Stokowski: Bach Transcriptions

Stokowski: Bach Transcriptions

5.0 1
by José Serebrier
     
 
Orchestral transcriptions of J. S. Bach's music became rather unfashionable with the rise of historically accurate performance practices, but if you are determined to follow that orthodox line, you're cheating yourself out of some sumptuous listening. Perhaps the 20th century's best-known arranger of Bach was the conductor Leopold

Overview

Orchestral transcriptions of J. S. Bach's music became rather unfashionable with the rise of historically accurate performance practices, but if you are determined to follow that orthodox line, you're cheating yourself out of some sumptuous listening. Perhaps the 20th century's best-known arranger of Bach was the conductor Leopold Stokowski, whose many musical achievements are eternally overshadowed by his appearance in Disney's Fantasia, which featured -- among other things -- a Bach transcription. This thoroughly winning survey of Stokowski's Bach from José Serebrier and the Bournemouth Symphony is a follow-up to their highly acclaimed recording of Stokowski's Mussorgsky arrangements. These transcriptions are no less boldly colorful, but the Baroque originals -- some for organ, others for small orchestra, still others for vocalists -- are always accorded due respect. Still, Stokowski was so attuned to the possibilities of orchestration that each piece takes on a newly rich and monumental life, full of subtle shades that are effective and moving even in the absence of any claim to historical authenticity. Serebrier also gives us a glimpse of Stokowski's other symphonic transcriptions, including some based on medieval chant, but "Dido's Lament," from Purcell's Dido and Aeneas, is the profoundly moving highlight among these works. Like Stokowski's Bach arrangements, it uses the expressive breadth of the modern symphony orchestra to translate its source with undeniable emotional honesty.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - C. Ryan Hill
The gift that conductor and composer José Serebrier inherited from his former mentor, Leopold Stokowski, is immediately apparent upon even a brief listen to this album. Both men have an alluring gift: the ability to make an orchestra sound gorgeous. Serebrier is perhaps one of the few remaining authoritative spokesmen for Stokowski, and his passion and deep sentiment for his former mentor's works is audible. He sculpts the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra into a shapely, luxurious, and rich ensemble of which Stokowski would be proud. While many of Stokowski's own recordings of his transcriptions are indeed available on disc, this recording has the additional benefit of clarity combined with today's more accurate technical performance standards. This is elucidated in the phenomenally agile, articulate and musical woodwind playing -- the section for which Stokowski consistently wrote the most challenging excerpts for in his transcriptions. Although Stokowski orchestrated compositions as diverse as his extensive conducting repertoire, this album's content is centered on the music of J.S. Bach. Particularly, the album features the "Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor," a welcome alternative to the more omnipresent anchor of the "Toccata and Fugue in D minor." A number of Bach's chorale preludes are also featured, most notably a beautifully rich setting of "Komm süsser Tod" and a poignant, woodwind-rich orchestration of the "Sheep may safely graze." Stokowski's own Ancient Liturgical Melodies are also included: somewhat similar to Respighi's Ancient Dances and Airs in their manner of composition, they radiate a more somber in tone thanks to Stokowski's characteristically deep string coloring which is especially rich with viola sound. Naxos has also included one of Stokowski's finest creations (that is ironically not always so easy to find): Purcell's "Dido's Lament." BSO solo cellist Timothy Walden brings a warm, inviting sound throughout that eventually canvasses through the rest of the string sections. The eerie octave passages that Stokowski later wrote for the upper strings at the end of this touching passacaglia are enough to send shivers down the spine of anyone listening with a compassionate ear. The woodwind playing from the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra is absolutely outstanding throughout: organ-like in sound quality, refined, and technically superb. Combined with the luxurious string sound and Naxos' superb audio quality, Serebrier's (mostly) good ideas are given good documentation. Stokowski's orchestrations, though certainly not Puritan by musicological standards, help give a present-day approach to these Baroque works that might otherwise fall by the wayside. If you've never heard any of these gems, this recording is an excellent place to start your journey.
Gramophone - Edward Greenfield
The result is lusciously beautiful, with the Bournemouth string wonderfully refined.

Product Details

Release Date:
06/20/2006
Label:
Naxos
UPC:
0747313288328
catalogNumber:
8557883
Rank:
101664

Tracks

  1. Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major, BWV 1068: Air
  2. Cantata No. 208, "Was mir behagt," (Hunt Cantata), BWV 208 (BC G1, G3): Sheep may safely graze
  3. Fugue for organ in G minor ("Little"), BWV 578 (BC J66)
  4. Komm, süsser Tod, for voice & continuo (Schemelli Gesangbuch No. 868), BWV 478 (BC F227)
  5. Cantata No. 4, "Christ lag in Todes Banden," BWV 4 (BCA 54): Chorale
  6. St. John Passion (Johannespassion), BWV 245 (BC D2): Es ist vollbracht!
  7. Wir glauben all an einen Gott (I), chorale prelude for organ, BWV 680 (BC K12)
  8. Nun komm der Heiden Heiland (I), chorale prelude for organ (Orgel-Büchlein No. 1), BWV 599 (BC K28)
  9. Two Ancient Liturgical Melodies, for orchestra
  10. Messiah, oratorio, HWV 56: Pastoral Symphony
  11. Dido and Aeneas, opera, Z. 626: Dido's Lament
  12. Passacaglia and Fugue, for organ in C minor, BWV 582 (BC J79)

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Stokowski: Bach Transcriptions 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
One of the most rewarding recordings to appear in many years, this Bach-Stokowski has great warmth and sound quality. The music making is very special, something unequaled in modern recordings. Highly recommended. C.L.