Penn Library

Leopold Stokowski:
Making Music Matter

Curated by Marjorie Hassen

Otto E. Albrecht Music Library
University of Pennsylvania

Musical Transformations

When Handel wrote the Messiah, he conceived of choruses of heroic dimensions which produced a glorious ocean of sounds but the orchestra of his time was limited and the instruments were far less evolved than they are today. To play and sing this music today we should, in my opinion, try to conceive of the orchestra as Handel himself would conceive of it, if he had the instrumental potentialities we have today. This is what I have tried to do with some of Bach's music. Naturally those whose minds are concerned with the written and literal aspects of music--in our imagination--will not admit the constant evolution of music and the never-ending growth of its expression.
--Leopold Stokowski
Music for All of Us

Of all the elements of Stokowski's legacy the least likely to elicit indifference are his orchestral arrangements. Detractors bridle at their blatantly colorful exploitation of the orchestral palette, but their playful ingenuity continues to prove appealing to audiences even today. The art of "transcription" allowed Stokowski the chance to stretch his sonic imagination. It also satisfied his desire to present music that he believed otherwise unavailable to concert audiences. He orchestrated works written originally for other media, created "symphonic syntheses" of operatic literature, and reorchestrated existing instrumental works. Almost two hundred of such arrangements survive, the majority only in manuscript. His reworkings of Bach keyboard compositions are the most commonly encountered examples, yet they comprise but a fraction of the total number, which ranges from Jean-Philippe Rameau to John Philip Sousa.

Stokowski on the Bach Transcriptions
[RealPlayer required]
From a lecture at Bryn Mawr College, 4 February 1963

Introduction Table of Contents

Last update: Thursday, 16-Jun-2011 14:07:54 EDT
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