Despite Leopold Stokowski's (1882-1977) huge discography and having conducted the first American performance in 1943, he never recorded Prokofiev's cantata 'Alexander Nevsky', based on Eisenstein's film. This is of major importance for collectors.
This is the first official release of the entire 1970 live concert in the Doelen in Rotterdam.
Stokowski recorded Ravel's Fanfare pour L'Eventail de Jeanne' and Franck's Symphony in D minor immediately after the concerts for Decca Phase 4 but the live performances have more tension and presence and the Doelen's excellent acoustic has been well captured by the Dutch engineers.
All three works are played 'straight' without any embellishments by the conductor.
The original master tape supplied by the Dutch broadcaster AVRO in Hilversum was used for the entire 1970 concert which was recorded in excellent stereo sound. The remastering engineer, Paschal Byrne, who has been responsible for all the Leopold Stokowski Society releases on Cala Records, has done a wonderful job to improve the sound.
“Listening to the 88-year-old Leopold Stokowski take a scenic if somewhat circuitous route through César Franck's D minor Symphony is something of a culture shock. This particular interpretation was also commercially recorded (the rousing Ravel Fanfare, too, both for Decca Phase Four), but live being live, the concert draws us nearer to the edge – and in this case the edge is refreshingly dangerous. Quite how the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic followed every twist and turn in Stokowski's maverick journey is a wonder to behold, and so is the sheer energy and youthfulness of it all. Tempi vary virtually by the bar but somehow it all adds up. Of course there were vintage Stokowski-led D minor predecessors from Philadelphia but here the richness of tone, 'shimmering sonority' (to quote composer Lex van Delden), jaw-dropping flexibility and sense of communal excitement carries you along…though best if you leave your study score on the shelf! Prokofiev's Nevsky is rather a different matter, fitfully thrilling but less secure overall. Then again, Stokowski hadn't conducted it nearly as often: he never recorded the work commercially though in 1943 he did direct the first American performance. 'Robust and lively' is how one might describe this performance, with tempi that sometimes sound a little rushed and a 'Battle on Ice' that starts well (aside for some imprecise string runs), accelerates from a very slow trudge but disappoints when the chirpy string theme barges in at around the halfway point, a little stodgily in this case, though the tension soon builds again. Warm singing from Sophia van Sante in 'The Field of the Dead' is a bonus, the voice and orchestra staying the same course…just about. It's all pretty impressive, warts'n'all – and very well recorded though there are one or two odd balances in Nevsky.”
“Quite how the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic followed every twist and turn in Stokowski's maverick journey [César Franck's Symphony] is a wonder to behold, and so is the sheer energy and youthfulness of it all. Tempi vary virtually by the bar but somehow it all adds up.”
Click on any of the works listed above for alternative recordings.