I'm the last person to be attracted to bleeding chunks of opera: unlike my father, who perversely prefers purely orchestral Wagner. Add in the arrangements by another hand, and you'd imagine this would be of little interest- but you'd be wrong.
Stokowski was such a flamboyant character that his fame has outlived him by quite a margin. Mention the name today and you're likely to come up with his large and spangly version of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor (tie an `original instruments' enthusiast down and play him this at full volume....!). But he was also a great educator and expander of the repertoire. Clearly, playing full-scale Wagner operas in the concert hall was out of the question, but all that glorious music..!
What we have on this CD are fairly extensive orchestral extracts, the difference being that Stokowski has not stuck to the existing orchestral highlights but has gone into the vocal territory as well, re-casting sung lines as instrumental ones and adapting the orchestral palette to match.
The surprise is just how well this process works. Stokowski's re-voicing is generally subtle, not overblown. The results are cogent and satisfying tone poems which do not short-change Wagner in any way. Indeed, they are a stimulating listen.
The sound on this recording is extraordinary: I've never heard the Poole acoustic come across as well as this before. The playing of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra is superb- especially rich in the string and woodwind sections, and Jose Serebrier conducts the whole affair with conviction. Highly recommended.