Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A treasure trove of Stokowski downloads

A Japanese site has a treasure trove of recordings by the legendary conductor Leopold Stokowski ranging from 1917 acoustic recordings to 1953 electric recordings. All were 78rpm shellac releases, and the site claims they are copyright free. There are a lot of very fine things to listen to including two complete Tchaikovsky symphonies, a complete 1941 No 4 recorded with the NBC Symphony in 1941, and a 1940 Symphony No.6 'Pathetique' with the All American Youth Orchestra. Thanks go to US reader and internet sleuth Walt Santner whose research uncovered these, and the Norwegian historic MP3s, for us, and to the unknown Japanese webmaster for making them available.

Stokowski was the role model for today's jet set maestros. Born in North London in 1882, a short distance from what was to become EMI's famous Abbey Road Studios, he started his musical career as organist in St James' Church, Piccadily. He moved to the US in 1905, and ten years later became a naturalized American. He took over the Philadelphia Orchestra (see my article Reflections on the Philadelphia Orchestra), and it was here that he built his reputation as orchestral trainer, contemporary music champion (including the first performance and recording of Charles Ives' Symphony No. 4) , pioneer of new technology, and womaniser. He is remembered for many things, most notably his wonderful recorded legacy, his Bach orchestrations, and his work with Walt Disney on the film Fantasia. Do listen to the audio files that Walt Santner has done us all a great favour by uncovering.

* The biography Leopold Stokowski by Preben Opperby was published by Hippocrene Books in the US and Midas Books in the UK (ISBN 0882546589 & 0859362531) but is now out of print.

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If you enjoyed this post take an overgrown path to Rhythm Is It! - the new Fantasia?

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