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Haydn, Debussy, Beethoven, Et Al / Ansermet


Release Date: 01/30/2007 
Label:  Bbc Legends   Catalog #: 4202   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Ludwig van BeethovenBéla BartókFranz Joseph HaydnClaude Debussy
Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia OrchestraBBC Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews



HAYDN Symphony No. 85, “La Reine.” DEBUSSY Nocturnes. 2 Images: Ibéria. 1 BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 4. 1 BARTÓK Concerto for Orchestra 1 & Ernest Ansermet, cond; BBC Read more SO; Philharmonia O; 1 BBC Ladies Ch 2 BBC LEGENDS 4202 (2 CDs: 152:44) Live: Edinburgh 1958 1


& Interview with Ansermet


As with some other compilations in the BBC “Legends” series, this one provides a mix of studio and live material. The Haydn and Debussy Nocturnes were recorded at one of the BBC studios in 1964, while the “Ibéria,” Beethoven, and Bartók derive from an Edinburgh concert given in 1958.


The Debussy is, as might be expected, excellent and stylistically unified, despite the difference in venues. In its clear textures, lack of sentimentality, and careful balancing of registers, it is everything Boulez tries to achieve, and usually hasn’t. Nalen Anthoni’s liner notes praise the Philharmonia over Ansermet’s own L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande (“flaws in execution and intonation”), which is fair enough; but the British musicians very occasionally display their own intonational difficulties, and a diffidence I find noticeable in “Sirènes.” The BBC Philharmonic is better in “Ibéria,” though the Philharmonia returns in fine form with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4.


Ansermet doesn’t provide an allegro vivace as indicated for that work’s first movement; in fact, his basic tempo is nearly identical to the allegro ma non troppo of the finale. But the reading possesses a combination of steady rhythms, sharp accents, and finely detailed phrasing that create a sense of genial propulsiveness. Here and in the subsequent three movements I find a similarity to Weingartner’s Beethoven, in their mutual avoidance of any broad interpretative gestures. By contrast, Ansermet’s Haydn was considered mannered and lacking in spontaneity by some critics and musicians. It was modern for the times; even back in 1948, when he recorded the Symphony No. 101 (most recently on Membran International 221906-303), the string sound was leaner than in most contemporary Haydn recordings, pointing to a comprehension of the composer’s sound world as distinct from that of Beethoven (or Mozart, for that matter). This same approach can be heard to advantage on this release, as can the true allegretto of his second movement, and the mercurial, witty finale. It is a dynamic, sophisticated composer that Ansermet gives us, rather far from the Papa Haydn of Teutonic tradition.


Finally, there’s the Bartók, which the conductor starts a little stiffly. There’s a bobble in the horn chorale of the second movement, as well, but otherwise it’s very much an attractive reading whose meditative cast underlines the work’s inherent melancholy without slighting its humor.


The BBC has a vast library of interviews at its disposal, and occasionally includes one on these albums. Here, it’s a 13-minute piece in which Ernest Ansermet discusses Debussy. I was left wishing that the interviewer, Robert Chesterman, had discarded his prepared series of questions, which end up skating lightly over the surface of the conductor’s decidedly iconoclastic views of the composer.


The studio recordings have a nice bloom and good balance, while the live concert is a bit distant and percussion-heavy. Regardless, this is a fine souvenir of an outstanding conductor, whose work deserves to be remembered and relished.


FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
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Works on This Recording

1.
Symphony no 4 in B flat major, Op. 60 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra,  BBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1806; Vienna, Austria 
2.
Concerto for Orchestra, Sz 116 by Béla Bartók
Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra,  BBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1943; USA 
3.
Symphony no 85 in B flat major, H 1 no 85 "La Reine" by Franz Joseph Haydn
Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra,  BBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: ?1785; Eszterhazá, Hungary 
4.
Nocturnes (3) for Orchestra by Claude Debussy
Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra,  BBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1897-1899; France 
5.
Images for Orchestra by Claude Debussy
Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra,  BBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1905-1912; France 

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