Bach - Stokowski
Bach - Stokowski

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Customer Reviews:

  • Stokowski's famous romantic Bach delusions are a lot of fun
    These recordings date from the late 1950's and still sound remarkably vivid and atmospheric. I'm not a big Stokowski fan but when the man was in his element, he could pull off some magnificent results. This CD in a case in point. The stunning string sound and gorgeous results that Stokowski summons here leave quite an impression. These are of course decadently Romantic readings of great Baroque music and many purists will run from the room when you put this on, but anyone who loves music can see that these transcriptions should not be heard as sins against an immortal master composer and instead are acts of love and dedication.

    Even I can get annoyed at the schmaltzy antics of these recordings but they are not nearly as perverse as the later Decca Phase 4 versions Stokowski recorded. There have recently been plenty of conductors taking up Stokowski's transciptions but it's the original master who still stands the test of time.

    The Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor was one instant where I was not fully in sympathy with Stokowski. The orchestral version here is far too dominated by the strings. If you listen to Ottorino Respighi's transcription which was recorded on a Chandos CD recently, you'll hear more instrumental color and variety in Respighi's version than with Stokowski. Furthermore, Stokowski's Decca Phase 4 record of the Passacaglia is so garish, grandiose and over the top, that it makes this earlier EMI version sound quite tame by comparison.

    The rest of the music here was handled well but the saccharine sweetness of the strings can get tiresome. The big conclusion of the program is the famous Toccata and Fugue in D minor and rest assured, Stokowski does it proud. Unbelievably grand and imposing, it's an inspired performance without a doubt. All in all, a successful program and a good introduction to Leopold Stokowski's style of music-making.

    ...more info
  • Stokowski, the forgotten master of this century
    I recall as a kid listening to my parents tape of Stokowski conducts Bach in the car. I adored the Little fugue in G minor. I spent a long time looking for his work on CD, and this disc is it. It's beautifully recorded (Stokowski was the first conducter to look at a recording as a work of art, not just a reproduction of a performance). Of course, it's not what Bach wrote... it's important to realize that these works become a collaberation between Stokowski and Bach--and a successful one at that. The point is not whether it is what Bach wrote (recall of course that Bach did the same thing to the masters he admired (and either way, it's of no matter. the only thing that matters is the work itself)). The music is dramatic, it's beautiful, and it's brilliant. A Mighty Fortress is unimaginably rich, this is definitely a must have recording....more info
  • Fantastic Recording!
    The works cover an interesting selection of Bach's music. Both Bach-newcomers and the 'Bacherati' (sorry) will enjoy this dynamic recording a great deal....more info
  • this will rock your world
    One of the pieces on this CD is Stokowski's arrangement of one of Schemelli songs by Bach, "Mein Jesu, was fr Seelenweh befallt dich in Gethsemane." A very simple song, I remember it as an exercise in figured bass at school. When I heard Stokowski's rendition of it, I was shocked by the immediacy of the emotion. I could not believe what I heard. This type of musicianship is absolutely devastating. None of the living musicians can possibly apporoach this. His handling of the string section is not of this world, it will leave you breathless. Just listen to his phrasing -- and you will be undone in a minute. And this is just a simple 3 minute devotional song...

    Of course, there are other arrangemets -- the organ Passacaglia is outstanding. Stokowski was trained first as organist, came here to the US from England, worked at St. Bartholomew Church in New York, then discovered a conductor in himself. I don't think he ever studied conducting; he just invented his own conducting technique, and it worked for him well. But what a musician!...more info

  • Magnificent

    As a professional classical musician and deep lover of the works of J.S. Bach, I believe these transcriptions and performances of his works would have greatly pleased the master. This album is a magnificent work; especially, but not limited to, the incredible full orchestra arrangement of the most famous Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. It will simply take your breath away with its awesome majesty. You will not regret purchasing this!...more info
  • Great Bach transcriptions by a great Bach performer.
    Leopold Stokowski was one of the greatest conductors -- and musical geniuses -- of the 20th century. But before he was a conductor he was an organist, and he had a special love for the music of Bach. After he switched from the organ to conducting Stokowski transcribed many of Bach's organ works for orchestra so that he could expose them to a wider audience. His transcriptions, which were initially quite controversial, are now recognized as masterpieces which other conductors now perform. But no one performs them with quite the genius, dedication, and love as Stokowski did. This CD presents several of the greatest Bach/Stokowski transcriptions conducted by Stokowski himself and at a bargain price. Who knows how long it will be available? Please do yourself a favor and get it while you can....more info
  • great Stokowski
    The Bach transcriptions written by Stokowski are among the most exciting presentations of Bach's music in the classical music repertoire. For one just hearing Bach for the first time this is a great introduction. For the serious listener it is pure joy. These, however, are not necessarily for the Bach purist....more info
  • Unique and essential music
    Originally posted on my music review blog. Check my profile if you are interested.


    For many people, Leopold Stokowski will forever remain the superbly
    histrionic conductor-with-the-amusing-hair who shook hands with Mickey Mouse in "Fantasia" and was occasionally parodied by Bugs Bunny. Given such unquestionably excellent credentials, it may seem strange to learn that Stokowski has long been out of favor in musical circles, and is commonly regarded as something of a charlatan.

    While there is some truth to this view (most easily demonstrated by the English-born conductor's entirely contrived Slavic accent), it sells the maestro very short--little now is said of his seemingly unique ability to draw a lush, burnished tone from even lesser orchestras, so distinctive and evocatively rich that it was known as the "Stokowski sound." Worse yet, we seem to have forgotten how he introduced an entire generation of listeners to "classical" music, both through his engaging showmanship and--most blessedly--his own orchestral transcriptions of J.S. Bach.

    In our era of "historically informed performance"--manifest in shrill, scratchy interpretations and usually advanced by those of comparable temperament--Stokowski's huge orchestral transcriptions may seem somewhat out of place. But the solidity of Bach's musical structures and idiom is such that it can hold up to a variety of approaches. Witness, for example, the "Jazz Sebastian Bach" albums by the Swingle Singers, or the abominable "Switched on Bach" synthesizer albums of the 1960's. In light of such examples, Stokowki's Bach seems downright purist, but this comparison proves very little--to gauge music by its historical "correctness" (as defined by scholarship's latest capricious whimsy) entirely misses the point of the art. Ultimately, all music is meant to stimulate the mind and emotions of the listener. Bach wrote great music which does both of these things, and the emotion in his essential idiom is perhaps most directly expressed by charlatan transcriptions, in which the grand gestures of romanticism and the intense precision of baroque forms combine to make music of a most affecting and engaging type.

    With notable exception to the "Air on a G String"--in which Stokowski's syrupy sonorities miss the lovely innocence of the original--most every transcription and its performance is nearly ideal. The opening C minor Passacaglia and Fugue is a superb example of Stokowski's deep, organ-like sound, in which--to paraphrase the conductor's own words--the towering, `gothic architecture' of the original is painted in broad strokes of dramatic color. "Komm, ser Tod" and "Mein Jesu, was vor Seelenweh" both display this same "cathedral" sound, along with an attractive gleam to the strings and an overwhelming sense of deep, emotional piety.

    But what's more striking is just how natural Bach can sound in these romantic trappings. "Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott," from Bach's cantata after the Lutheran hymn, uses a brass choir to great effect and is of a similar character to the Act I Prelude of Wagner's Parsifal. And the "Little" G Minor Fugue--which initially uses a dialogue of reed voices to highlight the counterpoint--builds with an almost maniacal sense of inevitability, weighty without ever lagging, gradually adding orchestration until the fugal subject violently emerges in its final, crashing conclusion. This is music in an almost Beethoven-like spirit, in which the extreme development of material creates "operatic" drama where the "protagonist" finally prevails. In the case of this transcription, the "protagonist" is a maddeningly catchy little tune, and, apparently, a heaven storming villain with a talent for theatrics.

    Other cuts display similarly theatrical qualities. The Toccata and Fugue in D minor--easily the best known of Stokowki's Bach transcriptions--is very well done, well balanced between the drive and snap of his recordings with the Philadelphia Orchestra and his later, more indulgent efforts for Decca. The Boure from English Suite No. 2 is both graceful and muscular, and Stokowski's practice of alternating the wind and string sections is used quite nicely. It's also worth noting that the anonymous "Symphony Orchestra" is consistently very good, sounding impressively mature for what was probably just a pick up group. But then, Stokowski could do that.

    The recorded sound is very clear and full, yielding very little to more modern technology.

    So, go ahead. Get the album, annoy your "historically informed" friends, and let the grand old wizard work his magic. It's an utterly and supremely entertaining approach to music--there's nothing quite like it.

    Grade: A...more info
  • Knockin on Heaven's Door
    One of the greatest recordings in the cannon - even better due to the spectacular mix on this remastered issue. This soul-baring music must be heard, and heard at top, almost painful volume to realize how transcendent these transcriptions really are - earth-shaking and primal. Stokowski was one of the all-time, all-time greats - and to my ear - this recording is his best ever. ...more info
  • Heavenly Bach
    When I was 12 years old I was madly in love with Leopold Stokowski. Now I'm 74 and after hearing this CD I find I'm still in love with him. This is a whole new dimension of Bach. Stokowski's arrangements are lyrical and dramatic, refreshing and romantic. A totally delightful rendition of Bach's music that will soothe your heart and refresh your soul. To be listened to with an open mind. Enjoy!...more info


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