MUSSORGSKY (arr. Stokowski) Night on Bald Mountain: great compositions/performances

MUSSORGSKY (arr. Stokowski) Night on Bald Mountain

Here is Leopold Stokowski‘s (1882-1977) transcription of Modest Mussorgsky‘s “Night on Bald Mountain”. This is the version most famously featured as the ending sequence of the Disney film “Fantasia” (1948), and that most famously caused quite an uproar among movie-goers due to the demonic imagery used in the aforementioned clip.

Stokowski was a prodigy along the lines of Maazel, entering into the Royal Academy of Music to study composition and conducting at the age of merely 13. During his long span as one of the most prominent and important conductors (not to mention one of the greatest) he was actually a very controversial figure. What many people probably don’t know is that Stokowski was a great champion of contemporary music, giving the U.S. and/or world premieres of works by Elgar, Vaughn Williams, Prokofiev, Schoenberg, Hovhaness, Copland, Barber, Berg, Feldman and other contemporary composers. He is also very important to the history of modern concert practice as well, popularizing the batonless technique of conducting, as well as inventing and popularizing the “pops concert” and the modern chairing of a symphony orchestra. He was able to produce what was then referred to as “the Stokowski Sound”, although what is now called “the Philly Sound” (one of the many, illustrious orchestras he was resident conductor for), and was the greatest influence on many conductors proceeding him, particularly Leonard Bernstein. His transcriptions and editing of works were considered uncoif at the time, a practice that had long since become outdated as printed music became more available, but they are now one of the things he is best-known for, particularly this and his orchestration of Bach’s Toccata en Fugue in D Minor BWV 565.

Performed here in 1966 by the London Symphony Orchestra.

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