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Original Masters - Pierre Monteux - Decca And Philips Recordings 1956-1964


Release Date: 01/09/2007 
Label:  Decca   Catalog #: 000797902   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Johann Sebastian BachChristoph W. GluckWolfgang Amadeus MozartFranz Joseph Haydn,   ... 
Performer:  Claude MonteuxJulius Katchen
Conductor:  Pierre Monteux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony OrchestraVienna Philharmonic OrchestraOrchestre de la Société du Conservatoire Paris
Number of Discs: 7 
Recorded in: Stereo 
CD not available: This title is currently only available as an MP3 download.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews



PIERRE MONTEUX: DECCA & PHILIPS RECORDINGS 1956–1964 Pierre Monteux, cond; London SO; 1 Vienna PO; 2 Paris Conservatoire O; 3 Claude Monteux (fl); 4 Julius Katchen (pn) 5 DECCA 000797902 (7 CDs: 510:45)


BACH Suite No. 2 in Read more b. 1,4 GLUCK Orfeo ed Euridice: Dance of the Blessed Spirits. 1,4 MOZART Flute Concerto in D. 1,4 HAYDN Symphony No. 101, “The Clock.” 2 BRAHMS Symphony No. 2. 2 Tragic Overture. 1 Academic Festival Overture. 1 Variations on a Theme by Haydn. 1 DEBUSSY Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune. 1 Nocturnes: Nuages, Fêtes. 1 Images pour orchestre. 1 Le martyre de Saint Sébastien: Fragments symphoniques. 1 STRAVINSKY L’oiseau de feu: Suite (1919). 3 Pétrouchka. 3,5 Le sacre du printemps. 3 RAVEL La valse. 1 Ma mère l’oye (complete ballet). 1 Boléro. 1 TCHAIKOVSKY The Sleeping Beauty: Excerpts. 1 SIBELIUS Symphony No. 2. 1 ELGAR Variations on an Original Theme, “Enigma” 1


If Pierre Monteux’s career had ended when he left the San Francisco Symphony in 1952 after 17 seasons as music director, his legacy would have been substantial: during his early years in Paris he had conducted the premieres of Pétrouchka, Le sacre du printemps, Daphnis et Chloë , and Jeux , among many other, less notorious works; he had resurrected the Boston Symphony after a series of calamities during World War I; and, he had transformed the San Francisco Symphony from a provincial, second-rate outfit into a world-class orchestra, in the process making a series of highly regarded recordings of mostly French and Russian repertoire.


So it is all the more astonishing to regard the present set, composed entirely of recordings Monteux conducted in his eighties. Finally able to exercise control over the repertoire he recorded, he did not abandon French and Russian music, even though he had been pigeonholed as a “French conductor” by his record company and by such other institutions as the Metropolitan Opera: Rudolf Bing had limited Monteux to French opera, and when Monteux asked to do Wagner, Bing refused. Monteux never appeared at the Met again.


He did, however, renew his relationship with the Boston Symphony, and establish another close relationship with the London Symphony, which gave him a 25-year contract as music director when he was 86! Monteux’s musical sympathies were wide-ranging throughout his life—he especially loved Brahms, Beethoven, and Wagner—and during his remarkable last decade he made his first recordings of Dvo?ák, Elgar, Haydn, Schubert, Sibelius, and others.


In fact, the scope of Monteux’s activities in the studio during this decade is, I believe, without precedent when compared with his earlier recording career. To illustrate the breadth of these activities, which fall into as many as five different categories, there follows a brief summary of Monteux’s discography from 1955 on.


First, there were the continued recordings for RCA, now mostly in Boston; and, while Debussy and Stravinsky were still prominently represented, there were also stereo accounts of the last three Tchaikovsky symphonies with the BSO. These recordings all continue to belong to RCA.


Second, Decca undertook a series of recordings in a licensing agreement with RCA beginning in 1956; these began with the three Stravinsky recordings included here with the Paris Conservatoire Orchestra, and continued with about 17 LPs with the LSO and the Vienna Philharmonic; in addition to items listed in the headnote, the repertoire expanded to include, with the VPO, suites from A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Rosamunde ; two Haydn symphonies, and, oddly, the Symphonie fantastique (the fourth, and least authoritative, of his five recorded versions—it is as if the VPO was trying to speak a foreign language it didn’t understand); the Brahms Violin Concerto with Henryk Szeryng and Dvo?ák’s Seventh, both with the LSO; and, all of the Beethoven symphonies, split between the two orchestras. No. 9 was recorded by Westminster; most of the others were not released until after Monteux’s death in 1965. The rights to all these recordings eventually reverted to Decca, so that on LP there were RCA Victor Red Seal or Victrola versions as well as London Stereo Treasury reissues in the US.


A third, smaller group of recordings was made by Decca, evidently for its own use, for these were issued in England on the parent label and in the US on London. Among them were the magnificent complete Daphnis et Chloë , a disc of Debussy and Ravel orchestral works, the Brahms First Concerto with pianist Julius Katchen, and probably as a gift from Decca to Monteux, the three items for flute and orchestra with his son Claude as soloist.


Fourth, a series of LPs was made for Philips beginning in 1962, mostly with the LSO but two with the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, with which Monteux had had a long association. Among these are re-makes of the “Eroica” and the Brahms Second; a wonderfully atmospheric Debussy disc including the complete Images and the somewhat lesser “Fragments symphoniques” from Le martyre de saint Sébastien ; one of the greatest Ravel records ever recorded, including the complete Ma mère l’oye, La valse , and Boléro ; an LP of extracts from Swan Lake ; and, the Schubert “Unfinished” Symphony. The last-mentioned became one of Monteux’s rarest recordings; not yet released at the time of his death, it was issued as a “Memorial Album” in Europe only, in mono, with extracts from the rehearsal of the “Eroica” Marcia funêbre on the other side. All of the Philips recordings, including a London Tragic Overture that probably had simply not fit onto the original LP, were available for many years in a Philips CD set curiously assigned to a series called “The Early Years”; this set seems to have gone out of print recently.


Fifth and last, Monteux entered into an agreement with the Tono/Concert Hall label to record for them with the NDR Symphony, Hamburg, perhaps because they allowed him to record Wagner. (Although there is yet another re-make of the Fantastique !) These have recently been collected and issued in a boxed set in Europe.


The contents of the present volume are drawn from the second through fourth groups of recordings listed above. Of the RCA/Decca group, the Beethoven symphonies are all omitted from this set, but that is acceptable as long as the eight recorded by Decca remain available on two “Double Decca” sets, one each devoted to London and Vienna. Decca got sloppy, though, and in place of Monteux’s LSO recording of the Egmont Overture the VPO version by George Szell appears—just listen to the oboe! I finally tracked down a Japanese Decca CD that includes the correct version. Also omitted here is the Brahms Violin Concerto, probably because of contractual considerations involving Szeryng (it has been available on a RCA CD). Only one of the two Haydn symphonies appears here, but they are both still available along with the Brahms Haydn Variations on a Decca “Legendary Performances” CD. Other omissions are not so excusable: the LSO Scheherazade , far superior to the SFSO version in sound and playing quality, somewhat less satisfying an interpretation but still a Monteux specialty that should be here; the Mendelssohn/Schubert coupling, which was issued on the original LP minus one movement each, RCA still being inexperienced at putting 27–28 minutes of music on a side; the VPO Fantastique , still fascinating if flawed; and finally, the Dvo?ák Seventh, Monteux’s only recording of that composer and a first-rate account.


Of the group-three Deccas, this set includes the Claude Monteux LP, and the two Debussy items from the Debussy/Ravel disc; the Ravel items are available as fillers for a recently issued single CD of the indispensable complete Daphnis , which otherwise would absolutely have to be here. The Brahms D-Minor Concerto with Katchen is included in a two-disc set devoted to Katchen’s Brahms recordings.


Last, this set includes the contents of the Debussy and Ravel Philips LPs, along with the overtures from the Brahms. Granted, these include some of Monteux’s most perfect recordings, the Ravel in particular— La valse is a perfect blend of lilt and menace, and Boléro is a performance with both the tempo and the crescendo perfectly calibrated. A touchstone in Boléro is the theme statement for horn and two piccolos accompanied by celesta; this clearly is meant to emulate an organ stop, with the percussive celesta attacks adding in just the right amount of “garbage” to the attacks. Almost every conductor permits the piccolos to play too loud (look at the dynamics in the score!); here they blend imperceptibly into the “new” color.


Finally, some remarks on the other items that were included in this set: the flute pieces are in good taste if neither unforgettable nor at all partaking of the HIP movement; they were not “Papa” Monteux’s bread and butter, but he performs creditably; likewise the Haydn symphony, which features some surprising tempos—the first movement not as sprightly as Beecham or Marriner, the second unusually quick.


It’s with the second CD that we really get into Monteux’s territory—and remain there for the duration. If he sounds as if he had been playing Brahms his whole life, it’s because he had: as a young man he had played viola in a string quartet that played one of Brahms’s quartets for the composer, who expressed his approval (“Only the French know how to play my music”). Brahms remained Monteux’s favorite composer. The Academic Festival is typically rousing but never raucous; likewise, the Tragic is sober but never wallows. The Second Symphony, which appeared originally only in a rare four-LP set with each of the four symphonies done by a different conductor and orchestra, is almost always found as a budget reissue; the sound here is a significant improvement. Overall, I prefer the London version on Philips for its somewhat warmer sound, but this is a fine reading, the first movement unfolding naturally (with exposition repeat, as Monteux always taught his students), the second never bogging down like Walter or Karajan. On the fifth CD, the Haydn Variations again are taken at perfect tempos; I compared the sound of the CD with that of a nice “Shaded dog” pressing of the original LP, and it was at least as clear and full, with perhaps a little more audible “buzz” from the contrabassoon.


The Debussy items are as close to definitive as I dare label any performance. Faun is not as languorous as Beechem; Fêtes is not as incandescent as Ormandy, but it all just sounds right.


The Elgar and Sibelius defy all national stereotypes; each is as idiomatic as any performance I know. This may well be the most convincing “Enigma” Variations ever by a non-English conductor; for further remarks on the Sibelius see my feature article in Fanfare 30:3 and/or my review of Colin Davis’s latest recording elsewhere.


Finally, two problem items: first, the Sleeping Beauty excerpts are better-sounding here than ever before; but, record companies seem to have had an inordinate amount of difficulty getting this recording onto disc properly. The original RCA LP omitted two items—the Coda to No. 25 and the Prologue to No. 26—even though these were listed on the album back. (These items were not , however, indicated on the label.) The version in the IMG/EMI “Great Conductors of the Century” volume restores these items but cuts No. 25’s Adagio and Variation I. This set finally includes all 53-plus minutes of Tchaikovsky that Monteux recorded—as far as we know.


Then there are the Stravinsky ballets. Here Decca indulges its tendency to shoot itself in the foot again. The notes, by one Jean-Charles Hoffelé, give an involved narrative explaining (1) that Monteux insisted on doing these with the PCO, convinced that their sound was a perfect match for Stravinsky’s music, and (2) that producer John Culshaw and engineer Roy Wallace decided to make these recordings in mono sound, despite the fact that Decca had been recording in stereo for over two years. Hoffelé also explains that Pétrouchka was recorded the year following Le sacre and The Firebird Suite; and yet, the recording dates given in the booklet show that all three works were recorded over a period of two weeks in October-November 1956. A second inconsistency in the story is the business about a French orchestra (a little chauvinism on the part of our author, perhaps?); John Canarina, Monteux’s biographer, who wrote the exhaustive notes for the Music & Arts set “Monteux in France,” issued last year, makes it clear that Monteux loathed working with French orchestras. What is probably closer to the truth is that Decca, which had the PCO under contract, saw a golden opportunity, and prevailed on Monteux to do the three works with them. They are his only recordings with this orchestra, and they are among the least satisfying of all his recordings. A third inconsistency in Hoffelé’s story is what truly suggests that it has been created out of whole cloth: the recordings are, after all, in honest stereo! Hoffelé’s statement that “the first notable stereo recording” was the Solti/Culshaw Das Rheingold of 1959 is preposterous; even limiting ourselves to Decca opera recordings, there is Böhm’s Die Frau ohne Schatten of 1955, not to mention the same conductor’s Cosi fan tutte and Zauberflöte of the same year, nor whatever Renata Tebaldi was recording at the time. Incidentally, Katchen does a splendid job with the important piano part, especially in “Chéz Pétrouchka.” The sound of these ballets is as far as I can tell identical to that of an earlier issue on a budget AAD “Weekend Classics” CD, implying that perhaps Decca is cutting corners by reusing previously digitized masters rather than re-mastering everything using the most current technology. Let’s hope they don’t start losing babies along with bath water.


So, all in all, this set offers a fairly representative portrait of Monteux in the last decade of his life, a decade in which he finally got to record much of his favorite repertoire with first-rate orchestras for the first time; it is our good fortune that developments in improved sound quality and Monteux’s longevity coincided so well. As for What Could Have Been, if the Philips duplications and the other items otherwise in print were eliminated, and the Philips box reissued as a separate item in this series (there’s precedent in the set of Karajan’s prewar recordings), all of the missing Decca material could have been included. Decca has issued multiple “Original Masters” volumes for other artists; who deserves one more than Monteux, the fruits of whose ripe maturity grew almost entirely during his association with the company? Meanwhile, if you do not already own these recordings, this set is about as close to indispensable as it gets.


FANFARE: Richard A. Kaplan
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Works on This Recording

1.
Suite for Orchestra no 2 in B minor, BWV 1067 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Conductor:  Pierre Monteux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1738-1739; Leipzig, Germany 
2.
Orfeo ed Euridice: Dance of the Blessed Spirits by Christoph W. Gluck
Conductor:  Pierre Monteux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1762/1774; Vienna, Austria 
3.
Concerto for Flute no 2 in D major, K 314 (285d) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Claude Monteux (Flute)
Conductor:  Pierre Monteux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1778; Mannheim, Germany 
Notes: Ensemble: London Symphony Orchestra. 
4.
Symphony no 101 in D major, H 1 no 101 "Clock" by Franz Joseph Haydn
Conductor:  Pierre Monteux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1793-1794; London, England 
5.
Tragic Overture, Op. 81 by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Pierre Monteux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1880; Austria 
6.
Academic Festival Overture in C minor, Op. 80 by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Pierre Monteux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1880; Austria 
7.
Symphony no 2 in D major, Op. 73 by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Pierre Monteux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1877; Austria 
8.
Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune by Claude Debussy
Conductor:  Pierre Monteux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1892-1894; France 
9.
Nocturnes (3) for Orchestra by Claude Debussy
Conductor:  Pierre Monteux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1897-1899; France 
10.
Images for Orchestra by Claude Debussy
Conductor:  Pierre Monteux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1905-1912; France 
11.
Le martyre de St Sébastien by Claude Debussy
Conductor:  Pierre Monteux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911; France 
12.
Firebird Suite by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Pierre Monteux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestre de la Société du Conservatoire Paris
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1919/1945;   
13.
La valse by Maurice Ravel
Conductor:  Pierre Monteux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1920; France 
14.
Ma mère l'oye by Maurice Ravel
Conductor:  Pierre Monteux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: France 
Notes: Composition written: France (1908 - 1910). 
15.
Boléro by Maurice Ravel
Conductor:  Pierre Monteux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1928; France 
16.
Variations in B flat major on a theme by Haydn, Op. 56a "St. Anthony" by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Pierre Monteux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1873; Austria 
17.
Sleeping Beauty, Op. 66: Excerpt(s) by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  Pierre Monteux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1888-1889; Russia 
18.
Symphony no 2 in D major, Op. 43 by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Pierre Monteux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1901-1902; Finland 
19.
Variations on an Original Theme, Op. 36 "Enigma" by Sir Edward Elgar
Conductor:  Pierre Monteux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1898-1899; England 
20.
Pétrouchka by Igor Stravinsky
Performer:  Julius Katchen (Piano)
Conductor:  Pierre Monteux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestre de la Société du Conservatoire Paris
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Switzerland 
Notes: 1911 version. 
21.
Le sacre du printemps by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Pierre Monteux
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestre de la Société du Conservatoire Paris
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911-1913 
Notes: Composition written: Switzerland (1911 - 1913).
Composition revised: USA (1943). 

Sound Samples

Suite No.2 in B minor, BWV 1067: 1. Ouverture
Suite No.2 in B minor, BWV 1067: 2. Rondeau
Suite No.2 in B minor, BWV 1067: 3. Sarabande
Suite No.2 in B minor, BWV 1067: 4. Bourrée I-II
Suite No.2 in B minor, BWV 1067: 5. Polonaise
Suite No.2 in B minor, BWV 1067: 6. Menuet
Suite No.2 in B minor, BWV 1067: 7. Badinerie
Orfeo ed Euridice (Orphée et Euridice) / Act 2: Dance of the Blessed Spirits
Flute Concerto No.2 in D, K.314 - Cadenza by Claude Monteux: 1. Allegro aperto
Flute Concerto No.2 in D, K.314: 2. Andante ma non troppo
Flute Concerto No.2 in D, K.314: 3. Allegro
Symphony in D, H.I No.101 - "The Clock": 1. Adagio - Presto
Symphony in D, H.I No.101 - "The Clock": 2. Andante
Symphony in D, H.I No.101 - "The Clock": 3. Menuet (Allegretto) - Trio
Symphony in D, H.I No.101 - "The Clock": 4. Finale (Vivace)
Tragic Overture, Op.81
Academic Festival Overture, Op.80
Symphony No.2 in D, Op.73: 1. Allegro non troppo
Symphony No.2 in D, Op.73: 2. Adagio non troppo - L'istesso tempo, ma grazioso
Symphony No.2 in D, Op.73: 3. Allegretto grazioso ( Quasi andantino) - Presto ma non assai
Symphony No.2 in D, Op.73: 4. Allegro con spirito

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