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Pierre Monteux In France 1952-58 Concert Performances


Release Date: 07/18/2006 
Label:  Music & Arts Programs Of America Catalog #: 1182   Spars Code: AAD 
Composer:  Igor StravinskyNikolai Rimsky-KorsakovLudwig van BeethovenWolfgang Amadeus Mozart,   ... 
Performer:  Josef GreindlHélène BouvierLibero De LucaMaria Stader,   ... 
Conductor:  Pierre Monteux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National Orchestra
Number of Discs: 8 
Recorded in: Mono 
Length: 9 Hours 34 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Let me cut to the chase immediately—this is a fabulous set. Kit Higginson, who is responsible for the transfers working from French Radio tapes, has done a superb job. Where there are defects in the originals (and there are very few), Music & Arts notes them with candor in the booklet. None of the defects gets in the way of serious enjoyment, and the overall monaural sound is very high broadcast quality for the 1950s. Music & Arts is pricing this eight-disc set as if it were six CDs.

Much of this material was recorded commercially by Monteux, and a good deal of that with better orchestras (the Chicago Symphony in the Franck, and Boston for quite a few works). But there is no denying the presence here of a spontaneity,
Read more a bit of extra energy and an occasional fanciful touch that Monteux would have avoided in a studio setting, and anyone who is interested in the art of music-making at its best in the 20th century will derive enormous pleasure from this set.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on the Monteux discography, particularly when it comes to live-performance issues on labels that specialize in that kind of material. However, to my knowledge, this set adds the following repertoire to that discography for the first time: the Couperin/Milhaud La sultane excerpts; Debussy’s Jeux; Hindemith’s Nobilissima visione; Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24 and Violin Concerto No. 5; Prokofiev’s “Classical” Symphony; Ravel’s Shéhérazade; and Respighi’s Pines of Rome. That alone would make this a set of enormous value, but there is considerably more merit contained in these eight discs. Some of the repertoire Monteux only recorded with inferior French orchestras—this Orchestre National (formerly the French Radio and Television Orchestra) being the only French orchestra that he took pleasure in working with, and the only one that gave him truly professional effort and results. John Canarina’s superb accompanying notes explain in more detail.

Even some of the material he recorded commercially with the Boston Symphony sounds different, and perhaps more satisfying, here. The Tchaikovsky Fifth Symphony is a good example. Monteux takes some interpretive liberties here, making some risky tempo adjustments that simply do not appear on his commercial recording. You might react positively to some, negatively to others—but the fact is that this spontaneity adds a frisson to these performances throughout.

Rather than taking Fanfare space to comment on each performance, I would prefer to comment on Monteux’s overall art, and then perhaps single out a few highlights. Monteux is one of the more difficult conductors to describe, because he avoided the highly idiosyncratic interpretive profile of conductors like Mengelberg, Furtwängler, or Bernstein, and he avoided the cult and aura of personality and “stardom” that surrounded the likes of Karajan. Nor did he exhibit the phenomenal energy and dynamism of a Georg Solti. But what he had were some musical characteristics that were his alone—or at least his to a degree not found in combination in others. His conducting was elegance personified, but elegance without extreme delicacy or fussiness. His textures were clear and perfectly balanced, but when the sound required weight, it was there. He always saw the big picture—so whatever tempo adjustments he might make related to the whole, not solely to the moment. He could be remarkably incisive (this performance of The Rite of Spring, despite some less than virtuoso orchestral playing, is perhaps the most crisp and incisive of all of Monteux’s recordings of this piece), but could also display a ravishing legato.

Although his LSO recording of the Enigma Variations has always been a favorite, this live one with an orchestra that could not have known the score very well may be even better. One trick in conducting Elgar’s masterpiece is to give the “Nimrod” variation all the interpretive juice it merits, without making it seem like a separate piece of music, apart from the whole. Monteux manages that, through tempo relationships, through dynamic shading—“Nimrod” is stunningly beautiful, but it is definitely neither the beginning nor end of Enigma. Ravel’s Shéhérazade, which he never recorded, is just exquisite here—and the singing of Germaine Moysan is almost like that of another instrument in the orchestra, so well blended is it. As for the Franck D-Minor Symphony, it is for a good reason that the Monteux/Chicago recording is a classic among collectors, but again there is something to be said about that little extra pizzazz, the occasional unexpected turn of phrase, that one hears in this live performance.

A few other items that add even more value to this set: Monteux’s witty conducting of the Prokofiev “Classical” Symphony—you can almost feel him smiling; Milhaud’s skillful arrangement of Couperin, just the kind of thing that is sadly out of fashion now; and the beautiful combination of Casadesus and Monteux in the Mozart C-Minor Piano Concerto—a thing of beauty.

There is little more to say. If you are a fan of Monteux’s conducting, this set will self-recommend, particularly because it is so well produced. If you want evidence as to why Pierre Monteux is as highly regarded by musicians throughout the world (particularly orchestral musicians who have played under him), this set provides it.

FANFARE: Henry Fogel
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Works on This Recording

1. Pétrouchka by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Pierre Monteux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Switzerland 
Venue:  Live  Paris, France 
Notes: Version: 1911
Paris, France (05/08/1958 - 05/09/1958)
Composition written: Switzerland (1911).
Composition revised: 1947. 
2. Le sacre du printemps by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Pierre Monteux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911-1913 
Date of Recording: 06/17/1955 
Venue:  Live  Strasbourg, France 
Notes: Composition written: Switzerland (1911 - 1913).
Composition revised: USA (1943). 
3. Golden Cockerel: Suite by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Conductor:  Pierre Monteux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1907; Russia 
Date of Recording: 05/08/1958 
Venue:  Live  Paris, France 
4. Symphony no 9 in D minor, Op. 125 "Choral" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Josef Greindl (Bass), Hélène Bouvier (Alto), Libero De Luca (Tenor),
Maria Stader (Soprano)
Conductor:  Pierre Monteux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1822-1824; Vienna, Austria 
Venue:  Live  Paris, France 
Language: German 
Notes: Paris, France (11/06/1958 - 11/08/1958) 
5. Symphony no 2 in D major, Op. 36 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Pierre Monteux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1801-1802; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 05/03/1956 
Venue:  Live  Paris, France 
6. Concerto for Piano no 24 in C minor, K 491 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Robert Casadesus (Piano)
Conductor:  Pierre Monteux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1786; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 09/22/1958 
Venue:  Live  Paris, France 
7. Symphony no 1 in D major, Op. 25 "Classical" by Sergei Prokofiev
Conductor:  Pierre Monteux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1916-1917; Russia 
Date of Recording: 05/08/1958 
Venue:  Live  Paris, France 
8. Concerto for Violin no 5 in A major, K 219 "Turkish" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Annie Jodry (Violin)
Conductor:  Pierre Monteux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National Orchestra
Written: 1775 
Date of Recording: 06/17/1955 
Venue:  Live  Strasbourg, France 
9. Symphony no 8 in F major, Op. 93 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Pierre Monteux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1812; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 06/17/1955 
Venue:  Live  Strasbourg, France 
10. Nobilissima Visione by Paul Hindemith
Conductor:  Pierre Monteux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1938; Switzerland 
Date of Recording: 11/08/1958 
Venue:  Live  Strasbourg, France 
11. Images for Orchestra by Claude Debussy
Conductor:  Pierre Monteux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1905-1912; France 
Date of Recording: 05/03/1956 
Venue:  Live  Paris, France 
12. Shéhérazade by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  G. Moysan (Soprano)
Conductor:  Pierre Monteux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1903; France 
Date of Recording: 06/13/1952 
Venue:  Live  Strasbourg, France 
13. Jeux by Claude Debussy
Conductor:  Pierre Monteux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1912-1913; France 
Date of Recording: 06/09/1955 
Venue:  Live  Paris, France 
14. Danse sacrée et danse profane: Danse profane by Claude Debussy
Conductor:  Pierre Monteux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1904; France 
Date of Recording: 06/09/1955 
Venue:  Live  Paris, France 
15. Sonata for 2 Violins, Viola da Gamba and Basso Continuo in D minor "La sultane" by François Couperin
Conductor:  Pierre Monteux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National Orchestra
Period: Baroque 
Written: Paris, France 
Date of Recording: 11/08/1958 
Venue:  Live  Paris, France 
Notes: Arranger: François Couperin. 
16. Pines of Rome by Ottorino Respighi
Conductor:  Pierre Monteux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1923-1924; Rome, Italy 
Date of Recording: 05/03/1956 
Venue:  Live  Paris, France 
17. Tod und Verklärung, Op. 24 by Richard Strauss
Conductor:  Pierre Monteux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1888-1889; Germany 
Date of Recording: 05/03/1956 
Venue:  Live  Paris, France 
18. Symphony no 7 in A major, Op. 92 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Pierre Monteux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1811-1812; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 06/13/1952 
Venue:  Live  Strasbourg, France 
19. Symphony no 5 in E minor, Op. 64 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  Pierre Monteux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1888; Russia 
Date of Recording: 05/08/1958 
Venue:  Live  Paris, France 
20. Variations on an Original Theme, Op. 36 "Enigma" by Sir Edward Elgar
Conductor:  Pierre Monteux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1898-1899; England 
Date of Recording: 09/24/1958 
Venue:  Live  Paris, France 
21. Der fliegende Holländer: Overture by Richard Wagner
Conductor:  Pierre Monteux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1841/1852; Germany 
Date of Recording: 06/09/1955 
Venue:  Live  Paris, France 
22. Symphony in D minor, M 48 by César Franck
Conductor:  Pierre Monteux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1886-1888; France 
Date of Recording: 09/24/1958 
Venue:  Live  Paris, France 

Sound Samples

Petrushka: Tableau 1: Russian Dance
Petrushka: Tableau 2: 's Room
Petrushka: Tableau 3: The Moor's Room - Dance of the Ballerina - Waltz
Petrushka: Tableau 4: The Shrovetide Fair - Dance of the Nursemaids
Le sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring): Part I
Le sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring): Part II
The Golden Cockerel: Introduction - Act III: Cortege des noces (Wedding March)
Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125, "Choral": I. Allegro ma non troppo, un poco maestoso
Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125, "Choral": II. Molto vivace
Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125, "Choral": III. Adagio molto e cantabile
Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125, "Choral": IV. Finale: Presto - Allegro assai

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