FALLA: El Amor Brujo (with Nan Merriman, mezzo-soprano). Nights in the Gardens of Spain (with William Kapell, piano)
New York Philharmonic Symphony Orch/Leopold Stokowski, cond.
PRISTINE AUDIO PASC 174 TT: 44:44

BRAHMS: Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat, Op. 83.
Vladimir Horowitz, piano/New York Philharmonic Symphony Orch/Arturo Toscanini, cond.
PRISTINE AUDIO PASC 171 TT: 42:49

HOVHANESS: Symphony No. 1,Op. 17.2 "Exile Symphony." MILHAUD: Symphony No. 1, Op. 210. COPLAND: Symphony No. 2 "Short Symphony." SEREBRIER: Symphony No. 1
Houston Symphony Orch (Serebrier); NBC Symphony Orch/Leopold Stokowski, cond.
GUILD GHCD 2347 TT: 72:51
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BORODIN: In the Steppes of Central Asia. SAINT-SAËNS: Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 22. FRANCK: Symphonic Variations. SCRIABIN: Poem of Ecstasy, Op. 43.
Arthur Rubinstein, piano; New York Philharmonic Orch/Dimitri Mitropoulos, cond.
GUILD GHCD 2355 TT: 63:44
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SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Op. 47. (Philadelphia Orch). Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 54 (Philadelphia Orch). Symphony No. 7 in C, Op. 60 "Leningrad." (NBC Symphony Orch). Leopold Stokowski, cond.
MUSIC & ARTS CD 1232 (2 disks) TT: 79:40 & 73:26
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Again we are indebted to Pristine Audio for their releases of valuable performances from the past. The Falla CD is a treasure indeed, with Stokowski conducting a magnificent performance of El Amor Brujo. He often featured this in his programs and recorded it twice, in 1946 with Nan Merriman and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra (see REVIEW), and in 1960 with Shirley Verrett and the Philadelphia Orchestra, available on a budget-priced CD from Sony. There also exist live performances from the BBC in 1964 with Gloria Lane, from the North-West German Radio, and with the Concertgebouw Orchestra (without a mezzo soloist), surprisingly Stokowski's only appearance with the famed Dutch orchestra, in 1951 (REVIEW). This electrifying New York performance was broadcast in 1946. It is difficult to believe that Nan Merriman's voice, so perfect for Mahler, could produce the barbaric sound of the tormented gypsy girl Candela. William Kapell's Nights in the Gardens of Spain, given a stunning performance, is a welcome addition to his discography. Producer Andrew Rose has done a splendid job in these transfers, working from challenging sources. This is a must for admirers of Stokowski.

Vladimir Horowitz recorded the Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2 for RCA in 1940 with Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Symphony Orchestra, a few days after a Carnegie Hall concert performance (which has been issued on Music & Arts). A live recording by them with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra from 1939 has been issued on Appian (REVIEW). Now we have this live recording with the NYP from a Carnegie Hall concert February 19, 1945, a benefit for the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. This is from a private recording which has been meticulously restored by Andrew Rose. There's a bit of quaver in opening piano sound, but generally this is a superb restoration. The performance is impulsive to the extreme, almost brutal—Horowitz shows little sensitivity, even in the second movement. The sound is focused on the piano which emphasizes even more the clangorous approach to the music. In spite of this, collectors will wish to investigate this rare recording now issued in respectable sound.

Admirers of the art of Leopold Stokowski will welcome Guild's CD of repertory new to his discography. We have Symphony No. 1 by Alan Hovhaness in its U.S. premiere with the NBC Symphony from a broadcast December 6, 1942. Darius Milhaud's Symphony No. 1 was commissioned by the Chicago Symphony and premiered by them with the composer conducting October 17, 1940; the Stokowski performance was the first in New York, March 21, 1943. Aaron Copland's "Short Symphony" received its U.S. premiere at this NBC broadcast of January 98, 1944. The CD ends with the world premiere of Jose Serebrier's Symphony No. 1, from Houston November 3, 1957. This is a shining example of Stokowski's interest in new music. The CD mentions these are "second generation transcriptions" that have been "remastered to a high standard," and the unnamed engineers did their task well.

Guild has issued a complete Carnegie Hall concert recorded April 19, 1953 with the New York Philharmonic conducted by Dimitri Mitropoulos featuring Arthur Rubinstein. What a concert! Rubinstein is in spectacular form. The Saint-Saëns dazzles; it previously was issued on Archipel (REVIEW). The concert ends with a specialty of Mitropoulos, a sizzling account of Scriabin's Poem of Ecstasy, a work he and the NYP recorded the following day for Columbia (along with Prometheus), available currently only on the enterprising Bearac label (REVIEW). This CD shows the venerable Rubinstein, 66 at the time, at his best.

Throughout his long career, Leopold Stokowski championed music of Dimitri Shostakovich. He gave U.S. premieres of symphonies 1 (1928), 3 (1932), 6 (1940) and 11 (1958), as well as the first piano concerto (1934). He made two commercial recordings of symphonies 1, 5, and 6; symphonies 5 and 6 were recorded shortly after their premieres, No. 5 in 1939, No. 6 in 1940. Both are included in Music & Arts' superb new set, along with the live broadcast from Studio 8-H December 13, 1942 with the NBC Symphony Orchestra. Stokowski had arranged for NBC to get rights for the first American performance of this Symphony No. 7, but Toscanini insisted on conducting it, an event that took place July 19, 1942. Stokowski conducted the orchestra in their second performance December 13, 1942, heard on this new issue. Mark Obert-Thorn did his usual expert job of remastering the two Philadelphia recordings which now sound better than ever; Symphony No. 7 was restored by N.N. and Kit Higginson who did what could be done with Studio 8-H's dry acoustics.

R.E.B. (August 2009)