Bach Transcriptions 2 Released: Final Recording In Series

On January 27, Naxos releases the final recording in a series of orchestral transcriptions (and syntheses) by Leopold Stokowski led by Stokowski’s protégé, the GRAMMY-winning conductor and composer José Serebrier, and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. Bach Transcriptions 2 (Naxos 8572050) includes the most famous Bach orchestration of all: the celebrated Toccata and Fugue in D minor, which reached its widest public in Walt Disney’s Fantasia. The recording also introduces a program of sumptuous arrangements, including other music from the pre- and post-Baroque periods.Stokowski discovered Bach during his early years as a church organist in London and New York. Serebrier notes “Stokowski attempted to emulate the sound of the gigantic organ, using every available orchestral instrument, literally pulling out all the stops, as if he was still sitting at the organ.”

Serebrier also comments:

“The Bournemouth musicians and I had so much fun recording these four volumes of Stokowski orchestrations, that we are sorry that the series is now finished, but I look forward to recording other repertoire with this wonderful orchestra. The 4th CD includes some works that were all time best sellers in the early part of the Twentieth Century. The Toccata and Fugue was included after we received numerous letters from listeners and critics asking for it. That is a very challenging work, and I had avoided it before because it is so closely identified with Stokowski and his wonderful numerous versions, but now I am delighted to have included it, and given my own personal view of this masterful, brilliant orchestration. I recently gave a concert in Israel in which I included several original Bach works on Baroque instruments, followed by orchestrations by Mitropoulos, Stokowski and others. The orchestrations and the originals are not exclusive of each other. Thanks to these colorful orchestrations Bach became known to entire generations.”

Bach-Stokowski Transcriptions 1 (Naxos 8557883), was released in June of 2006. It followed the 2005 release of Stokowski’s Mussorgsky and Tchaikovsky Transcriptions (Naxos 8557645), a recording universally praised by critics and receiving two Grammy® nominations. ClassicsToday.com assigned the CD its highest rating, and called it “spectacular, sensational … this is the real deal.”

In 2007, Serebrier’s recording of Wagner: Symphonic Syntheses by Leopold Stokowski (Naxos 8570293) led Gramophone to remark: “It would be hard to imagine a more sumptuous disc. Stokowski, in these ‘symphonic syntheses,’ enhances Wagner’s already opulent orchestration with shrewdly added instrumental lines and with the vocal parts usually given to the strings. José Serebrier conducts the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in thrilling performances, passionate in a genuinely Stokowskian manner…” MusicWeb International chose this CD as a “Recording of the Year,” commenting: “José Serebrier invests a fragrant and voluptuous sensuality to match the unbridled passion of the celebrated Liebestod that follows where its mounting excitement is literally edge-of-the-seat stuff.”

The idea for the Naxos recordings of Stokowski’s transcriptions originated from the Leopold Stokowski Society itself, which approached Serebrier in 2003. After graduating from Curtis, while still in his teens, Serebrier enjoyed a close working association with Stokowski, serving for many years as the Associate Conductor for the American Symphony Orchestra, which Stokowski founded. Stokowski also premiered a number of Serebrier’s own compositions, including his First Symphony, when the composer was 17 years old.