ON MY WORD!!
Here we have one of a pair (so far) of CDs featuring the famous, if not infamous, transcriptions by Leopold Stokowski of the works of Johann Sebastian Bach, played by the BBC Philharmonic with great panache, recorded in the latest sparkling digital stereo sound by Chandos, and conducted, as if his life depended on it, by Matthias Bamert.
Bamert, a composer/conductor in his mid-sixties, studied with Boulez and Stockhausen, amongst others, apprenticed under Szell, later was an assistant conductor under Stokowski himself, and was named Resident Conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra under Lorin Maazel. He has served as Music Director of the Swiss Radio Orchestra, Principal Guest Conductor of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Director of the Glasgow contemporary music festival Musica Nova from 1985 to 1990. He has conducted the world premieres of works by many composers, including Toru Takemitsu, John Casken, James MacMillan and Wolfgang Rihm. As Director of the Lucerne Festival from 1992 to 1998, he was responsible for the opening of a new concert hall, instituted a new Easter Festival, a piano festival, expanded the programme and increased the festival's activities.
All this is by way of explaining that Maestro Bamert is a conductor of impeccable credentials, which can only cause one to wonder as to why he has decided to record the oh-so unfashionable transcriptions of Leopold Stokowski (there are also CDs with Bamert/BBC performing Stokowski's transcriptions/orchestrations of the music of Mussorgsky, Wagner, Handel, and Vivaldi, amongst others).
Has he gone mad?
Or, perhaps, has he discovered that these old chestnuts, these testaments to Leopold Stokowski's egocentricities, these musical war horses, long thought dead, might just be something more? In this era of the never ending quest to perform "authentic" renditions of music exactly as we think the composer might have heard it (assuming, of course, Bach, Handel, Mussorgsky, Wagner and the rest owned the latest CD players), has Bamert discovered that sometimes music must be experienced merely for the sheer joy of it? Has Bamert discovered that perhaps "Stokie" knew what he was doing after all?
Beats me. But I can tell you this: I find these exhumations to be absolutely delightful, great, great fun and, yes, I'll say it, good music making as well. I find this, and its' companion CDs, to be thoroughly convincing and absolutely delightful. And in this era of political correctness to the 'nth degree, I find these naughty reminders of our not-so-distant musical past to be absolutely delicious!