Orchestral Transcriptions of Leopold Stokowski / Bamert, BBC Philharmonic

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Listening to this disc reminded me of just how much fun these transcriptions are. You'd need a cold heart jot to be thrilled by the horror-film drama of the D minor Toccata and Fugue: the roar of the bass, the tremble of the strings, and the snarl of the brass are tremendous, and the things he does with the ending are just crazy. But it's tremendous! Who cares if the transcriber has taken enormous liberties? These transcriptions are things in themselves, separate from, indeed all but independent from their source material, and it would take the worst kind of purist not to glory in that fact.

Bamert and the BBC Philharmonic sound great. Byrd's Pavane and Bach's Air on the G String benefit from gorgeously rich, slushy string sound, though the Air has a rather inexplicable increase in tempo towards the end, and Wachet Auf suffers from the same thing. The Prince of Denmark's March is a little peremptory, but Jesu, Joy is delightful, as is Tchaikovsky's simply arranged Andante Cantabile. Dido's Lament is most notable for the mature way it handles the piece's emotional power, deeply moving without ever being manipulative, while the opposite is true of Panis Angelicus. Shostakovich's UN March sounds a bit like Sousa, while Stokowski's own take on Night on Bare Mountain is even more ghostly than the better known versions, though the ending is transcendent in a way that seems not entirely appropriate. Some things are more bizarre than others: Mozart’s Rondo alla Turca sounds a little silly, and playing Buxtehude on an Ondes Martenot is something that arguably not even Stokowski could get away with; however, Chopin's Funeral March will shake you to your boots (and fully test your speakers' bass capabilities).

It can be hoped for that this release goes some way to rehabilitating these transcriptions for an age where affinity to the original has become sacrosanct. Recommended.

– MusicWeb International (Simon Thompson)

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: CHAN 10900

  • UPC: 095115190029

  • Label: Chandos

  • Composer: César Franck, Dietrich Buxtehude, Dmitri Shostakovich, Frédéric Chopin, Henry Purcell, Jeremiah Clarke, Johann Sebastian Bach, John Philip Sousa, Mikhail Mikhailovich Ippolitov-Ivanov, Modest Mussorgsky, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, William Byrd, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

  • Conductor: Matthias Bamert

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: BBC Philharmonic Orchestra

  • Performer: Cynthia Millar, Patrick Addinall, Peter Dixon