Classical Reissue Reviews
Stokowski Conducts = DVORAK: Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, Op. 95 “From the New World”; SCHUBERT: Rosamunde Overture and Incidental Music, Op. 26; Tyrolean Dances, Op. 33 (arr. Stokowski) – Symphony Orchestra/Leopold Stokowski – Cala
Published on May 1, 2009
Stokowski Conducts = DVORAK: Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, Op. 95 “From the New World”; SCHUBERT: Rosamunde Overture and Incidental Music, Op. 26; Tyrolean Dances, Op. 33 (arr. Stokowski) – Symphony Orchestra/Leopold Stokowski
Cala CACD0550, 76:07 [Distr. by Forte] ****:
In collaboration with the Leopold Stokowski Society, Cala reissues RCA’s first LP inscription of Dvorak’s New World Symphony (LM 1013; rec. 10 and12 December 1947), along with Schubert selections from 1949 (Tyrolean Dances from June 10) and 1952 (Rosamunde from September 10). Digital remastering from Paschal Byrne and Phil Rowlands has me convinced this is a surround-sound CD, so present are the various, instrumental voices in the opening Schubert works, especially when given the “Stokowski Sound” treatment, which always leans to the devotionally intense. After a gloriously self-indulgent Overture, Stokowski expands the Rosamunde Entr’acte music in B-flat with the Minore section from the B-flat Impromptu for piano from Op. 90, scored for strings in rather a healthy scoop of molasses. The Ballet Music in G Major, too, shimmers with a thick patina of romantic pungency, the woodwinds boasting principals like David Oppenheim, Mitch Miller, Robert Bloom, and John Wummer. The gradations of dark sound link this music to something in Weber’s Der Freischuetz, a sympathy we do not often hear.
Stokowski arranged several of Schubert’s 16 German Dances, Op. 33 for piano in 1923. (I recall owning this music on an Extended-Play 7” LP.) Lilting with Viennese charm and deftly orchestrated in neo-romantic colors with touches from Carl Maria von Weber, the waltzes flow into each other with easy grace, of which No. 3 evokes a yodeling tune which generates the eponymous Tyrol. Robert Bloom, oboe, seems to be having a good time, and the ardent cello section includes Leonard Rose. The music ends in a lush curtsey with string and harp cadences.
The New World Symphony occupied Stokowski’s recorded attention five times, but he never seems to have gravitated to the G Major or D Minor symphonies. His premier recording with “His Symphony Orchestra” of New York Philharmonic, MET, and NBC players, the recording thrusts forth an aggressively spirited rendition of the first movement, sans repeat, inscribed resonantly at RCA’s 34th Street studio. Wummer’s flute sails over a velvet body of strings, the eager-spirited, optimistic phrasing reminiscent of Vaclav Talich, but more self-absorbed. Vigorous, hale, and well-met, the music sallies forth earnestly to explore an America rich in virgin soil and open spaces. When William Vacchiano’s trumpet speaks, the heartland listens.
The famous Largo, somewhat over-wrought, has Mitch Miller on English horn, and we might hope that some enterprising, re-issue group will bring back his CBS vinyls to the CD medium. Miller and Stokowski mold the “going home” phrases with the same, plastic care Pygmalion lavished on Galatea. The middle section assumes an intensely liturgical character, ripe with Stokowski’s patented string and woodwind sound, a vicarious diapason from a massive pipe organ. The reduced string “concertino” episode passes by too quickly, for we might well bask in Stokowski’s intimacies as well as in his grandeur. Native American impulses merge with hints of Beethoven’s Ninth to generate the muscular Scherzo, the plucked strings, oboe, tympani, trumpets, and trombones in Technicolor. With bassoon grounding and triangle, smoke signals appear on the horizon, and horsemen glide along high chaparrals. War drums occasionally loom near, as do the songs of the plains. Drive and fecund energy mark the last movement, Allegro con fuoco, the tympani and violas setting a tone of nervous expectation, the string basses soon confirming the rise to heroic exclamations in the horns. Echoes of Wagner’s Tannhauser abound in the throes of punctuated stretti, then the music dissipates into an extended elegy for a land whose history might prove as tragic as it once had been redolent with promise. Tympani and French horn reiterate the basic pulse, and the music explodes into an aggrieved apotheosis whose last notes ask us whither we set sail.