Friday, April 3, 2015

Rimsky-Korsakov: Russian Easter Overture (Stokowski, 1942)

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
(portrait by Ilya Repin, 1893)
For Easter weekend, and in celebration of Leopold Stokowski's birth month (April 18, 1882), I present one of Stoki's more controversial interpretations, that of Rimsky-Korsakov's 1888 Russian Easter Overture. Controversial, because it features one of his many retouchings of orchestral scoring - and this in a work by a composer renowned for his mastery of orchestration! In this case, an anonymous male voice substitutes for a trombone in the recitative-like middle section, singing words of the Russian liturgy:

Rimsky-Korsakov: Russian Easter Overture, Op. 36
NBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Leopold Stokowski
Recorded April 23, 1942
Victor Musical Masterpiece set DM-937, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 33.71 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 23.40 MB)

This brilliant piece must have been particularly dear to Stokowski, for he recorded it no less than four times - in 1929 with the Philadelphia Orchestra; the present version; in 1953 with "his symphony orchestra"; and in 1968 with the Chicago Symphony. The 1953 recording also uses the voice-for-trombone substitution; there, the singing is credited to bass Nicola Moscona. (Moscona can be heard on this recording of the Beethoven Ninth Symphony.)

A happy and blessed Easter to everyone!


  1. Alternate links:

    FLAC -

    MP3 -

  2. Many thanks Bryan. Stoki real;y knew how to make this piece "go," and while the voice for trombone substitution makes the implicit explicit, it is still a fascinating idea.