Stokowski Conducts A Russian Spectacular

0 of 5 stars

Mussorgsky
A Night on the Bare Mountain [orch. Stokowski]
Khovanshchina – Act I Prelude (Dawn over Moscow) [orch. Rimsky-Korsakov]; Dance of the Persian Maidens [orch. Rimsky-Korsakov]; Act IV Entr’acte – Prince Galitsin’s Journey [orch. Stokowski]
Rimsky-Korsakov
Russian Easter Festival Overture, Op.36 [arr. Stokowski]
Glière
The Red Poppy – Russian Sailors’ Dance
Tchaikovsky
Eugene Onegin – Polonaise
Borodin
In the Steppes of Central Asia
Prince Igor – Dance of the Polovtsian Maidens & Polovtsian Dances [arr. Stokowski]

Nicola Moscona (bass) [Russian Easter Festival]

Women’s Chorus [Prince Igor]

Leopold Stokowski and his Symphony Orchestra

Recorded between 8 February 1950 and 1 October 1953 in Manhattan Center, New York


Reviewed by: Jimmy Hughes

Reviewed: August 2007
CD No: CALA CACD0546
Duration: 75 minutes

The excerpts from “Khovanshchina” are atmospherically played – especially the Act Four ‘Entr’acte’ in Stokowski’s dramatic scoring. The low snarling brass and heavy tam-tam strokes heighten the mood of impending doom and tragedy, making the original version seem somewhat pale and lightweight. In Stokowski’s hands the music is transformed to a symphonic poem of inexorable power and darkness.

Atmospheric in a totally different way is Borodin’s haunting In the Steppes of Central Asia. The slightly recessed recording creates an aural impression of great space – as though one were viewing the tiny caravan winding its way through the vast steppe through the romantic mists of time. It’s a loving lingering performance full of rapt shimmering beauty. Remarkably, Stokowski takes almost 9 minutes over the piece – around 2 minutes longer than usual – and in doing so creates a piece of exquisite loveliness.

The selection of Dances from “Prince Igor” is different to the versions usually heard – and also differs from the recording Stokowski later made for Decca – having the first couple of numbers from Act Two linked to the familiar Polovtsian Dances. This recording was made in 1950; the sound is pretty good and certainly conveys the vivid excitement of the playing. Incidentally, the transfers for this CD (lasting 75’08” rather than the stated 74’28”) have all been taken from vinyl LP pressings and the re-mastering has eliminated surface noise and distortion. True, by modern standards, the sound lacks a little at both extremes of the frequency range. But, for the most part, the recordings are clear, conveying the excitement produced by Stokowski and his players.

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