Search - Jean Sibelius, Carl Nielsen, Percy Grainger :: Leopold Stokowski

Leopold Stokowski
Jean Sibelius, Carl Nielsen, Percy Grainger
Leopold Stokowski
Genres: Dance & Electronic, Classical
  •  Track Listings (11) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (9) - Disc #2


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The great Stokowski--no, really
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 11/06/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"With the reissue of hundreds of Stokowski recordings, we have tangible proof that he was a great conductor and not simply the great showman shaking hands onscreen with Mickey Mouse in Fantasia. Stokowski began recording in the 1920s and didn't stop for six decades--that must be a record. The compilers of this 2-CD sampling in the Great Condcutors of the Century series couldn't possibly represent that whole span. They have chosen stuido recordings and live performances from the latter part of Stokowski's career. The earliest selection is some Percy Grainger from 1950, the latest a Brahms Tragic Over. from 1977, when the conductor was 95 (he would die later that year). The reviewer below lists all the items, making up for Amazon's neglect.

Only one major work, the Sibelius First Sym. from 1960, is included, although one can count the Nielsen Second Sym., from 1967, as at least long. The rest is bits and pieces, yet everything shows Stokowski's hallmarks: excellent ensemble, alert rhythm, lots of rubato and expressive underlining (the compilers haven't picked pieces where his tics become outrageously indulgent, as in Stoki's soupy Tchaikovsky Fifth on Decca), and an unbuttoned love for music. Stokowski, like Bernstein after him, brought common people to love what he loved. It would be fair to say that both conductors were possessed by music, and they gained massive public exposure as a result. We are very fortunate they weren't charlatans--despite the derisive critics who pasted that label on Stokowski during his low point in the Fifties and early Sixties, when he was a fallen star.

The reason that this set emerges as one of the best installments in the series is that the compilers resisted the urge to show Stokowski at his most vulgar; they skipped all the dim shellac recordings from the 30s; they left out Stokowski's too familiar Bach transcriptions for orchestra; and except for the Brahms overture, they excluded the classical composers that he definitely didn't excel in--Mozart, Haydn, Schubert, Mendelsohn, and Brahms. It's amazing to think that someone could tower over orchestral life as Stokowski did without being able to master so many essential composers (though there is a great Beethoven Ninth from the autumn of Stokowski's career). An exotic who specialized in exotics. Five stars, definitely."