964)


Kenneth Leighton

Primavera Romana (1951)


Ernest Moeran

In the Mountain Country (1949)


Hubert Parry

Blest Pair of Sirens (1922)


Roger Quilter

A Children's Overture (1921; 1923)


Alan Rawsthorne

Symphonic Studies (1954)


Edmund Rubbra

Symphony No. 5 (1952)


Cyril Scott

Hornpipe and Shanty (1946)

Piano Concerto No. 1 (1920) with the composer as pianist


Charles Villiers Stanford

Irish Symphony (1912; 1924)

Irish Rhapsody (1919)

Songs of the Sea (1921)


Arthur Sullivan

Overture Di Ballo (1912; 1913)


Michael Tippett

Ritual Dances from The Midsummer Marriage (1956)

Concerto for Double String Orchestra (1961)


Ralph Vaughan Williams

A Sea Symphony (1921; 1922)

A Pastoral Symphony (1924)

Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis (1926; 1933; 1948; 1952; 1962; 1963; 1974; 1975)

Symphony No. 4 (1943)

Fantasia on Christmas Carols (1943)

Symphony No. 6 (1949; 1951)

Fantasia on 'Greensleeves' (1949; 1964)

English Folk Songs Suite (1954)

Five Variants on 'Dives and Lazarus' (1954)

Sinfonia Antartica (1954)

Serenade to Music (1955)

Symphony No. 8 (1957; 1964)

Symphony No. 9 (1958)

The Old 100th (1970)


William Walton

Belshazzar's Feast (1934)

Spitfire Prelude and Fugue (1949)

Partita for Orchestra (1960)

Symphony No. 2 (1961)


David Wooldridge

The Elizabethans (1960)


Press Reviews of Stokowski's July 17, 1963, all-British London Concert:


Leopold Stokowski's all-British London concert of July 17, 1963 was covered extensively in the London press, as shown in the selections below:


The Times July 18, 1963

Mr. Stokowski's Return



Mr. Leopold Stokowski has returned once again to his native city, and last night at the Albert Hall gave his first concert on this visit, in aid of the new building fund of the Royal College of Music where he was once a student. The programme consisted of works by three other distinguished alumni, and the London Symphony Orchestra was augmented by numerous present students from the college, instrumental as well as (in Holst's Neptune) vocal. In his eighties - incredible to read that this sturdy, upright frame was born in 1882 - Mr. Stokowski remains one of the most adventurous of all conductors, and his repertory grows with the years. For this concert his choice of music was doubtless intended to remind a London audience that R.C.M. composers have sent their music out all over the world; for Holst's The Planets and Vaughan Williams's Tallis Fantasia have their champions among orchestras and conductors everywhere.


But even when they are prefaced by the cheerful, expert, undemanding Carte Blanche suite, by John Addison, they form a programme of more limited interest (as the size of the audience confirmed) than their individual merits may lead one to infer. And the special refinements and sensuous beauties that Mr. Stokowski can bring to them are not best appreciated in the woolly, over-reverberant acoustics of the Albert Hall. It could be seen that he placed a row of violas on his right, in front of the cellos and the woodwind, double basses, brass, and percussion were raised behind the rest of the orchestra, and had no difficulty in making every note tell. The battery of Mars (including Mr. Stokowski’s controversial gong roll at the end), the whooping horns in Jupiter, and the hectic cries in Saturn were all impressive; but Neptune sounded too loud and unmysterious, and in Mercury one took precision and brilliance for granted, when one wanted to hear and marvel.


The Tallis Fantasia was shaped carefully and with grandeur; there was no fear that it would fall into undisciplined rhapsodizing, indeed the most uplifted and passionate episode was kept, perhaps, on too taut a rein, with too strongly marked a pulse to convey the effect of visionary exaltation. A musical occasion, certainly, but not quite the memorable one that was expected.



Daily Telegraph July 18, 1963

Stokowski’s Magic Touch

by David A. W. Money




The occasion of a concert in aid of the New Building Fund of the Royal College of Music brought a former student, Leopold Stokowski, back to the rostrum at the Albert Hall last night in charge of the London Symphony Orchestra.


Superb artistry by this veteran American with the touch of the magician made a representative English programme into a glory of vivid colours. With his eloquent playing, Erich Gruenberg fulfilled his role of leader to an unusual degree and the main body of the orchestra was matched in excellence by all the added instruments.


Past members of the RCM, Vaughan Williams, Holst and John Addison (ballet suite "Carte Blanche") were the chosen composers. The "Fantasia on a Theme by Tallis" (for strings) had an almost unearthly beauty in its lingering sonorities, the divided orchestra and solo quartet merging and ebbing with the inevitability of great waves breaking. Elemental, too, is Holst’s "The Planets," given with immense virtuosity.


D. A. W. M.

David A. W. Money (1912-2009) was Daily Telegraph music critic and also a Royal College of Music graduate.


The Daily Mail July 18, 1963

Stokowski and the London Symphony Orchestra, Royal Albert Hall

by Percy Cater


Stokowski’s generous bid last night to help the Royal College of Music, which trained him, failed, I fear - because of the apathy of the so-called musical public. This must have been one of the most depressing experiences in the career of a celebrated master of the rostrum. The sight of the vast hall, less than half-filled, heartbreaking undoubtedly to the College, was enough to daunt Stokowski and his colleagues.


I tell those who might have attended and did not that they had one of the misses of their lives. The London Symphony Orchestra played for the inspired conductor as brilliantly as it would have done if the place had been full to the brim and the seams.




From the wit and smartness and fresh charm of John Addison’s Carte Blanche ballet suite, we proceeded to the earnest beauty of Vaughan William’s Fantasia on a Tallis Theme, which, whatever revaluations time imposes on this composer’s work, will go down the ages, I believe, as the true memorial.


And in Holst’s The Planets Stokowski evoked, with scarcely a vehement gesture, gusts and storms, winged chatter, whimsical heartiness and finally the mystery of voices dying in space. Throughout the concert he gave us timbres and refinements of sound such as we rarely hear. It was a programme by a connoisseur for connoisseurs.



The Observer July 21, 1963


by Peter Heyworth


Can it be that the name of Leopold Stokowski, one-time organist at St. James’s, Piccadilly, and former student at the Royal College of Music, is no longer one to conjure with? I prefer to assume that the half-empty Albert Hall which greeted him on Wednesday, when he conducted a concert in aid of the R.C.M.’s rebuilding fund, was due to the end-of-season absentmindedness that is apt to afflict London's punch-drunk concert-goers.


But the absentees missed a remarkable concert, for Stokowski’s hand (he is another batonless conductor) has lost none of its cunning with advancing years. What stands behind his genius for orchestral sound is the utterly precise pointfulness of each unflurried gesture - a characteristic in welcome contrast to the wild and largely irrelevant gesticulating practised by a disturbing proportion of our young conductors.


The result of Stokowski’s mastery was that the L.S.O. put forth a sheen-like quality of sound. His restrained account of Vaughan Williams’s Tallis Fantasia was exquisitely shaped, and the character of each of Holst’s seven "Planets" (the works performed all by former R.C.M. students) was superbly defined. A brisk tempo and an incisive rhythm mercifully punctured Jupiter's intermittent tendency to lapse from joviality into mere heartiness, Saturn glowed with serene majesty, and only a miscalculation in choral dynamics robbed Neptune of that air of desolate mystery as Holst broods on the infinite wastes of time and space that surround human life.


Peter Heyworth (1921-1991) studied at Balliol College, Oxford and as well as a critic for the London Times and The Observer, he wrote a definitive biography of Otto Klemperer.


What's On In London July 26, 1963


by Joan Hadleigh


At the time of writing, on the first summer Sunday for six full weeks it is blessedly too hot to analyse the contradictions in the London musical scene. At least, it's a task beyond my current strength. Let's list some of them.


Start with Stokowski. A simple question: why was the Royal Albert Hall barely half-full for one of his rare London concerts? The programme was not pop enough? Maybe, but items like The Planets are not that advanced. And even if they had been, does this mean that the works are suddenly more important than their performer?


Too much of a performer? I thought, briefly, that here at last was a generation that knew not Fantasia. And then I wondered if this was a generation which knew only Fantasia, which dismissed Stokowski only as a showman, a spectacular in a current world of would-be spectaculars and therefore dismissible?


Anyone who does think this way is merely ignorant. Stokowski is a marvellous conductor: individual certainly, eccentric even on occasion; but capable of achieving unique, exciting, and vastly stimulating results. Anyone who pays to hear Celibidache should pay to hear Stokowski. Their results are different, but comparable, while fascinatingly individual.


So it's an enigma. The London Symphony Orchestra played beautifully - but there was too much room left in the hall for the wondrous sounds they and their conductor achieved.



Click here to read the Edward Johnson article on Stokowski and Vaughan Williams .


Click here to read the Edward Johnson article on Leopold Stokowski Letters .


Click here to read the Edward Johnson article on Stokowski's Return to Britain .


Click here to read the José Serebrier article on Stokowki Transcriptions


Click here to read the James H. North article on Stokowski and "His Symphony Orchestra"


Click here to go to the Home Page of stokowski.org .


The Author:

Edward Johnson is a widely recognized musical scholar and expert on Leopold Stokowski. Benefitting from his extensive musical archives and those of his friends and fellow scholars, Edward Johnson has been instrumental in creating the superb series of Stokowski restorations on the Cala CD label. 


The Cala Records Stokowski recordings referred to above are available both as downloads and via mail order from their website: calarecords.com


Edward Johnson has also worked closely with Andrew Rose of Pristine Classical to restore a number of excellent and rare Stokowski recordings, from the acoustic to the stereophonic eras: http://www.pristineclassical.com

as well as with Guild Historical, who have also released several historic Stokowski recordings: guildmusic.com 


On Pristine PASC133 (left) Stokowski conducts Vaughan Williams's Greensleeves and Walton's Spitfire Prelude and Fugue.

Guild GHCD 2392 (right) includes short pieces by Purcell and Handel.


In the case of any corrections or other information concerning this page or this www.stokowki.org site, please e-mail me (Larry Huffman) at e-mail address: leopold.stokowski@gmail.com 



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1  photographs of Stokowski's score taken by Larry Huffman, courtesy of the Libraries of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

2 Hunt, John. Leopold Stokowski. Discography. Concert register. Published by John Hunt. 1996. ISBN: 0-952827-5-9.