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Stock Concerto

>>Stock Concerto

On October 22, 2000 I resurrected a cello concerto that has not been heard in 60 years. It is theConcerto in d minorby Frederick Stock.

Frederick Stock was the music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) from 1904-1943. In addition to being a much beloved conductor here in Chicago, he was a prolific composer and arranger. He wrote the Cello Concerto for Alfred Wallenstein, the then-Principal Cellist of the CSO, in 1928. The world premiere took place in January, 1929, and featured Wallenstein with Stock conducting the CSO.

Wallenstein played it again in Chicago with Stock in March of 1929 and then in the summer of 1929 at the Hollywood Bowl (Stock's sole appearance as a conductor with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra). After becoming Principal Cellist of the New York Philharmonic, Wallenstein performed the concerto in Carnegie Hall in April of 1932 with the New York Philharmonic conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham. (A mere week prior to this performance, Wallenstein and Beecham made their legendary recording of R. Strauss'Don Quixote).

The Concerto, which remains unpublished, was played only 2 more times: in 1939, Edmund Kurtz, another former CSO Principal, played it with Stock and the CSO. In 1940, none other than Gregor Piatigorsky performed the piece with Stock and the CSO in Chicago.

Another "flirtation" with performing the piece came in the 1950's. CSO violinist, Fred Spector, recalls that CSO cellist Joseph Saunders was able to arrange for a solo appearance with the CSO. After several weeks of trying to "decipher" the Stock Concerto, Saunders deemed it too difficult and opted to play the Victor Herbert Concerto #2 instead.

I learned of the Concerto when I was a free-lancer in Chicago about 25 years ago. One of my colleagues was Theodore Ratxer, a CSO Cellist from 1920-57. He told me about the Concerto and even played some of the main tunes from memory for me (he hadn't heard the piece in maybe 35 years!). He and other former Stock-era CSO members recalled the piece fondly but warned that it was "over-orchestrated."

It's always been a dream of mine to play the piece. When the conductor of the Harper Symphony, Frank Winler, wanted to re-engage me as soloist, he said "Let's do something different." I think the Stock fills the bill, and then some!

It's hard to describe in words what the piece sounds like. I've only heard the piano reduction of the score thus far and all I can say at this point is that the piece is extremely chromatic à la early Schoenberg and thickly orchestrated à la R. Strauss. The piece is dark and turgid, yet passionate and impressionistic. Quite a combination! The finale includes a wild waltz reminiscent of Ravel'sLa Valseand Strauss'Dance of the 7 Veilscombined.

Gary Stucka

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