Classical CD Reviews
Stokowski BACH Transcriptions 2 = Works of BACH, PALESTRINA, BYRD, CLARKE, BOCCHERINI, MATTHESON & HAYDN – Bournemouth Sym. Orch./Jose Serebrier – Naxos
Published on February 16, 2009
Stokowski BACH Transcriptions 2 = Toccata and Fugue in D Minor; Arioso from F Minor Concerto; Wachet auf; Ich ruf’zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ; Adagio (from BWV 564); Mein Jesu; Ein feste Burg; Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring; Prelude in B Minor; Siciiliano (from C Minor Sonata, BWV 1017); Fugue in C Minor (from WTC I); PALESTRINA: Adoramus te; BYRD: Pavane and Gigue; CLARKE: Trumpet Prelude; BOCCHERINI: Minuet; MATTHESON: Air; HAYDN: Andante cantabile – Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Jose Serebrier – Naxos 8.572050, 64:59 ****:
While I am not the greatest advocate of “sequels,” popular response to Jose Serebrier’s first volume of selections from the Leopold Stokowski (1882-1977) fund of some forty of Bach’s works that he arranged for the modern orchestra’s realization, has Serebrier and his gifted Bournemouth players presenting us another eleven of the master’s Bach, which exploit the range–or more properly, diapason–of the orchestra’s palette to achieve what might be called organ sonority, even when the original incarnation had been a string or klavier piece. Fellow composer Bernard Hermann remarked that Stokowski released “the great cosmic sound” that Bach must have had in mind but could not be realized under the conditions which produced his original organ works.
Serebrier begins with the immensely lauded Toccata and Fugue in D Minor (arr. 1926), which many of us know as the musical opener from Walt Disney’s Fantasia of 1940. Serebrier’s tempos occasionally deviate from those of Stokowski, even to more stunning, virtuoso effect. That Serebrier keeps his sound absolutely homogeneous itself testifies to a color will-power we tend to ascribe to Mengelberg and Stokowski himself. The plastic, streamlined character of the Bournemouth string section excels equally in Siciliano from the C Minor Sonata for Violin and Clavier, the chorale Mein Jesu, and again, with woodwinds, in the chorale-prelude, Ich ruf’zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ. The familiar Wachet Auf from Cantata 140 and Ein feste Burg achieve grand sonorities in strings and brass, often suggestive of Wagnerian ambitions, a suggestion made flesh in the C Minor Prelude from WTC I.
The six remaining selections from renaissance, baroque, early classical style indulge in the same lush orchestration that is no less capable of charming clarity, as in Boccherini’s perennial Minuet from the Quintet in E Minor, Op. 13, No. 5. I recall Stokowski’s own, devotional performance of the Palestrina Adoramus te for a United Artists LP two generations ago. What had been known as Purcell’s Trumpet Voluntary now gains political correctness in the name of Jeremy Clarke’s Trumpet Prelude, aka The Prince of Denmark’s March. The sleeper turns out to be the Air from the Suite No. 5 in C Minor by Johann Matheson (1681-1764), one of those Stokowski dreamy pieces that haunts the musical memory. Recorded 17-18 April 2008, the entire set of pieces rings with ennobled enthusiasm, a testament to Stokowski via the Leopold Stokowski Society and its most active disciple, Serebrier.
– Gary Lemco