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CD Review

Dmitri Shostakovich

1958/9 European Columbia Original Production

Symphony of the Air/Leopold Stokowski
* Houston Symphony Orchestra/Leopold Stokowski
Urania Records Widescreen Collection WS121.114 2CDs
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Old wine in new bottles. Along with Newton Classics and EMI and Sony companies are raiding their vaults and issuing Stokowski recordings. This Houston recording of the Shostakovich 11th was considered audiophile when on LP. The sound here is excellent but all three recordings are also available on a 10 disc set from EMI for around $5.80 a disc to the $8 a disc for this release and the sound here is no different from there. To make matters worse, the Symphony #1 starts at the end of the Symphony #11 and then finishes up on the next disc. This is not the case on the EMI set. I've listened to the Newton release of the Dvořák, Vaughan Williams and Purcell and it, too, is excellent but not better than the original EMI release. EMI has also reissued Stokowski's Bach transcriptions and, once again, there's no improvement in the sound.

It boils down to the fact that if you already have these in your collection (and I imagine most of my readers do) there is no reason to replace them. You may want to get them as a gift and certainly if you are just coming to the music-making of Stokowski they are the only game in town since the originals have been deleted. (The 10-disc set on EMI doesn't include the Dvořák mentioned nor the Rachmaninoff Symphony #3 so you might want to get them if you didn't get the original issues). It would be nice if the record companies would reissue this material in SACD format. In a peculiar recent release Sony has issued the Liszt/Enesco recording in regular format while the RCA SACD is still in the catalogue. Whatever.

Copyright © 2011, Robert Stumpf II