Richard Egarr / Brussels Philharmonic Orchestra

An Evening with Leopold Stokowski

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Leopold Stokowski, British and not Slavic by birth, was one of the great individualists of the classical scene in the 20th century, and it seems a bit surprising that no one has undertaken this kind of homage before conductor Richard Egarr and the Brussels Philharmonic. But of course Stokowski's recordings themselves have been widely available. They've fallen out of fashion but might be due for a revival as classical musicians ponder how their ancestors captured the public imagination. Surprising, too, is the identity of the conductor; Egarr is generally known as a historical-performance specialist. In the booklet (in French, English, German, and Dutch) he is quoted as saying, "I prefer playing such a sincere interpretation from a true musician, than this or that rediscovered Bach concerto questionably reconstructed by musicologist." What's at hand here is not quite the reconstruction of a typical Stokowski concert but an examination of an unusual aspect of his repertoire, and here Egarr makes a contribution that will be appreciated by Stokowski buffs. Stokowski was hardly a historically oriented conductor, but, coming of age during a time when Baroque and Renaissance music apart from Bach, Handel, and Domenico Scarlatti were rarely played, he programmed quite a bit of it. He did not stop with hits like Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor for organ, BWV 565, but investigated the likes of Marco Antonio Cesti's operas (from one of which an instrumentally arranged aria is performed here), Purcell's theater music for strings, and even Renaissance a cappella choral music, gleefully arranging it all for the Philadelphia Orchestra and its famous string section. This raises some interesting questions about his sound world, in which he applied space as a detail; a series of thematic entrances, for example, might seem to move across the stage as it is given to different groups of instruments. The cellos and basses, which seem to define a large space by themselves, are always prominently featured. Egarr tries his hand at a few arrangements (of selections from Handel's Water Music and of Ockeghem's motet Intemerata Dei Mater) in the Stokowski style; these don't quite have the arrestingly freakish quality of Stokowski's own, but in a way they succeed at pointing up just how unusual Stokowski was. The only non-Baroque and non-arranged piece is Tchaikovsky's Slavonic March, a common Stokowski encore. An offbeat and enjoyable disc, especially for Stokowski fans.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Toccata & Fugue in D minor BWV 565
1 3:37
2 6:06
3 7:01
Water Music Suite (Suite No. 2)
4 1:57
5 3:27
Water Music Suite (Suite No. 1)
6 4:10
Water Music Suite (Suite No. 2)
7 1:10
8 2:26
9 1:54
Overture No. 3
Suite of Five Pieces
11 1:27
12 2:34
13 1:11
14 3:38
15 1:50
16 1:14
17 2:54
18 6:55
19 9:30
blue highlight denotes track pick