Symphony no. 4 (Italian) [+ Bizet: Symphony in C] (Stokowski)
Each of these symphonies is a youthful effort published posthumously. Much the same might be said of this record, which shows that even at 95, a few weeks before his death, Stokowski was still afire with youthful joie de vivre. Both scores are made to sound brightly and breezily Italian in their airy clarity. The highlight is the Bizet finale; in the Rossinian toyshop-ballet style no doubt envisaged by that great music critic Baudelaire when he wrote “Nous imitons, horreur! la toupie et la boule”. The top of the music is whipped into a sonorous froth which will appeal to all but the most austere tastes. Mendelssohn has more substance to offer; but his special atmosphere, though deriving from high registers rather than light textures, can easily sound just as rarefied, not to say thin. Stokowski keeps the music's feet on the ground by his ebullient insistence on dance rhythms, not only in the avowedly saltarello pulse of the finale but in the springing lilt of the first movement and the minuet measures of the third. Even the pilgrims of the Andante con moto seem, like Belloc, to be dancing rather than marching their way to Rome. Thus an old maestromemorably reanimates two boyish masterpieces, by a combination of charm, confectionery and choreography.
The Musical Times, Feb. 1979 (p. 132) © the estate of eric sams