A riveting live concert with the VW Ninth as its centerpiece
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 01/02/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Cala has found another Sotkowski treasure, a complete concert from Carnegie Hall in Sept. 1958. Rahph Vaughan Willaims had recently died, and to commemorate him, Stokowski replaced thee scheduled Shostakovich Sym. 11 with VW's last symphony, the Ninth. It's given a fervent, fully committed reading that makes it seem like an autumnal masterpiece, full of nostalgia but also fresh ideas and unexpected defiance. I doubt the work has ever received a better performance, even though this one is in radio broadcast mono. This concert marked the American premiere, by the way. (Stokowski was a superb conductor of Vaughan Willimas, and it's worthwhile seeking out all his recordings, including two classic ones of the Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis.)
Stokowski had made a splash in 1955 by commissioning and premiering the Hovhaness Stym. 2 "Mysterious Mountain." The music plays into Stokowski's strengths with mass string sonorities, modal harmony, and long arcs of swooning melody -- no wonder that this work was the ultra-prolific Hovhaness's calling card for many years. The pickup group known as "His" Symphony Orch., all first-rate New York freelances and members of the Philharmonic, deliver a glorious reading with a sheen that matches Reiner's famous (stereo) recording on RCA while surpassing it in relaxed, suave musicality. Hovhaness is out of favor now, but Stokowski got the best from him.
The two fillers by Wallingford Riegger and Paul Creston attest to Stokowski's lifelong devotion to modern American music, as long as its roots were tonal and traditional. Both works are high-energy, optimistic fare that has since retreated to the music departments of high schools and colleges -- I remember playing this kind of music as a marching band member in the sixties -- and Stokowski revs everything up to the max.
The conductor was already 76 when this concrt was held to commemorate fifty years on the podium in America, and it fully represents his spectacular tappeal. He had another 15 years to go before the microphone, amazingly enough, many of those years at full vitality.
Here's the program: Symphony No.9 in E minor (Vaughan Williams). Mysterious Mountain (Hovhaness). Toccata (Creston). New Dance (Riegger)