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BACH, J.S. / PALESTRINA, G. / BYRD, W. / CLARKE, J. / BOCCERINI, L. / HAYDN, J. / MATTHESON, J.: Stokowski Transcriptions, Vol. 2

Naxos 8.572050

   MusicWeb International, April 2012
   ArtsJournal, August 2009
   Fanfare, July 2009, June 2009
   BBC Radio 3, June 2009
   ChordStrike, May 2009
   American Record Guide, May 2009
   MusicWeb International, April 2009
   International Record Review, April 2009
   Minnesota Public Radio, March 2009, March 2009
   Gramophone, March 2009
   Classics CD Review, February 2009
   Audiophile Audition, February 2009
   The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, February 2009
   Toccata Magazine, February 2009, January 2009
   David's Review Corner, January 2009

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Stephen Francis Vasta
MusicWeb International, April 2012

A Mighty Fortress starts from a posture of humility, tentatively becoming more affirmative until, the second time around, it breaks into a full-scaled paean of praise, much in the maestro’s own manner. The piece labeled simply Arioso—actually the Largo from the F minor Harpsichord Concerto—unfolds with a sombre dignity, maintaining it as the textures open up. There’s a real Stokowskian depth and intensity to the string chords of the Air taken from Johann Mattheson’s C minor harpsichord suite. Both Palestrina’s Adoramus te and the pavane of Byrd’s Pavane and Gigue project a sustained, reverent intensity, with the piquant woodwind staccati of Byrd’s gigue offering a nice contrast. Returning to Bach, the big C minor Fugue from Book I of The Well-Tempered Clavier is mostly incisive, and ominous in the climaxes, but perhaps it also emulates the wrong elements of the style: it turns lumbering as it heads into the home stretch, and the final chord doesn’t quite land together!

Moments like that in Stokowski’s own performances could make you forget that “his” sound took in refinement as well as richness. Serebrier acknowledges this in the the Siciliano from Bach’s fourth violin sonata, where he shapes the secondary parts so as to underline the music’s undulating grace, and in a mobile, but light and gracious, rendering of Haydn’s Andante cantabile, from the F major Quartet in Op. 3. Serebrier draws from the Boccherini Minuet a lovely, clear-toned elegance that might have surprised the older conductor.

Then again, sometimes the arrangements themselves provide the surprise. The Jeremiah Clarke selection is the piece once attributed to Henry Purcell, more familiarly known as “Trumpet Voluntary”. It’s easy enough to make the piece sound grand; Stokowski chooses lighter, more transparent orchestral textures, making it sound more festive, less formal.

The Bournemouth Symphony responds to Serebrier alertly and with enthusiasm, reproducing all the liquid and sensuous colors of Stokowski’s brilliant palette, and the engineering offers clarity, depth, and warmth as needed. As you might surmise, I enjoyed this immensely—it’s excellent value even at Naxos’s new mid-priced status. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Henry Fogel
ArtsJournal, August 2009

Whither the Transcription?

An absolutely delightful compact disc that was issued recently made me wonder whatever happened to the transcription. The disc (Naxos 8.572050) is José Serebrier's second CD with the Bournemouth Symphony of Bach transcriptions, and half of it consists of transcriptions by Leopold Stokowski of music by other composers: Palestrina, Byrd, Boccherini, Haydn, Jeremiah Clarke, and Johann Mattheson.
Why have we become such purists? What went wrong in our musical world that it is practically forbidden (I'm not sure by whom, but believe me, it is nonetheless forbidden) to perform Bach transcriptions—not to mention a Pavane and Gigue by William Byrd—in a concert hall today.

Listening to this recording caused me to realize what the purists have inflicted on the rest of us. First of all, organ recitals are rare things. In fact, even good organs are rare things. The transcription offers us a way of hearing great organ music that we might not ever encounter in a live performance. But the transcription is more than that. It is an alternative version, decked out in different colors. (Some of Stokowski's transcriptions of music other than Bach's are not of organ or even keyboard music.) Just as a play or movie derived from a book is a perfectly valid other way of experiencing the book, so a transcription is a perfectly valid way, in and of itself, of experiencing music that is based on an original that sounds different.

Listening to different transcriptions—there are wonderful Bach transcriptions by John Barbirolli, Ottorino Respighi, Lucien Caillet, Edward Elgar, Walter Damrosch, Dmitri Mitropoulos, and many others--is not meant to be a substitute or replacement for the original. But it should be a valid, alternative artistic experience, and that was the case back in the first half of the twentieth century. A look at concert programs from the 1930s and 40s, and even into the 1950s, shows a reasonably regular appearance of a range of transcriptions.

Then, from the 1960s on, it drops precipitously, clearly a result of the purist movement that seemed to say we can only perform music in the way it was written—an aesthetic that would be shocking to Bach, Vivaldi, Handel, Mozart, and others. I hope we lose this puritanical streak soon, and can once again bathe ourselves in the bold colors of a good transcription. Until then, our gratitude to José Serebrier for producing two wonderful CDs. [Volume 1 is available on Naxos 8.557883]

Ronald E. Grames
Fanfare, July 2009

Musical purists, before you move on, consider how the times have changed. Decades ago we felt we had to hold arrangements like these in contempt, appalled by the over-indulgence, even the vulgarity, of it all. Yet, while we were listening to soberly academic performances of these works (just as the composers would have wanted them, of course), ultra-Romantic transcriptions were gradually gaining respectability. The passage of the years granted them classic status of their own. They are sui generis, distinct from their sources. Without compromising our purist rectitude, we can now embrace the distinctive pleasures of Bach-Stokowski. Admit it: there always was something rather appealing about Stokowski’s uninhibited advocacy of this music, long before it was stylish. With authenticity no longer an issue, we can finally appreciate his dedication to the mighty architecture, to the sensual beauty of the melodies and to the glorious sonorities of the modern symphony orchestra.

Of course, most of Stokowski’s recordings of these works, some dating back 80 years, cannot do service to the latter, despite state-of-the-art engineering for their time. As purists, we could accept the sonic limitations for the authentic Stokowski experience. However, the sacrifice may not be necessary since, for this release, conductor José Serebrier, while avoiding mere mimicry, has assumed many of the Maestro’s signature qualities. The grand gesture, the saturated string sound, the indulgent rubato pulled back just at the point of over-ripeness, even the pious dignity and repose of the more reflective works: all these Serebrier—who worked for a number of years as Stokowski’s associate—has re-created better than probably any other conductor could. Matthias Bamert, himself a Stokowski assistant, tried on two CDs for Chandos. These are very fine performances, but don’t demonstrate the same flair for the surging line, the shifting color, and the lingering release of a final cadence that makes Serebrier’s performances so immediately appealing. The smaller-scale works—and these make up the majority of the program—are particularly well done by Serebrier. The biggest work, the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor of Fantasia fame, may not entirely live up to the best of the many performances left by the old sorcerer, but it in no way disappoints.

Neither does the playing of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, which can stand proudly with its best predecessors in this repertoire. There is but one letdown: the recording’s bottom octaves, which aren’t nearly as solid as they should be. Those pedal notes should rattle the windows. But never mind, one can always boost the bass a bit. (It’s that dusty knob next to the volume control. Don’t forget to turn off the tone control bypass.) Fellow purists, you should assert your newfound freedom. Indulge! Buy this CD, and while you are at it, get the first volume (8.557883) as well. It will be good for you.

Uncle Dave Lewis, June 2009

While the first volume combined some moderately familiar material with some highly specialized stuff, this one gets off the ground with the big guns: Stokowski’s famous transcription of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor. It is a big, walloping performance, as well, and Naxos’ sound matches the appropriate ambience, though one might wish it had a bit more power as it is going up against numerous audiophile quality recordings of this piece, including old ones by Stokowski himself rescued from the mothballs and souped up in new formats. The disc continues with nine more Bach transcriptions, with a further tenth tacked onto the end, along with a miscellany reserved for the second half: Palestrina, Byrd, Jeremiah Clarke, Boccherini, Mattheson, and Haydn all served up Stokowski style. It is a very rich, calorie-laden menu, and for those who insist on textual purity, historical accuracy, and period instruments in music of the Baroque and Classical eras, this will be like a peanut allergy. But for those who enjoy the rich tapestries of the orchestra and enjoy Stokowski’s blend already, this should prove highly satisfying; one thing Serebrier does very well is to turn corners the way Stokowski did, a specific kind of rubato at the ends of phrases, which is partly intuitive and Serebrier knows how to finesse that well. Naxos’ Stokowski: Bach Transcriptions 2 is a fitting homage from Serebrier to his mentor and, by virtue of its program, may prove more generally appealing than the first volume was.

Orest Soltykevych
BBC Radio 3, June 2009

It certainly takes quite a personality to become immortalized in a Bugs Bunny cartoon! In 1949, Warner Brothers released the Looney Tunes episode called “Long-Haired Hare”. In the episode, Bugs is called upon to conduct an orchestra, and as he approaches the podium, the musicians are taken aback by his presence, muttering “Leopold” to one another—the allusion being made to Maestro Leopold Stokowski.

London-born Stokowski started his conducting career in Cincinnati, and after a few years, began his long and memorable association with the Philadelphia Orchestra as their conductor. He developed that orchestra into one of the world’s top ensembles—known for its distinct “Philadelphia sound.” In the late 1930s, he moved to New York to work with Toscanini and the NBC Symphony Orchestra, and there recorded the music to Disney’s Fantasia. Throughout his career he also premiered many works by contemporary composers, and began to appear frequently as a guest conductor throughout the world. Today he is remembered as one of the giants of classical music in the 20th century.

When Uruguayan-born José Serebrier was only 17 years old, his First Symphony had its première under Leopold Stokowski (who gave the first performances of several of his works). At the age of 22, Serebrier was hailed by Stokowski as “the greatest master of orchestral balance,” and spent five years as Stokowski’s Associate Conductor at New York’s Carnegie Hall. Serebrier has composed a number of instrumental works, including three symphonies, and Stokowski premiered a number of them. In recent years, he has received 32 Grammy nominations.

In 2006, Serebrier recorded Stokowski’s transcriptions of the music of J.S. Bach [8.557883], and in January 2009, this second volume was released. (Both volumes also contain a number of transcriptions of other composers.) This magnificent new CD begins with the famous Toccata and Fugue in D minor, and includes many of Bach’s most well-known pieces.

Some may consider these arrangements over-the-top or overly rich, while others may wax nostalgic for the days when conductors were influential leaders in the classical music world. But it must be agreed that these works, masterfully performed by the Bournemouth Symphony, form a welcome presence among the countless arrangements of Bach’s (and others’) music that exists today. Stokowski’s arrangements also serve as a testament to the everlasting glory of Bach’s music, and to its grandeur and sublimity, beautifully performed in this masterful new recording by José Serebrier and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.

Hugo Munday
ChordStrike, May 2009

Best Classical Album of 2009—so far

These transcriptions are good, but it’s the Olympian grasp of ensemble that is what this disc is all about. This is amplified by the fact that José Serebrier knows the Bournemouth Symphony like the back of his hand, and he was mentored in his youth by Stokowski, himself. There is no new ground here, just a stunning and ravishing exercise in orchestral beauty, recorded and staged with excellence (thank you Naxos). These sounds are good enough to eat.

Donald R Vroon
American Record Guide, May 2009

Much of the music is of indescribable sweetness and beauty. If the composers didn’t write it that way, they might very well wish they had.

Bob Briggs
MusicWeb International, April 2009

Glorious inauthenticity rules the day in these brilliantly colourful arrangements

Jose Serebrier's first disc of Stokowski's romantic Bach arrangements [8.111297], mainly of organ music, was outstanding in every way, not just for the performances but for the spectacular recording. The only surprise was that the disc ignored the most celebrated of the arrangements, the one of the Toccata and Fugue in D minor which made such an impact in Disney's Fantasia. This second instalment begins with that popular work, and the recording brings out to the full, as never before, the subtlety of Stokowski's orchestrations with their brilliant terracing of texture, with colourings that designedly echo the sound of the organ. Its impact is magnificent, here more than ever. The other pieces include popular favourites such as the Wachet auf chorale prelude, Eine feste Burg and Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring, all sumptuously presented with the strings in particular made to sound glorious, a reflection of Stokowski's genius in creating a unique string sound, most strikingly in his longtime work with the Philadelphia Orchestra. It is striking how Stokowski separates the different sections as an organist might, reflecting his own early career. The extra items are all valuable in their way. Popular favourites include what used to be called Purcell's Trumpet Voluntary but which has long been acknowledged as the work of Jeremiah Clarke; Boccherini's Minuet, with the central section wonderfully elegant; and the Haydn Andante cantabile now thought to be by an alien hand. Altogether a most satisfying disc that continues the rehabilitation of arrangements which for far too long were dismissed in this age of determined authenticity.

Robert Matthew-Walker
International Record Review, April 2009

This is a stunningly successful recording. The opening track is the most famous of all—the resplendent Toccata and Fugue in D minor, which is given a superb and intensely musical performance combining orchestral virtuosity and sensitivity in equal measure. The opening phrase is electrifying: José Serebrier makes a slight crescendo at the end of the third note to astonishingly compelling effect, at once drawing us into the music. Serebrier also begins the Fugue pianissimo while the last notes of the Toccata are still sounding: this is another astonishing and wholly musically correct effect. Throughout this CD, and in music other than those pieces by Bach, José Serebrier delivers quite superb performances, which I am sure Stokowski would have greatly applauded, and would have understood, given that José Serebrier’s own early training as  a violinist stands him in good stead. This is particularly evident in those places drawn from string originals, for not all of Stokowski’s transcriptions demand a large orchestra—Mein Jesu is just one which is scored for string only.

There have been other recent recordings of Stokowski’s Bach transcriptions, but none are as good—or as thrilling—as this one and its predecessor (Naxos 8.557883). The recording quality is splendidly full and rich; for sheer delight in outstanding music-making, this recording deserves the widest success.

Valerie Kahler
Minnesota Public Radio, March 2009

Serebrier has had a long relationship with Stokowski, which started when Stokowski conducted the premier of 17-year-old Serebrier's first symphony.

He saw and heard firsthand how Stokowski could change the sound of an orchestra instantly, not only by physically rearranging the musicians but also by merely having a certain sound in his inner ear, and expecting—demanding—that sound from the orchestra.

Serebrier isn't a Stokowski clone, however, and his Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra has its own elegant, polite, even careful vibe.

You can hear it in "Sleepers, Awake" by J.S. Bach. It's all about sustaining a long line of music, overlapping and weaving threads of melody and harmony and countermelody to create a seamless tapestry of sound. It's not hard to hear the choral and organ origins of these pieces, and how that informs the orchestral performances.

Stokowski came to music the way many do, through the church choir. But he didn't just fall in love with choral music. There in the choir loft, he was introduced to the King of Instruments—the pipe organ. It changed forever the way he heard and played and arranged music.

Although the organ that Bach played in the 18th century was simpler and sounded different from what Stokowski played in the 20th, the stops (sets of pipes) for both eras were named for instruments of the orchestra-- trumpet, violin, oboe, flute. An orchestra, right there at your fingertips.

Movie music composer Bernard Herrmann allowed that Bach never heard his Toccata and Fugue the way Stokowski presented it. But, he said, Bach "must have imagined a great cosmic sound, and Stokowski's transcription is a metamorphosis of that sound."

David Hurwitz, March 2009

As in his previous recording of Stokowski Bach transcriptions for Naxos, José Serebrier deploys an imaginative mix of the great man himself with other early masters.

Outstanding items among the latter include Palestrina’s Adoramus Te, Byrd’s Pavane and Galliard, and a really yummy (but never too droopy) Boccherini Minuet. Stokowski, as I mentioned in that earlier review, was not really a brilliant orchestrator in terms of timbral variety, but he was a very characteristic one. Key to any successful new recording of his arrangements is string sonority, that special, luminous sheen, especially in soft passages.

Serebrier understands this, as others who worked with Stokowski (such as Matthias Bamert for Chandos), do not. It doesn’t matter whether the sound is achieved naturally or through sonic manipulation—witness Stokowski’s own recordings with the Houston Symphony on Everest, for instance. The final sound is the only significant issue. Listen to the violins attack and sustain the opening of the Toccata and Fugue in D minor; to the rich tone of Sleepers Awake!; or to the amazingly sweet violins and oboe in Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring. This is undoubtedly the real deal, even if more than an hour of largely gentle, elegiac bonbons may be a bit much to take in at a sitting…It’s pretty wonderful nonetheless, and I recommend it highly.

Edward Greenfield
Gramophone, March 2009

Let’s get one thing clear from the start: if you’re one of the politically correct brigade you can stop reading now and pop off and listen to a couple of guys having great fun with their cittarones playing some anonymous 14th century Flemish duets with original performance techniques to the fore.

If, however, you want to hear full-blooded orchestral sound, sumptuous as a warm water-bed, and equally as satisfying, then stay with me, shout “Political correctness be damned!” and enjoy this disk.

Stokowski, as I have mentioned elsewhere, is still thought of by many as a charlatan, who was less of a musician than a self–serving showman. Nothing could be further from the truth. Stokowski was one of the great conductors whose every breathing thought was for music – forget Mickey Mouse, Deanna Durbin and the many women with whom he was associated—and for bringing unusual, unjustly neglected and new works to the public’s attention. As organist and director of the choir at St Bartholomew’s Church in New York City, from 1905, he would have known and played many of Bach’s organ works. His desire for them to be better known led to some of his transcriptions—and they were made by him, not by an anonymous hand with Stokowski simply signing the completed manuscripts. This was done in order to bring them into the concert halls, and to a larger music-loving public. The same applies to the many other transcriptions he made of other works by Bach and other composers. In light of this, his well known “touching-up” of acknowledged scores by later composers cannot be seen as mere tampering. His love of the music, and expertise in orchestral technique and sound, made him feel free to aid the composer who didn’t have at his disposal the resources that Stokowski had at his. Added to all this is the fact that as a conductor—and I admit that I have only ever heard recordings of the man’s work, I was never blessed with experiencing one of his performances in the flesh—his performances are quite electrifying. They always grab the listener with his sincerity and sheer enthusiasm.

Stokowski made many recordings of his transcriptions over the years. Some of his earliest Philadelphia recordings are now available on a four CD Music and Arts set (CD-1173). These are obviously the touchstone by which all other recordings must stand, or fall. This is a marvellously varied collection of well, and less well, known Stokowski transcriptions ranging from the gloriously technicoloured Toccata and Fugue in D minor to the delightful, and quite beautiful, “Boccherini Minuet”.

As recently as January this year I was privileged to hear a magnificent Tchaikovsky concert by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by José Serebrier. The passion and depth he brought to the music-making on that occasion was intense and very exciting. He brings the same qualities to bear on these performances. Serebrier knew and worked with Stokowski—he was one of the two assistant conductors on Stokowski’s recording of Ives’s monumental 4th Symphony. Stokowski also conducted composer Serebrier’s 1st Symphony. His knowledge of Stokowski, the man and the musician shines through in these performances.

And what of this disk? It’s fantastic. Do not be without it. I can confirm, without hesitation, that these performances can stand comparison with Stokowski’s own recordings. Great orchestral playing, superb direction, fantastic sound and very good notes, by Edward Johnson, CEO of the Stokowski Society. What more could you want? Fabulous.

Classics CD Review, February 2009

Following the great success of the first disk of Stokowski transcriptions (8.557883), Naxos has now issued Volume II, and again the focus is on music of Bach beginning with his most famous transcription: Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. There are 10 other works of Bach. According to Oliver Daniel's Stokowski—A Counterpoint of View, the Maestro recorded all of these, some more than once, with the exception of the Largo from the Harpsichord Concerto in F minor. All of his Philadelphia Orchestra Bach recordings are available in Mark Obert-Thorn transfers on Pearl (CDS 9098), but here we have equally fine performances conducted by José Serebrier who worked closely with Stokowski for many years. The other works are equally welcome. Edward Johnson, the dean of Stokowski information, wrote the informative CD notes. Oliver Daniel's book lists more than four pages of Stokowski transcriptions—so obviously Serebrier has a lot more work to do for Naxos! A wonderful CD!!

Gary Lemco
Audiophile Audition, February 2009

Bernard Hermann remarked that Stokowski released “the great cosmic sound” that Bach must have had in mind but could not be realized under the conditions which produced his original organ works. That Serebrier keeps his sound absolutely homogeneous testifies to a will-power we tend to ascribe to Mengelberg and Stokowski himself. Serebrier’s tempos occasionally deviate from those of Stokowski, even to more stunning, virtuoso effect than Stokowski's.

While I am not the greatest advocate of “sequels,” popular response to José Serebrier’s first volume of selections from the Leopold Stokowski (1882-1977) fund of some forty of Bach’s works that he arranged for the modern orchestra’s realization [8.111297], has Serebrier and his very gifted Bournemouth players presenting us another eleven of the master’s Bach, which exploit the range—or more properly, diapason—of the orchestra’s palette to achieve what might be called organ sonority, even when the original incarnation had been a string or klavier piece. Fellow composer Bernard Hermann remarked that Stokowski released “the great cosmic sound” that Bach must have had in mind but could not be realized under the conditions which produced his original organ works.

Serebrier begins with the immensely lauded Toccata and Fugue in D Minor (arr. 1926), which many of us know as the musical opener from Walt Disney’s Fantasia of 1940. Serebrier’s tempos occasionally deviate from those of Stokowski, even to more stunning, virtuoso effect than Stokowski's. That Serebrier keeps his sound absolutely homogeneous itself testifies to a color will-power we tend to ascribe to Mengelberg and Stokowski himself. The plastic, streamlined character of the Bournemouth string section excels equally in Siciliano from the C Minor Sonata for Violin and Clavier, the chorale Mein Jesu, and again, with woodwinds, in the chorale-prelude, Ich ruf’zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ.  The familiar Wachet Auf from Cantata 140 and Ein feste Burg achieve grand sonorities in strings and brass, often suggestive of Wagnerian ambitions, a suggestion made flesh in the C Minor Prelude from WTC I.  

The six remaining selections from renaissance, baroque, early classical style indulge in the same lush orchestration that is no less capable of charming clarity, as in Boccherini’s perennial Minuet from the Quintet in E Minor, Op. 13, No. 5.  I recall Stokowski’s own, devotional performance of the Palestrina Adoramus te for a United Artists LP two generations ago. What had been known as Purcell’s Trumpet Voluntary now gains political correctness in the name of Jeremy Clarke’s Trumpet Prelude, aka The Prince of Denmark’s March. The sleeper turns out to be the Air from the Suite No. 5 in C Minor by Johann Matheson (1681-1764), one of those Stokowski dreamy pieces that haunts the musical memory. Recorded 17-18 April 2008, the entire set of pieces rings with ennobled enthusiasm, a testament to Stokowski via the Leopold Stokowski Society and Stokowski's most active exponent, José Serebrier.

Giv Cornfield
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, February 2009

There are a total of 11 Bach works as arranged by Stokowski, plus 6 others by various baroque and classical composers on this CD. The 'main event' is the opening great Toccata and Fugue in D minor, of Walt Disney's 1930s film Fantasia fame. That film really put this masterpiece on the world map, so to speak—popularised it, if that's possible. And in this recording, conductor and orchestra convey the weight and majesty of it, better than any recording I've heard, other than the (dated) original. Maestro Serebrier had worked with old Stoki and truly has a handle on his style.

John J. Davis
Toccata Magazine, February 2009

In mid-April 2008, I attended a concert in the Lighthouse in Poole, Dorset given by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra conducted by José Serebrier. The concert commenced with the most famous transcription of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor in history, the creation of the one and only Leopold Stokowski. This was being played and conducted for the first time in public by both the orchestra and conductor but no one would ever have known on hearing the end product.

During the same week they recorded eleven Bach/Stokowski transcriptions plus those of other composers from that era. I’ve just been listening to the whole CD twice, first on headphones and secondly on my surround system. If I’d never heard of Stokowski  this recording of the Toccata and Fugue in D minor quite simply is, in my opinion, the most thrilling since the appearance of the very first recording from 1927 with Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra on HMV D 1428 (a 78 of course). The whole CD is a continual ‘goose pimple’ affair throughout for me, the BSO playing their socks off (I wonder if the solo trumpet, in the Jeremiah Clarke Trumpet Prelude, was the section leader Peter Turnbull) all totally inspired by José Serebrier. The recording is nigh on perfect with a warm ambience combined with clarity and an example of this comes in Track 7, Bach’s Ein feste burg. Stokowski was, as most of us know, an organist first of all but he obviously loved to imitate the ‘king of instruments’ by using, amongst others, the contra bassoon, just listen to the entry, followed by some breath intake (close miking?) starting at 0’28”…In conclusion I urge all serious music lovers to treat themselves, albeit at the silly asking bargain price, to Naxos 8.572050 because it is worth three times and more in terms of sheer quality, this being very much endorsed by the responsible and musical critical fraternity.

Scott Morrison, January 2009

I reviewed the first of these Stokowski: Bach Orchestral Transcriptions with a rave and a brief walk down Memory Lane [8.557883]. 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 associate conductor when the Maestro was the conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra (and, at age 20, 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!

David Denton
David's Review Corner, January 2009

Fingering through a record catalogue of the 1930s showed just how desperately slender was the thread that kept the name of Johann Sebastian Bach in the international world of music. It was just a handful of musicians who strove to save it from oblivion, one of those being the conductor, Leopold Stokowski, his symphony orchestra adaptations being eventually made famous when Walt Disney used the Toccata and Fugue in D minor as the opening to his famous animated film, Fantasia. Stokowski had spent his early years as an organist in London before moving to New York in that role. At that time it would never have crossed his mind that one day he would be appointed chief conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra, but it was there that he embarked on a series of transcriptions of Bach’s music he had played as an organist. He later moved to Bach’s orchestral works, such as the Arioso from the F minor Harpsichord Concerto, the second track on this disc, and it forms part of the eleven transcriptions here recorded, many, as in Wachet auf and Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring displaying a very light-handed approach. He was also to look at other Baroque composers who had fallen on hard times, and it is the tender adaptation of William Byrd’s Pavane and Gigue that is the undoubted gem of the disc. More familiar today are Jeremiah Clarke’s Trumpet Prelude and the Andante cantabile from the fifth of Haydn’s opus 3 string quartets. The one-time assistant to Stokowski, José Serebrier, takes some liberties in rhythmic pacing, but is a fervent advocate of these works, and that enthusiasm has obviously rubbed-off on the Bournemouth orchestra. Demonstration quality sound.

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group