Leopold Stokowski - Wartime NBC Premières (1942-1944) Aaron COPLAND (1900-1990)
Short Symphony (Symphony No. 2) (1932) [15:26] Richard MOHAUPT (1904-1957)
Concerto for Orchestra based on Red Army Songs [21:38] Paul LAVALLE (1908-1997)
Symphonic Rhumba [5:21] Howard HANSON (1896-1981)
Symphony No. 4, Requiem, Op. 34 (1943) [21:57] Daniele AMFITHEATROF (1901-1983) De profundis clamavi (1944) [19:53] George ANTHEIL (1900-1959)
Symphony No. 4, 1942, W.177 (1942) [32:03] Stokowski: Introduction to Schoenberg Piano Concerto [00:25] Arnold SCHOENBERG (1874-1951)
Piano Concerto, Op. 42 (1942) [19:39]
Eduard Steuermann (piano),
NBC Symphony Orchestra
rec. live broadcast recordings, 1942-1944 PRISTINE PASC536 [64:52+72:03]
These XR re-masterings by Andrew Rose are variously of Stokowski world premières, US premières or radio premières. Inevitably the sound is monaural, dating from broadcasts in 1942-44. Pristine have a track record for making a listening success out of retrievals like this and the present set will do nothing to impair their good reputation.
The sound achieved is startlingly good given the 75-year vintage of these recordings. Background is silent but there is some distortion at ff and above although it is easily adjusted to. The music registers strongly as a renewing experience and as a document. This documentary capacity is accentuated by several works having spoken intros and outros.
The CoplandShort Symphony has the composer teetering on and over the edge of his beloved mature style of the mid/late 1940s into the 1950s. In the mix there's also the harsher edge Copland assumed for the 1930s and then re-found and straitened for the 1960s and 1970s.
German-born composer Richard Mohaupt, with his music condemned by the Nazis, left for the USA in the 1930s. Undertaking jobbing work writing music for the cinema, small screen and radio he more than survived and counted alongside his concert works four operas and three ballets. The three movements of Concerto for Orchestra based on Red Army Songs are Allegro, Largo and Vivace. Catching the spirit of the times it was said to be "the composer's own heart-felt tribute to the valour of the Russian army in its battle to rid the world of fascism." It's accessible enough with a toughened edge that is half-Hindemith and half-Shostakovich. The uproarious Allegro has some voluptuous writing for the violins of which Stokowski makes swooning use. The Largo is weighed down with a thick overlay of tragedy and determination. This is dispelled by the joyous and celebratory Vivace. Perhaps someone can now let us hear Mohaupt's concertos - one for violin and the other for piano - as well as the Symphony No. 1 Rhythm and Variations (1942).
Paul Lavalle's little Symphonic Rhumba is given a lively following wind. Much is made of Lavalle's tricky rhythms and ear-catching use of contrasts of dynamic. The composer was born in New York and made his way primarily in the burgeoning popular music world.
Howard Hanson's Fourth Symphony Requiem has appeared on Pristine before in 1950s mono on Mercury where the Eastman Rochester Orchestra was conducted by the composer. The present disc, however, preserves and lets us hear the work's radio première. Stokowski capitalises on the many opportunities for the massed strings to swoop and glide. This aspect is heard alongside Hanson's typically gaunt pages for the brass. The Requiescat - Largo goes to show what variety of dynamic and sensitivity is encapsulated in the original sound sources. The portamenti, lush and very much of their time, are in glorious evidence again in the Lux aeterna finale. The symphony ends, not with hats thrown in the air, but in peace as befits a Requiem. The radio broadcast won Hanson a Pulitzer prize and no wonder.
CD 2 opens proceedings with a tone poem by Daniele Amfitheatrof. This Russian composer studied with Respighi and it shows. A 1937 première of one of his works resulted in an invite (which he accepted) from the Minneapolis Orchestra to become its associate conductor. A later move to California had the composer writing scores for films (including Lassie Come Home, The Desert Fox, The Naked Jungle), something which became a dominant part of his career for the next 25 years. De profundis clamavi (‘Out of the Depths, I've cried’) was written as a tribute to those who lost their lives in the European and Pacific theatres of war. Deeply imbued with a luscious and extravagant evocation of peace this substantial work, complete with its Stokowski-induced Ravel-out-of-Korngold heroics, out-Rachmaninovs Rachmaninov. In its second half it goes through episodes that are film noir tense and grim. Then, racked with fanfares, the music is hoarsely borne up by victory but cut through with tragic gestures. Any composer would be delighted to have a world première this irrefutably accomplished. His Poema del Mare (1925), Miracolo della Rose (1926), American Panorama (1933) and Piano Concerto (1936) should be worth hearing.
Antheil's Fourth Symphony, heard in its world première, bears the benevolent shadow of Shostakovich (symphonies 5 and 7) bravely. As I have said already, the sound of these broadcasts is surprisingly good but the orotund brass in the first movement are an object lesson for a recording dating from the 1940s. The carrying power of the violins is also remarkable.
Stokowski is heard introducing Schoenberg's Piano Concerto and then securing its world première with the NBC orchestra and Eduard Steuermann (1892-1964), who studied composition with Schoenberg. The sound in this case is a degree more congested but creamy details do float free. The music remains obdurate except that its flood of dodecaphonic detail holds the interest. Stokowski was a staunch supporter of Schoenberg who was in residence on the West Coast. He had given US premières of the first Chamber Symphony, the Variations for Orchestra and Die Gluckliche Hand. Most famously he piloted the first US performance of Gurrelieder and even secured a recording for it on Victor 78s (reviewreview). Stokowski would not "let it lie" and conducted the massive work again at the Edinburgh Festival in 1961. The Piano Concerto première was preceded by the world première of the Violin Concerto with Louis Krasner. That was in 1940.
The compact disc double which I reviewed came in a single width case with a single page of notes. Much more detail can be found on the Pristine site. Altogether this set is another triumph and one which offers an insight into 1940s radio listening as well as giving voice to a series of often deeply enjoyable music experiences.
Copland - 9 January 1944 - US Première
Mohaupt - 19 December 1943 - World première
Lavalle - 6 December 1942 - World première
Hanson - 2 January 1944 - Radio première
Amfitheatrof - 20 February 1944 - World première
Antheil - 13 February 1944 - World première
Schoenberg - 6 February 1944 - World première
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