After three long years we finally have Volume 2 in this series of orchestral transcriptions of Bach's (and others') music by Leopold Stokowski (1882-1977). I reviewed the first of these Stokowski: Bach Orchestral Transcriptions with a rave and a brief walk down Memory Lane. Unlike some, for whom the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor is the first and most impressive of the Bach/Stokowski arrangements, in that first CD I was delighted to find my own first-heard Stokowski arrangement, that of the Little Fugue in G Minor. But the opening band of the present volume is possibly what most people have been waiting for: the gloriously rich transcription of the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. (Who can forget its use in Disney's Fantasia?) José Serebrier has the Stokowski sound down pat; it's no wonder as he was Stokowski's assistant when the Maestro was the conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra (and he was Stokowski's necessary second conductor in the world première of the Ives' Fourth Symphony). Once again Serebrier and the fine Bournemouth Symphony perform at the top of their game.
After a bang-up performance of the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, we get a series of mostly slow-ish and richly orchestrated selections. There are, as of the date of this review, not listed and I shall do so here:
Arioso (Largo from the Concerto for Harpsichord and Strings in F Minor, BWV 1056
Wachet auf (arr. of Schübler Choral, BWV 645)
Ich ruf' zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ (Organ Choral Prelude, BWV 639)
Adagio from Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C for organ, BWV 564
Mein Jesu (from Schemeli's Musical Song Book)
Ein feste Berg (chorale by Luther)
Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring (Chorale No. 10 from Cantata No. 147)
Prelude in B Minor (No. 24 from WTC, Bk 1)
Siciliano (from 4th Violin Sonata and Clavier, BWV 1017)
Fugue in C Minor (No. 2 from WTC, Bk 1)
Palestrina: Adoramus te
Byrd: Pavane and Gigue
Jeremiah Clark: Trumpet Prelude (previously known as Purcell's Trumpet Voluntary)
Boccherini: Minuet (from Quintet in E Major, Op. 13, No. 5)
Johann Mattheson: Air (from Harpsichord Suite No. 5 in C Minor)
Haydn: Andante cantabile (from Quintet in F major, Op. 3, No. 5)
Not all of the arrangements are for full romantic-era orchestra. For instance, Mein Jesu is for strings alone, as are the Prelude in B minor and the Siciliano. The Bournemouth strings have no reason to be compared negatively with those of the old Philadelphia Orchestra whom Stokowski brought to such prominence. They sound fabulous.
Everyone who has seen the Alec Guinness film, 'The Ladykillers', will recognize the Boccherini. That's the piece Guinness's gang of accomplices pretended to rehearse as they planned a bank robbery. And who hasn't heard Clarke's Trumpet Prelude at a wedding or three.
The final band is a transcription of the unpretentious little C Minor Fugue from Book I of the Well-Tempered Clavier that takes on heroic Wagnerian proportions in Stokowski's hands. It certainly brought a smile to my face.
I know it's fashionable to decry these sometimes gargantuan transcriptions, particularly in these days of historically-informed performances. But for me they retain their persuasive charm. Thank you, Maestro Serebrier and your Bournemouth musicians.