• Stokowski on Chopin

This extraordinary track popped up this morning as one of Simon Callow’s choices on R3’s ‘Essential Classics’ (how I still loathe this programme title, one year on). Callow is culturally literate but even he underplayed the mind-blowing chutzpah of this arrangement.  Even harder to understand today is the milieu in which a transcription such as this was both artistically acceptable and regarded as worthy of audio recording by the LSO in the early 1970s.  But I’m glad it survives, even if only as a curiosity, one whose un-mazurka-like tempo is a rival to Bernstein’s ‘Nimrod’…


It’s almost tempting (but not quite!) to see connections in the light of today’s revelation that the ‘signer’ on Rothko’s painting at Tate Modern at the weekend is also of Polish origin.


2 Responses to • Stokowski on Chopin

  1. jonathanpowell says:

    But can we expect anything other than utter chutzpah from Stokowski? It seems to have been his milieu! He, after all, was born and raised in London, but “spoke with an unusual, non-British accent, [… and] in a letter to the Hugo Riemann Musiklexicon in 1950, [he] gave his birthplace as Kraków” [wikipedia, though, I admit]. The only time someone out-did him in terms of orchestration as far as I’m concerned is when Grainger re-orchestrated some of his works especially for Stokowski and the results were, predictably, outrageous. But there are still various oddities knocking around like this; Wroclaw opera recently staged (for the 2010 bicentennary) Giacomo Orefice’s opera Chopin. If you really want to, you can catch it next January! http://www.opera.wroclaw.pl/1/index.php?page=2&month=1&year=2013

    • Most of this stuff goes in one ear and out the other, but this stood out from the rest! I’ve never heard of this Orefice, nor his opera. It sounds a must. Did you see it? In May it’s placed next to Penderecki’s Raj utracony (which I’ve never seen), so it might be a case of going from the ridiculous to the sublime, or vice versa. But I might still go!

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