Leopold Stokowski

Beethoven: Symphony No. 6 "Pastoral"; Liszt: Hungarian Rhapsodies Nos. 1, 2, 3

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Anyone who's seen the Disney film Fantasia or heard its soundtrack is at least partially familiar with the interpretation of Beethoven's Sixth Symphony by conductor Leopold Stokowski. Of course for Fantasia, Stokowski conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra, but there are still many similarities in interpretation between that performance and the one heard here with the NBC Symphony Orchestra. One of the strengths of Stokowski's Beethoven is his remarkable attention to clarity and detail, particular in the inner voices of the orchestra. Even in this restored recording from 1954, the intricacies taking place in the middle of the orchestra are all clearly audible. Sound clarity in the lower end, particularly the basses, is much less clear, however. Stokowski's Beethoven Sixth is also notable for another reason: his peculiar choice of tempo, particularly in the second movement. At more than 16 minutes, this recording represents of the slowest renditions of the Scene By the Brook in the recorded literature. Also on this CD is an interesting lecture given by Stokowski on Beethoven's imitation of the sounds of nature in the symphony. Three strong (and more lively) performances of Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsodies round out the album, which is more appropriate for historical recording aficionados than someone looking for an archetypal Beethoven recording.

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