I notice almost no response to Cala's ongoing series of Stokowski reissues, now numbering into the dozens. This English label, in cooperation with major record companies (this Swan Lake was licensed from RCA) and the Stokowski Society, has unearthed any number of treasures. More than anyone they are restoring Stokowski's reputation, erasing decades of caricature about the "man who conducted with Mickey Mouse" in Disney's Fantasia.
Here we have 57 min. of Swan Lake from 1954-55 with the NBC Sym., recorded just after the departure of Toscanini. Strings were reduced to save money, which is too bad, but the sprightly woodwind solos stand out all the more. Stokowski indulged in a complete rearrangement of numbers, putting the ballet's three acts in reverse order--it makes no sense on stage but sounds fine as a concert suite. The orchestra plays beautifully, and the conducting is vivid and lively, as good as Stokowski's sparkling Sleeping Beauty from 1947. Too bad that the sonics are only middling, sounding rather thin. But they are far better than Toscanini's from Studio 8-H, being not nearly as cramped and boxy.
Usually I find that Tchaikovsky's music tempted Stoki into all kinds of rhythmic distortions -- I'm thinking in particular of a ghastly Sym. 5 done late in life for Decca's souped up Phrase 4 line -- but not here. This is a 'straight' Swan Lake, a little faster than the norm, that's phrased with the dance in mind from beginning to end. Highly recommended.