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Naxos' release spotlights the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra with much recorded, Montevideo-born conductor/composer José Serebrier, a son of Russian/Polish parents of whom Stokowski himself said 'He's the greatest master of orchestral balance'.

The BSO performance and recording are very fine indeed and a Stokowskian imprint is clearly evident throughout. Contrary to accepted practice, Stokowski encouraged 'free bowing' from his string section, 'free breathing' from the brass, and a variety of configurations in the seating of an orchestra's sections.

Whether Serebrier adheres to Stokowski's singular methods or not, inner detail is conveyed with more clarity and fire than is customary in this re-working of the opening A Night on a Bare Mountain [listen -- track 1, 0:03-1:44], a work immortalized in the Disney/Stokowski groundbreaking animated classic, Fantasia (1940). For Naxos the work is played to its serene conclusion whereas, in the film, as day breaks, Disney turns from images of Chernobog (The God of Evil in Slavic mythology) and lesser demons, blending seamlessly into Schubert's contrastingly spiritual Ave Maria.

Following a sombre and elegiac account of the 'Entr'acte to Act IV of Khovanshchina', listeners are treated to Stokowski's masterly 'Symphonic Synthesis' of Mussorgsky's powerful stage masterpiece, Boris Godunov [listen -- track 3, 7:20-9:17]. My guess is that, for many, this may well prove the highlight of Serebrier's superbly accomplished concert, as it edits the memorable tragic-drama into a telling 24-minute compass.

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Copyright © 6 August 2006 Howard Smith, Masterton, New Zealand


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