Brahms: Symphony No.2
Mendelssohn Symphony No.4 'Italian'
National Philharmonic Orchestra
Of the two composers represented here, it was Brahms who was a constant mainstay of Leopold Stokowski's repertoire throughout his long career. On the other hand, Mendelssohn's music was only occasionally included on his earliest concert programmes and began to disappear from them around the time of the First World War. Stokowski gave the Reformation Symphony (No.5) a solitary Philadelphia reading in 1917, though the Scotch Symphony (No.3) fared better with half-a-dozen performances between 1912 and 1922. He conducted this work on one further occasion—in 1947 with the New York Philharmonic—a meticulous rendering given the highest praise when the performance was released on CD a few years ago. His only 78s of any of Mendelssohn's music were two recordings, made in 1917 and 1941 respectively, of the Scherzo from A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Stokowski conducted the Italian Symphony for the first time during 1914 in a pair of Philadelphia concerts in which his wife Olga Samaroff played Tchaikovsky's 1st Piano Concerto. He programmed the symphony again in 1917, in what proved to be his last public performance of the work. Paradoxically, sixty years later, when he returned to the Italian Symphony for the 1977 studio recording heard here, the great nonagenarian was conducting one of the most youthful works in the classical repertoire.