Leopold Stokowski made his debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on January 2 and 3, 1958, in a program that included his orchestrations of several chorales by J.S. Bach, Brahms’s Second Symphony, Szabelski’s Toccata, and the finale from act 3 of Wagner’s Götterdämmerung. Over the next decade, he was a frequent visitor, leading concerts in Orchestra Hall and at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee.
On February 15 and 16, 1968, Stokowski returned to Chicago to conduct the Orchestra in Shostakovich’s Suite from The Golden Age and Symphony no. 6, along with Khachaturian’s Symphony no. 3. The following week at Medinah Temple, RCA recorded the program along with Rimsky-Korsakov’s Russian Easter Overture. On the subsequent release, the two works by Shostakovich were paired, and Khachaturian’s symphony and Rimsky-Korsakov’s overture were released on the same album.
“This is probably the best Age of Gold ever to be recorded—and it is certainly the funniest,” wrote the reviewer in High Fidelity. Stokowski “brings out all of the work’s many instrumental nuances, and he also manages to exploit the full potential of each melodic line and underline the ballet’s oft-changing moods.” And the writer in Stereo Review raved that Shostakovich’s Sixth Symphony was “gloriously played by Stokowski and the Chicagoans and well worth the price by itself.”
Regarding Khachaturian’s Symphony no. 3, the American Record Guide praised “the excellent organ [played by Mary Sauer] used in the performance, the satisfactory way in which it is brought into relation with the regular orchestra and the special trumpet choir [augmented to fifteen players], Stokowski’s own sharp ear for color, and the Chicago Symphony’s responsive playing.”
Image above: Leopold Stokowski and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra recording Khachaturian’s Symphony no. 3 at Medinah Temple in February 1968 (Terry’s photo)
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