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Stokowski: The Eternal Magician


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Amazon.com: 2 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Not just for Stokie fans Nov. 28 2009
By Robert T. Martin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
The recordings of Enesco's Roumanian Rhapsodies date from 1953, while the Nocturnes and the Firebird Suite are of 1950 vintage. The main offerings on this disc are interpreted through a middle European/Eastern, Scheherazade-like lens. I suppose this makes perfect sense for the Enesco and Stravinsky pieces but the maestro's "un-French" manner with the Nocturnes results in a sinuous, seductive, atmospheric performance that frankly is a revelation. The Roumanian Rhapsodies are highly idiomatic and exciting and can compete with my own favorites, Silvestri's performances with the Czech Philharmonic on an apparently unavailable and rare, if the price is any indication, Supraphon CD.

Stokowski delivers technicolor readings in resplendent and weighty mono sound. If I have a quibble the sound of the Firebird suite seems a bit shy when compared to the other pieces and the bass is a bit boomy. Nevertheless, Stokowski had a very special relationship with the suite and this particular recording, which according to the program notes was his sixth (out of eight), is carefully textured and nuanced.

There is also a bonus track: a performance of the Ride of the Valkyries dating from 1941 recorded in a binaural- a left/right synchronized - manner. The left/right separation of this recording isn't particularly wide and it would be of curiosity value only but fortunately the performance is compelling and deserves to be heard.
Vintage Stokowski at his best April 8 2014
By music fan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
As the reviewer below mentions, Stokowski recorded the Wagner heard here with a youth orchestra in 1941. Throughout his career, Stokowski had a keen interest in and affinity for working with young musicians, and he gets an energetic, enthusiastic performance from this group. He recorded the other pieces with RCA in New York in 1950 (Stravinsky, Debussy) and 1953 (Enesco) and "his" symphony orchestra, an all-star pick up orchestra consisting mainly of first chair NY Philharmonic and NBC Symphony players and top freelancers, many of whom, like flutist Julius Baker, later became principal players in the NY Philharmonic and other top orchestras. I've read that this crack orchestra often arrived at the sessions not knowing what they were going to play, but that only seems to have added to the intensity of the playing, and the results, here and in other CDs of these sessions released by Cala, are nearly always triumphant.
All of the pieces here are Stokowski specialties. The Firebird Suite is dramatic and exciting, the Nocturnes are lush and colorful, and the Romanian Rhapsodies are sparkling. A note about the sound quality of the Firebird Suite, which as the reviewer below notes, is not up to that of most of this series, generally very high for late 40s and early 50s mono. Apparently, the original tapes for the Firebird sessions (of May and June 1950) were lost, and this CD instead uses an original LP from the collection of noted sound engineer Mark Obert-Thorn, who did the transfer to digital. I have the original LP, and can report that Mr. Obert-Thorn did a fine job of preserving the music while eliminating most of the background noise. It's a shame the original tapes could not have been used, but that's the sort of problem you inevitably encounter with vintage recordings. Still well worth having.


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