"This sacd is truly wonderful. Under the leadmanship of Stokowsky all music becomes something extraordinary. Start with the majestic notes of Liszt's Hungarian rhapsody & end with Wagner. And don't forget smetana's moldau! Then I switched to the 3-channel mix on the SACD. The orchestra became much wider & deeper on the soundstage, with the flute solo in the Moldau front & center with greatest clarity & presence…" ~audiophile-audition
Not all of the Liszt Hungarian Rhapsodies are flat-out showpieces like the best-known ones, so this disc makes for a better listening program than you might expect. And Jénö Jandó, who must be the hardest-working pianist in the recording business, has a real flair for this music. He plays with the combination of free rhythms and virtuosity that the music demands, and he even indulges in a bit of improvisation when the spirit moves him. This was probably something Liszt did himself, and other great Liszt interpreters such as Rachmaninov and Cziffra have done the same thing. Jandó doesn't quite have Cziffra's overwhelming virtuosity, but he plays musically and the result is a highly entertaining disc.
Two years ago, on the occasion of the two hundredth anniversary of Liszt’s birth, the internationally renowned Austrian conductor Martin Haselböck began releasing his complete orchestral works in performances on original instruments of the nineteenth century. The Hungarian Rhapsodies number among Liszt’s most popular compositions.
Only a favored number of very old conductors manage the secret of getting more fascinating as the years progress. Like Pablo Casals, Stokowski belonged to that tiny elite. for that reason I've collected all the BBC Legends issues devoted to him, which date from his frequent sojourns to England in his eighties and nineties. Britten's Young Person's Guide from a Proms concert in royal Albert Hall in 1963 with the BBC Sym. features more vivid, up-close sound. This reading has been reissued quite a lot and is marked by Stokowski's rather grave, measured interpretation. He takes this work more seriously than anyone else I've heard; the results are impressive, and more than once you think you're hearing him revisit one of his famous grandiose Bach transcriptions. As an earlier reviewer notes, each variation is turned into a set piece.
Leopold Stokowski had a particular love for Falla's El Amor Brujo. In Oliver Daniel's biography of Stokowski (A Counterpoint of View), soprano Rose Bampton spoke of Stokowski working with her in preparation for a Philadelphia Orchestra concert, telling her the plot in such a "hair-raising" manner that she was left "white and shocked." Stokowski also selected El Amor Brujo for his return to the Philadelphia Orchestra after a 19 year hiatus in January 1959.