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Resplendent performance

Stokowski conducts
Mendelssohn and Brahms -

'They were clearly devoted to the old wizard, and they play their hearts out for him.'

Stokowski. Brahms: Symphony No 2; Mendelssohn: Symphony No 4 'Italian'. © 2001 CALA Records Ltd


You would be hard-put indeed to find a more joyous and life-affirming experience than listening to this disc. All the more amazing, then, to find that the performances enshrined here were conducted by a man over ninety-five years of age. The legendary Leopold Stokowski recorded these two familiar symphonies in London, in May and June 1977, just a few months before his death, and both the performances and the recordings come up as fresh as paint.

The old maestro attracted a fair amount of criticism in his time for the liberties he sometimes took with the music he conducted, and for performances that could sometimes be quirky and eccentric. He was, it is true, an individual, and a 'character', but he was also a musician to his very bones, full of heart and passion, and possessing a genius for inspiring those who played under him to radiate the sheer joy he felt in making music.

There is nothing here, however, that needs to be taken with the cautionary pinch of salt. These are marvellous performances that radiate optimism, warmth and joie-de-vivre.

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Copyright © 22 May 2002 David Thompson, Eastwood, Essex, UK




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