Serebrier’s Stokowski Transcriptions: A Fine Selection

Review by: David Hurwitz


Artistic Quality: 10

Sound Quality: 9

José Serebrier’s several discs of Stokowski transcriptions for Naxos were very successful, as this well-chosen selection reminds us. Stoki was not really a “great” orchestrator, if by this we mean organic and idiomatic, but he was distinctive. His timbral palette was based on a rich string sound, with splashes of color and “special effects” added capriciously and often garishly, seemingly at whim. This is most obvious in the transcription of Mussorgsky’s A Night on Bald [Bare] Mountain, with its tam-tam concerto climax. The only way to do it is to “go for it” with 100% conviction. This is what made Stoki’s own performances so effective, and that’s just what Serebrier does too.

I also enjoy these Wagner arrangements (Ride of the Valkyries and Entrance of the Gods into Valhalla) if only because Stokowski had the chutzpah to diddle with original work by one of the inarguably great orchestrators that music has ever known. Improvements they may not be, but it’s hard not to delight in hearing the mustaches painted on these particular Mona Lisas. The Bach transcriptions (Toccata and Fugue in D minor, Air on the G string, Sheep May Safely Graze, “Little” Fugue in G minor) are some of Stokowski’s most famous, and are more respectful, relatively speaking. Serebrier plays them just about as well as Stokowski did. The shorter bits by Tchaikovsky (Solitude), Purcell (Dido’s Lament), Boccherini (Minuet), and Stoki himself (Traditional Slavic Christmas Music) are sinfully rich and sticky-sweet, just as they should be.

Fine engineering rounds off a collection that makes a logical choice if you’re looking for a single disc “best of Stokowski” sampler.

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Stokowski (various labels)

Arrangements of works by Bach, Wagner, Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky, Purcell, Boccherini, traditional

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