While by no means the only recording one should hear of Vaughan Williams' Ninth Symphony, anyone who knows and loves that ecstatic yet enigmatic work owes it to themselves to hear this recording. Indeed, anyone who knows and loves any of the music on this disc owes it to themselves to hear this recording. The reason, of course, is that the conductor is Leopold Stokowski, one of the greatest conductors of the 20th century and an indefatigable advocate of then-new music, and the orchestra is his own hand-picked group of New York musicians. Taped at a concert in Carnegie Hall on September 25, 1958 given in honor Stokowski's 50th anniversary as a conductor, this disc preserves the American premiere of the Ninth in a performance that was rightly hailed at the time as masterful. Although worlds away from Adrian Boult's noble world premiere recording in tone, Stokowski and ‘his' Orchestra finds colors, shades, subtleties and especially counter-melodies in the work that even Boult missed. Coupled with equally fine performances of Wallingford Riegger's boisterous "New Dance," Alan Hovhaness' glorious "Mysterious Mountain" and Paul Creston's bumptious Toccata -- works which Stokowski either commissioned, premiered or was otherwise closely associated with -- this disc belongs in any collection of music by any of the above composers and, naturally, in any Stokowski collection.
Cala's sound is harsh and distant but, considering the source, about as good as it will ever get.