A classical music blog by music critic Tim Mangan
Review: Stokowski comes back to the Bowl. Los Angeles Register, Aug. 27, 2014.
classical music, reviews
Hollywood Bowl, Leopold Stokowski, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Marc-Andre Hamelin, Stephane Deneve
August 28, 2014
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Wonderful review (especially the metaphors: Pacino to breakfasting bears …:).
You wrote that “Ravel beats him [Stokowski] at every turn”, but to me it seemed that “at most turns” would be a more accurate assessment. For example, in “Promenades” the music depicts a viewer walking from painting to painting, with character of that walk changing after seeing more and more of the pictures. These character changes are more subtle in Ravel and more drastic in Stokowski, which simply means that the latter’s protagonist is a more impressionable viewer than the former’s – in my opinion, both are equally legitimate interpretations. Also, i thought the chickens are very inventively portrayed in Stokowski’s version – at least as good as in Ravel’s. Using saxophone in Ravel’s “Old Castle” is an easy but questionable decision that strikes me as a bit of anachronistic cheating, and i think that Stokowski’s alternative of English horn sounds very good and appropriate in that beautiful melody. The “Two Jews” always left me dissatisfied in Ravel because giving all “Poor Jew” music to trumpet makes it sound much too brilliant instead of whiny and pathetic. In Stokowski’s orchestration trumpet is again included, but he gives at least half of “Poor Jew” music to oboe, partly doubled by piccolo – and for me, this is a more effective solution. Finally, in order to fairly compare the two versions, one would have to hear them performed by a well-prepared orchestra that is equally familiar with both orchestrations. That was not the case here because this orchestra knows the Ravel much better than all other orchestrations and, given infamously limited rehearsal time at the Bowl, did not have a chance to get anywhere close to the desired level of comfort with the very challenging Stokowski. Overall though, Ravel certainly remains the preferred version between these two, if only because omitting such marvelous sections as “Limoges” and “Tuileries” is, in my opinion, unforgivable.
MarK, those are good points re the orchestration, whether I agree with them or not. I would say there were “moments” that Stokowski perhaps “equaled” Ravel, but I don’t think there was an entire movement where I felt that Stokowski took the prize.
Funny how we both can’t resist comparing, as if anything in music should be a competitive contest with prizes and medals to be awarded. Anyway, thanks for the clarification.
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