Leopold Stokowski conducts Beethoven's 5th Symphony - Paul Paray conducts Fauré

London Philharmonic Orchestra - Orchestre Philharmonique de l’ORTF

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London Philharmonic Orchestra

Leopold Stokowski — Conductor

Orchestre de l'ORTF

Paul Paray — Conductor

Program notes

Leopold Stokowski in Beethoven, Paul Paray in Fauré: an excellent cast.

They are almost the same age, they lived to a ripe old age, they are both conductors. But Leopold Stokowski, born in 1882, and Paul Paray, born in 1886, have nothing else in common.

Stokowski, of Polish and Irish descent and English extraction, departed at the age of twenty to explore the New World. During his career as a prominent orchestra conductor, he encountered two notable figures from Hollywood: Mickey Mouse, with whom he shared a handshake in Walt Disney's Fantasia, and Greta Garbo, who responded to him with a different line. A charismatic and temperamental conductor, Stokowski directed the Philadelphia Orchestra for a quarter of a century, during which time he transformed it into one of the best orchestras in the world. He achieved this by fashioning a spectacular sound with his bare hands. He transcribed music liberally, respecting the text of the scores when it suited him, and offered the American continent two thousand premières. He was an adventurer who, at ninety-five, signed a contract to celebrate his centenary gala evening. However, in 1977, the conductor from Philadelphia died.

In the autumn of his life, Stokowski returns to his native England. In 1969, at the age of eighty-seven, he directs the London Philharmonic Orchestra in a rendition of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony that is almost classical in nature, exhibiting intense and thundering qualities. This performance can be considered a manifestation of "fate knocking at the door," as Beethoven intended when he imagined the four famous notes that open the masterpiece.

Paul Paray, a Frenchman born in Tréport and who died in Monte Carlo, exemplifies the typical French conductor. Although he spent part of his career in the United States, he never desired to settle there. His inner geography was confined to France, and the music he defended was French. This was evident from the outset of his career, as he composed his first Magnificat at the age of fourteen, having studied Gregorian music and polyphony at the Maîtrise Saint Evode at Rouen Cathedral. In 1911, he was awarded the Rome Prize, which entitled him to reside at the Villa Medicis.

He was known for his honesty and integrity, and he refused to conduct in Paris during the Second World War. He also refused to disclose the names of Jewish musicians. Instead, he relocated to Monaco, where he attempted to assist musicians who were experiencing difficulties. He died in Monaco at the age of ninety-three.

At the age of eighty-five, in 1971, Paul Paray conducted Fauré's Pelléas et Mélisande with the Philharmonic Orchestra of the ORTF. Paray's interpretation of the piece seems to have been written for him, with a mysterious, poetic quality.

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