Classical Reissue Reviews

Leopold Stokowski: The Stereo Collection 1954-1975 – [TrackList follows] Var. soloists/ Stokowski cond. American Sym. Orch., Chicago Sym., New Philharmonia, New Sym. Orch. of London, RCA Victor Sym. Orch., Royal Philharmonic & Sym. of the Air – Sony Classical (14-CD set)

A bright and inexpensive opportunity for Stoky fans!

Published on September 9, 2012

Leopold Stokowski: The Stereo Collection 1954-1975 – [TrackList follows] Var. soloists/Stokowski cond. American Sym. Orch., Chicago Sym., New Philharmonia, New Sym. Orch. of London, RCA Victor Sym. Orch., Royal Philharmonic & Sym. of the Air – Sony Classical 88691916852, (14 CDs, no notes)TT: 14:47:59 *****:

This reissue set is going to make many collectors very pleased. Many of these are among the last recordings made by Stokowski, and a number of them are recording firsts for the maestro. Stoky was in his early 90s when he made most of them—from 1973 to 1975, but is still at top of his game. Of course there are some of Stokowski’s all-stops-out arrangements of Bach, but the majority of the selections are lovely versions of such standards as Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, Kachaturian’s Symphony No. 3, two CDs of Wagner instrumental selections, Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony, Tchaikovsky’s “Pathetique,” Brahm’s Fourth, and a magnificent interpretation of Mahler’s Second Symphony—which requires one movement on a second CD to fit, being just over the 80-minute limit. Some of my personal favorites in the set are Menotti’s Sebastian ballet suite, Canteloube’s glorious Songs of the Auvergne with Anna Moffo, and Stoky’s technicolor version of Scheherazade. Of the nearly 15 hours of music here, there are 53 different recordings, and when first issued in 1997 25 of them had their CD premieres.

There is also a 10-CD EMI set titled Stokowski: The Maverick Conductor, which are earlier recordings, but little duplication with this set. Stoky collectors should probably have both. But here’s one of the two great things about the new Sony Music set: It retails for about $23 (the Amazon link is for $52, but look further for the $23 price), yet the 1997 RCA Victor Gold Seal set (when it was first released) retails today for $111! [cover on the left] The only thing the 1997 set boasts which the new reissue lacks is individual jewel boxes, each with liner notes by Stokowski authority Edward Johnson—the new collection presents each CD in a simple sleeve and no notes at all.

The second great thing about the new set was missed by one of the Amazon reviewers: the 1997 collection was newly remastered from quadraphonic masters (Stoky was our greatest audiophile conductor) to Dolby Surround, which can be played back most successfully by any receiver or preamp with Dolby Pro Logic of any sort—often achieving as good surround sound (though not hi-res) as many surround classical SACDs. Since there is no mention of Dolby Surround anywhere on the new collection, one would not know that the process remains in this new reissue set. In fact, although the set is labeled “24-bit,” I couldn’t tell any difference between the 1997 collection and the new one, so they probably used the exact same tapes (it does say ADD). If they had truly remastered the whole thing again, it would probably retail for more than $23.

I had on hand the HDTT 96K/24-bit DVD version of three of the Stokowski Wagner selections, transferred from the pre-recorded RCA Victor 4-track open reel tape. As I had expected, the fidelity was greatly enhanced, with much more richness, detail and impact. Plus the Dolby Surround—which had also been preserved in this form—was even more spectacular, with such high levels on the surrounds I had to slightly turn them down. We’re clearly not going to be getting hi-res versions of all 14 Stoky CDs in this new set, so just know that there’s a lot more on those masters that Sony is not allowing us to hear.

TrackList:

Bach, J S:

Cantata BWV147 ‘Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben’: Jesu, bleibet meine Freude

New Symphony Orchestra of London, Norman Luboff Choir

Sheep May Safely Graze, from Cantata BWV208

New Symphony Orchestra of London, Norman Luboff Choir

Partita for solo violin No. 2 in D minor, BWV1004: Chaconne

Partita for solo violin No. 3 in E major, BWV1006: Preludio

Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott

Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major, BWV1068: Air (‘Air on a G String’)

Fugue in G minor, BWV578 ‘Little’

Adagio in F major, Sinfonia from Cantata No.156, Ich steh mit einem Fuss im Grabe (BWV156)

Chorale Prelude BWV645 ‘Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme’

Komm süsser Tod, BWV478

Toccata & Fugue in D minor, BWV565

Toccata & Fugue in D minor, BWV565

above all arr. Stokowski (rehearsal)

Beethoven:

Symphony No. 3 in E flat major, Op. 55 ‘Eroica’

Coriolan Overture, Op. 62

All above London Symphony Orchestra

Die Ehre Gottes aus der Natur (‘Die Himmel rühmen des Ewigen Ehre’), Op. 48 No. 4

New Symphony Orchestra of London, Norman Luboff Choir

Brahms:

Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80

Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 98

New Philharmonia Orchestra

Canteloube:

Songs of the Auvergne (selection)

Anna Moffo (soprano)

American Symphony Orchestra

Dvorak:

Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95 ‘From the New World’

New Philharmonia Orchestra

Enescu:

Romanian Rhapsody in A major, Op. 11 No. 1

RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra

Gluck:

Orfeo ed Euridice: Les Champs-Elysées

arranged as ‘O, Saviour hear me’ by Norman Luboff & Walter Stott

New Symphony Orchestra of London, Norman Luboff Choir

Handel:

Ombra mai fu (from Serse)

New Symphony Orchestra of London, Norman Luboff Choir

Water Music Suite No. 1 in F major, HWV348: excerpts

RCA Victor Orchestra

Music for the Royal Fireworks, HWV351

RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra

Humperdinck:

Abendsegen ‘Abends will ich schlafen gehn’ (Hänsel und Gretel)

New Symphony Orchestra of London, Norman Luboff Choir

Khachaturian:

Symphony No. 3 ‘Simfoniya-poema’

Mary Sauer (organ)

Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Liszt:

Hungarian Rhapsody, S244 No. 2 in C sharp minor

arr. Muller-Berghaus

RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra

Mahler:

Symphony No. 2 in C minor ‘Resurrection’

Margaret Price (soprano), Brigitte Fassbaender (mezzo)

London Symphony Orchestra & Chorus

Menotti:

Sebastian: Ballet Suite

Prokofiev:

Romeo and Juliet, Op. 64 – excerpts

Members of the NBC Symphony Orchestra

Rachmaninov:

Vocalise, Op. 34 No. 14

New Symphony Orchestra of London, Norman Luboff Choir

Vocalise, Op. 34 No. 14

Anna Moffo (soprano)

American Symphony Orchestra

Rimsky Korsakov:

Scheherazade, Op. 35

Erich Gruenberg (violin)

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Russian Easter Festival Overture, Op. 36

Shostakovich:

The Golden Age (complete)

Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 54

All Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Smetana:

The Bartered Bride Overture

Má Vlast: Vltava

RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra

Tchaikovsky:

Liturgy of St John Chrysostom, Op. 41: Our Father

New Symphony Orchestra of London, Norman Luboff Choir

Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74 ‘Pathétique’

London Symphony Orchestra

trad.:

Deep River

Praise God from whom all blessings flow

New Symphony Orchestra of London, Norman Luboff Choir

Villa-Lobos:

Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5: Aria and Dança (Martelo)

Anna Moffo (soprano)

American Symphony Orchestra

Wagner:

Die Walküre: Ride of the Valkyries

Martina Arroyo, Carlotta Ordassy, Doris Yarick (sopranos), Betty Allen, Doris Okerson, Regina Sarfaty, Shirley Verrett (mezzos), Louise Parker (contralto)

Tristan und Isolde: Prelude to Act 3

Herny Schuman (cor anglais)

Das Rheingold: Entrance of the Gods into Valhalla

Martina Arroyo, Carlotta Ordassy (sopranos), Louise Parker (contralto)

Tannhäuser: Overture and Venusberg Music

All Symphony of the Air

Rienzi Overture

Die Walkure: Magic Fire Music

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: Prelude to Act 3

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: Dance of the Apprentices

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: Entry of the Masters

Tristan und Isolde: Prelude & Liebestod

All Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Götterdämmerung: Siegfried’s Rhine Journey and Funeral March

London Symphony Orchestra

Starke Scheite schichtet mir dort ‘Brünnhilde’s Immolation Scene’ (from Götterdämmerung)

(orchestral version)

London Symphony Orchestra

Begluckt darf nun dich ‘Pilgrims’ Chorus’ (from Tannhauser)

New Symphony Orchestra of London, Norman Luboff Choir

Rienzi Overture

(rehearsal & alternative ending)

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

and rehearsal footage of Beethoven’s Pastoral and Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony

—John Sunier




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