Tuesday, March 22, 2011

3/22 Stokowski's Moonlight Orchestra

Leopold Stokowski (Sta-kuf-skee) is another of the 20th Century's most famous conductors, and a direct rival of Toscanini's.  In fact Toscanani had to 'steal' Shostakovich's 7th Symphony from Stokowski, claiming that Stokowski was a young man and had plenty more time to do another Shosty piece later....  Though not my favorite Beethoven interpreter, he still ranks very high, and two things especially stand out about him for me.  One, that he was not afraid to re-orchestrate symphonic works for modern orchestra (he thought of himself as a collaborator with the composer's spirit) and second, his use of close-miking techniques, especially in the 60s - his "Phase 4" recordings.  The result of this cutting-edge technology was that Stokowski had direct control over the volume and placement of every instrument in the orchestra - thus achieving an extreme clarity of personal vision.  In other words, listening to these records is like sitting in the conductor's chair, rather than in the 20th row back...a very exciting way to present music.  Before Stokowski died at age 94 (still conducting) he had already begun recording surround-sound sides as well....

Here's a video of Stokowski conducting the finale of Beethioven's 7th Stymphony:

At the link below you can download the full 7th symphony conducted by Stokowski as well as a recording of him giving an introductory commentary on the symphony.
1927 - Stokowski - Philadelphia Orchestra Recordings - Part 1

And here is an example of Stokowski transcribing a chamber piece for orchestra. He was famous for his Bach transcriptions (which I love) but here is Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata in "Stokowski-sound" (tho actually conducted here by the late Erich Kunzel):

Beethoven/Stokowski - Moonlight Sonata

Finally here's Glenn Gould presenting a 1 hour movie with Stokowski talking about his approach to music...

Glenn Gould: Stokowski, a portrait for radio

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