℗ © 2013 Countdown Media GmbH
Original description from the included liner notes:
Leopold Stokowski, painter in orchestral colors, is given a full opportunity to display the wide range of his palette in this variegated musical program. The colors are made more vivid through the amazing amount of orchestral detail and instrumental presence revealed by Everest’s recording.
Wagner: Wotan’s Farewell and Magic Fire
Music from Die Walkure
Wotan’s Farewell and the Magic Fire Music constitute the closing pages of Die Walkure, the second of the four music-dramas that make up Wagner’s Nibelungen Ring cycle. The warrior-goddess Brunnhilde has disobeyed her father Wotan, ruler of the gods, and has sought in vain to protect Siegmund in his battle with Hunding. Now she must be punished. The irate Wotan declares that she shall lose her immortality and be put to sleep on the Valkyries’ Rock, where the first stranger who happens by may claim her. Realizing that the punishment is inevitable, Brunnhilde pleads with her father at least to surround the rock with a wall of magic fire so that only a true hero may penetrate the flames and find her. Wotan accedes to this final plea. And now he begins a long, tender and noble farewell to his favorite daughter, whom only the law of the gods has made him punish in this way. Gently he kisses her on each eye, and immediately she falls into a deep sleep. Then he calls upon Loge, the god of fire, to send up a protecting wall of flame. Immediately, flames begin to curl and flicker around the rock, growing constantly higher and more brilliant. The motion of the flames is vividly portrayed in the orchestra by the high woodwind instruments. Running as a counter-theme to this is heard, first, the motif of Brunnhilde’s slumber, then the motif of Siegfried, prophesying that it is this as yet unborn hero who will one day awaken her from sleep.
In making his concert arrangement of this beautiful and moving scene, Leopold Stokowski has retained much of Wagner’s original orchestration. His principal alterations have involved transforming Wotan’s vocal lines into instrumental passages.
Chopin: Piano Music (Transcribed by
Among the most imaginative of Chopin’s compositions for the piano are his fifty-one Mazurkas, highly artistic, refined stylizations of this Polish national dance in three quarter time. And among the most delicately subtle of them all is the Mazurka in A Minor, Op. 17, No. 4. In this poetic evocation, the composer has left the dance far behind; only in the brief middle section do we hear a suggestion of lively dance music. The end sections, which comprise the principal portion of this work, have been described by Herbert Weinstock as “darkling poetry charged with half lighted magic.” In Mr. Stokowski’s transcription, the solos in this mysteriously romantic music are allotted to a muted trumpet and a flute.
Inspired, perhaps by Bach’s two books of preludes and fugues of The Well-Tempered Clavier, running twice through all the major and minor keys, Chopin composed a set of twenty-four Preludes, which were published in 1839 as Op. 28. These pieces, which vary greatly in length and mood, also cover the complete range of tonalities, beginning with a work in C major, continuing with one in the relative A minor, and running thus through all the ascending sharp and descending flat key signatures. The Prelude No. 24 in D Minor, the stormiest, most dramatic of all, is accorded appropriately stormy treatment here in a setting for full orchestra.
As he did with the mazurka, Chopin also brought to the waltz a new intimate and poetic stylization. Among the most familiar of his fourteen Waltzes is the graceful, melodious and rhythmically interesting Waltz in C sharp Minor, Op. 64, No. 2. In his orchestration of it, Mr. Stokowski has made effective use of many different solo instruments, including the celesta and harp.
Canning: Fantasy on a Hymn Tune by
Thomas Canning was born in Brookville, Pennsylvania, in 1911. Educated at Oberlin Conservatory and at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, he now teaches theory and composition at the latter institution. The Fantasy on a Hymn Tune by Justin Morgan for Double String Quartet and String Orchestra was written at Brookville in April, 1944. It was first performed two years later under the direction of Howard Hanson during a symposium of American music held at the Eastman School of Music.
The music upon which the Fantasy is based is the hymn tune Amanada by Justin Morgan (1747-1798), one of a group of early American composers who wrote music for the “hymn sings” which were so popular during the latter part of the eighteenth century, particularly in New England. Those familiar with the Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis for Double String Orchestra by the late British composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams, will note a similarity in treatment and scoring between it and the work recorded here. The Fantasy begins with an introduction, after which the hymn tune is heard in two different guises. The music is then developed, and the hymn tune returns to bring the work to its conclusion. Here and there, the double quartet or individual members of it appear in brief solo passages that contrast with those of the full string orchestra. Although cast in a modern mold, the music is pervaded by an unmistakable air of antiquity.
In point of years and the age of most of its players, the Houston Symphony Orchestra is one of the youngest of the nation’s major symphonic organizations, yet it ranks high among the leading orchestras of the land. Though it can trace its ancestry back to 1913, the present orchestra was established in 1930, and presented its first full season the following year. Uriel Nespoli and Frank St. Leger were the first conductors, after which Ernst Hoffmann led the orchestra for eleven years, until 1947. Under his direction, the Houston Symphony “came of age.” Efrem Kurtz served as conductor for six seasons. There followed two seasons of guest conductors, with Sir Thomas Beecham leading ten concerts during 1954-55. Since 1955, the orchestra has been under the inspired guidance of Leopold Stokowski, who has enlarged and perfected the ensemble and increased the scope of its activities. A brilliant interpreter of the standard repertoire, Stokowski is always eager to let audiences hear the finest contemporary music, as well. He has infused the orchestra with his own unique rich brand of tone color. Long an experimenter in the forefront of recorded sound, he also makes certain that the playing he elicits from his musicians will be reproduced as faithfully as possible. As the sound of this recording will attest, he has the wholehearted support of Everest’s unsurpassed engineering and recording technique.