Saturday, November 9, 2013

Bach by Stokowski

   In the classical period baroque and earlier music was out of favor. And there were many reasons for such disgrace. Since modern concert halls had been built for philharmonic societies and institutions established as a support for symphonic orchestras, these conditions were promoting a certain type of sound. No wonder symphonic music was the main orientation of musical life since 19th century. Big orchestras had dominated the cultural life as most significant and appreciated type of performing team. In effect music of earlier historical periods was rarely played. The fact is baroque compositions were played anyway. Romantic composers and artists found in baroque music lots of close and valuable features. Especially music by Johann Sebastian Bach was extremely universal from esthetic point of view. 
   On the other hand Johann Sebastian Bach’s discipline and almost abstractive model of polyphonic construction, decided his music was perfect for transcriptions into any instrument, ensemble or orchestra. Some original works, concertos with string orchestra or orchestral suites were already in orchestral repertoire. And in last decades of 19th century number of Bach’s works in repertoire was instantly increasing. In 20th century many composers and conductors made their own orchestrations of various Bach works, primarily written for organ, chamber ensembles, various instruments or even choir. Among many were composers Bela Bartók, Arnold Schoenberg, Igor Stravinsky, cellist Pablo Casals, conductors Eugene Ormandy and Leopold Stokowski.

Bach by Stokowski (1977)

   Leopold Stokowski was one of most famous transcribers of Bach’s music. His orchestrations were widely played and recognized. One of best choices was album recorded by conductor with Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. The collection comprises examples of perfect orchestrations of Bach’s most popular works. The great opening  of the program is orchestration of organ Toccata and Fugue D Minor BWV 565, than Prelude and Fugue E-flat Minor BWV 853 from Das Wohltemperierte Klavier and orchestral version of 48th song from Schemelli’s Gesangbuch “Mein Jesu, dem die Seraphinen” BWV 486. The second side includes Chorale Prelude No. 12 “Wir glauben all’ an einen Gott” BWV 680 from Clavierübung III, Chorale from Easter Oratorio BWV 249 and Passacaglia and Fugue C Minor BWV 582.
   Recordings with Czech Philharmonic Orchestra had been made in September 1972. Leopold Stokowski was familiar with the orchestra since his performances at Prague Spring Music Festival in 1961. During his rehearsals eleven years later, hosts had organized two days of sessions on September 7 and 8 in Supraphon Studio. Material was edited and published in co-production with DECCA – first in 1976 by Supraphon under Czech title Transkripce Skladeb J. S. Bacha, and one year later in international version as Bach by Stokowski (Supraphon 1110 1953 ZA). Very fair recording although in some parts sound of violin is not enough stable and too weak. Three stars out of five.

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