Stokowski: The Blue Danube Waltz and music for strings
Johann STRAUSS II (1825-1899)
On the beautiful blue Danube (1866) [9:14]
Alexander BORODIN (1833-1887)
Nocturne from string quartet no.2 in D major (1881) (arr. Sargent) [8:47]
Niccolò PAGANINI (1782-1840)
Moto Perpetuo (1835) (arr. Lavagnino) [3:48]
Sergei RACHMANINOFF (1873-1943)
Vocalise (1912) (arr. Dubensky) [7:24]
George Frederic HANDEL (1685-1759)
Tamburino from Alcina (1735) (arr. Whittaker) [1:18]
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695)
Hornpipe from King Arthur (1691) (arr. Herbage) [0:50]
Christoph von GLUCK (1714-1787)
Lento from Iphigenie in Aulis (1774) (arr. Stokowski) [3:11]
Musette from Armide (1777) (arr. Stokowski) [1:51]
Sicilienne from Armide (1777) (arr. Stokowski) [3:02]
Dance of the blessed spirits from Orfeo ed Euridice (1762) (arr. Stokowski) [8:09]
Luigi BOCCHERINI (1743-1805)
Minuet from string quintet in E major, op.13 no.5 (1771) (arr. Stokowski) [2:27]
Peter TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Andante cantabile from string quartet no.1 in D major (1871) (arr. Stokowski) [8:05]
Theodor BERGER (1905-1992)
Rondino giocoso (1933) [4:22]
Leopold Stokowski and his Symphony Orchestra
rec. venue not specified, 1957-1958
GUILD GHCD2392 [63:23]
Stokowski and his Symphony Orchestra—to capitalise the ‘h’ risks turning the Marylebone born conductor into a Divine status which not even he, one supposes, would have dared countenance—recorded a lot of lighter fare during 1957 and 1958. But during his vast and vastly productive life Stokowski, with various orchestras, was in no way averse to music such as this. He made no fewer than seven different recordings of the ‘Blue Danube’ and this was the last, containing all repeats. It’s heard here in what is probably its first CD incarnation and sounds captivating, though not wholly Viennese. It was another keyboard playing conductor, Malcolm Sargent, who made the arrangement of Borodin’s Nocturne and in a nice touch Guild includes a well-known photograph of both conductors shaking hands in 1951. The famous Stokowski string tone was a portable miracle, grafted as if by a musical Prospero onto every orchestra he visited. This recording is no different, from the deeply etched organ pedal basses to the higher strings. The much less often recorded Tcherepnin arrangement may be more colouristic, but this one is the more resonant.
It’s as much a question of arranger as work in this disc. Angelo Lavagnino did the honours for Paganini’s Moto Perpetuo and it’s appropriately full of verve. Arcady Dubensky, whose music Stokowski had promoted and recorded back in Philadelphia days, contributes an arrangement of his own, Rachmaninov’s Vocalise, which proves to be most attractive, not least for such an eminent Rachmaninovian as Stokowski. Dubensky allows the music to taper to a brief solo violin moment at one point—most effective. There’s a sliver of Handel arranged by William Gillies Whittaker and the Tamburino from Alcina, courtesy of Julian Herbage, who was probably best known as a BBC presenter.
Stokowski’s arrangements follow. There are four brief pieces from Gluck’s operas: Orfeo, Iphigenie and two from Armide, all deftly turned and played. The Sicilienne from Armide is especially lovely. It’s not a suite as such, but four stand-alone concert pieces. Boccherini’s Minuet was fashionable at the time particularly because it was used in the film The Ladykillers, which had been released a couple of years before the recording was made. Finally there’s a piece in its own right, unmediated by any arranging hand, Theodor Berger’s zesty, slightly neo-classical 1933 Rondino Giocoso. It had been premiered by Furtwängler in 1939 and makes for a spirited, slightly anomalous - it has to be said - final piece.
It’s good to have this lighter fare restored in this way, excellently restored and brimming with energy.
Jonathan Woolf
Lighter fare excellently restored and brimming with energy.