Stokowski: Bach Transcriptions

COMPOSERS: Stokowski
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Stokowski
WORKS: Bach Transcriptions
PERFORMER: Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/José Serebrier
CATALOGUE NO: 8.557883
Of the many orchestrations made of Bach’s music in the murky era before it eventually attained mass popularity, Stokowski’s were among the most important. Stoki’s own image was glitzy, but the transcriptions gathered in this new collection are frequently marked by restraint and tasteful musicality. The famous G string Air, for instance, is craftily given mainly to the cellos, adding emotional ballast to what could have been sickly aural Sachertorte, and there’s an airiness to the flute-oboe interchanges in ‘Sheep may Safely Graze’.

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Bigger guns (heavy brass and percussion) are wielded in the mighty Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, but sparingly, and Stokowski’s sonic reconstruction of what he called the work’s ‘soaring mysticism given eternal form’ is undeniably impressive. The chorale prelude, ‘Nun komm’ der Heiden Heiland’ is another obvious highlight.

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Serebrier, who knew and worked with Stokowski, draws committed and eloquent playing from the Bournemouth orchestra. Though aimed at something of a niche market, this disc casts familiar music in a new light. Terry Blain