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Santa Fe Listener
- Publié sur Amazon.com
He was great, lovable, and lived forever. Pierre Monteux left nothing but good memories behind (even if the BSO did walk out on him in the 20's in an unsuccessful attempt at a strike), and he spanned the very heart of the twentieth century, premiering The Rite of Spring in 1913 (he was already 38) and then surviving into the era of the Beatles before he died in 1964. Decca and Philips recorded him in his last decade when Monteux headed the London Sym., and he was not always at his best. Yet in this 7-CD box set there are many cherishable performances (as Mr. Richman points out, serious collectors will have to put up with considerable duplication of material already available on CD).
CD 1 begins with a romantic Bach Suite No. 2 that is nevertheless bright, airy, and vividly recorded. The same spirit imbues the Gluck Dance of the Blessed Spirits, but the Mozart Flute concerto #2 seems a trifle leaden. I found my attention wandering during this CD and would account only the Haydn Sym. 101 "The Clock" as first-rate Monteux--it's a warm, lyrical reading without a trace of stodginess.
CD 2 should be Exhibit A in any argument that a Frehnch conductor can do justice to Brahms. Actually, Monteux's reputation for Debussy, Ravel, and Stravinsky overshadowed his linfelong devotion to the German classical tradition. All three works here---the Tragic Over., Academic Festival Over., and Sym. #2--show that Monteux's Brahms was basically untroubled and sunny but never glib. You may miss Brahms's turmoil (and wonder how anyone could find less tragedy in the Tragic Over.), but the pastoral Sym. #2 was just th right choice for Monteux's style and has been a collector's staple for years. Like the Haydn, it has the benefit of the golden-voiced Vienna Phil., here sounding a little too casual, perhaps.
CD 3 plays to Monteux's great strength in French music of his own era, since he was, after all, a near-contemporary of Debussy. This all-Debussy CD with the London Sym. is self-recommending and well recorded, fuly up to today's standards. The Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun moves surprisingly swiftly, with no patience for fussy longueurs. The Trois Nocturnes are shorn of the third movement (no doubt someone was too cheap to pay for the women's chorus) and is again surprisingly direct. The primary work here are the Images. There are rival recordings (by Karajan and Levine, for example) that make more of the music's magical atmosphere and pinpoint virtuosity. by comparison Monteux is dramatic, direct, and without fuss. I am no admirere of Debussy in religious mode, but the Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian Suite goes well.
CD 4 plays to strength again with Stravinsky and Ravel. These are also self-recommending recordings, but in truth the Firebird comes off a bit to relaxed compared to the composer's reading, and less virtuosic than we've become used to. I found my attention wandering, but I sat up for Monteux's all but definitive Ravel (Bolero, La Valse, Ma Mere l"oye), where everything seems jsut right, evoking the composer's magical abilities at orchestration while avoiding his neurotic and precious tendencies. Healthy Ravel from a conductor who seemed the picture of psychological health himself.
CD 5 takes us back to Brahms with a set of Haydn Variations, then on to Tchaikovsky with a generous suite from the Sleeping Beauty. These LSO recordings have been widely available. The Brahms fits Monteux's extrovert, cheeful style with this composer; I liked it very much. Having owned the Sleeping Beauty excerpts several times, I think it's a bit hampered by Philips' none-too-impressive sonics, and Monteux hasn't got anything special to say so far as I can hear. He's even a little peremptory at times and doesn't swell with romantic excess when the composer asks for that.
CD 6 begins with the Sibelius Sym. #2, another reminder that Monteux was wiling to go where few other French musicians followed. It would be hard to imagine a more un-Gallic composer, and one's reaction to Monteux's interpretation will depend upon expectations. It isn't grand like Karajan, sober like Colin Davis, or propulsive like Bernstein. I'll damn it with faint praise by saying that this reading is straightforward. But the filler, Elgar's Enigma Variations, is one of the miracles of Monteux's late career and one of his most illustrious readings. How an antiquated Frenchman managed to capture the Edwardian spirit of Elgar defies belief, but here it is, a committed, powerful, inspired performance in vintage Decca sound. The only gripe is that anyone who loves Monteux alreadyy owns it.
CD 7 should be a high point but is, frankly, unnecessary. Monteux had already had his say in Le Sacre and Petrushka with the BSO, and these latter-day Paris Conservatory recordings don't really add anything new. Granted, he had not made Le Sacre in stereo before, so that may be a deciding factor for some, and a few coinnoisseurs may appreciate the peculiar sounds of traditional French orchestras. Certianly the playing comes off a bit too rough and ready, lacking the finesse of the Boston ensemble. Monteux is mostly vigorous enough, however, and his histroci association with Stravinsky may justify the inclusion of these two readings, which in all honesty exhibit Monteux's natural, lyrical way with the scores. No one on the podium today would have the nerve to be this romantic.
At bargain price, this is a great box set for anyone coming to Monteux for the first time; he really was a great conductor who continues to be undervalued. For those of us who have known him all our lives, I'm not so sure there is enough here to merit the outlay, but at the very least I was glad to renew acquaintance with a cherished old friend.
8 internautes sur 8 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
Gregory E. Foster
- Publié sur Amazon.com
These recordings of Pierre Monteux conducting the London Symphony, the Vienna Symphony, and the Paris Conservatory Orchestra basically represent the last stage of this Grand Old Man's long and delightfully auspicious life.
The (but...) above is that most collectors will have some or several of these recordings already which might be a downside, but for most I have a feeling that it will be a matter of small concern as there are other items here new to the CD medium, and they ARE worthy ones.
Also, as a general statement, these recordings sort of pick up where Monteux's RCA recordings left off. I most highly recommend the Monteux Edition Pierre Monteux Edition to any and all interested in this Grand Old Man's work. It unfortunately is OOP and is expensive, even as a used set, but it documents some of the finest recorded performances ever done. One never seems to tire of, and always seems delighted with, Monteux and the way he had of working with and building great comradeship between his musicians in whatever orchestra he headed, and it shows in his recorded output.
We are not at the end of the age, yet, for many who still remember and were fortunate enough to witness Monteux in person. I unfortunately "just missed him", although I later knew Madame Monteux slightly, and enjoyed her stories about Pierre, from Sunday concerts at Monteux's School in Hancock, ME here. (but I digress)
To think that this man worked with, and played for, Brahms, Richard Strauss, and got to premiere works of Strauss, Debussy, and Stravinsky among others, before and at the turn of the century, and then carried their works "well taken care of" with him through all the orchestral stops of his amazingly long career and giving/showing his "first-hand" knowledge to every performance he played of these works is heartwarming, naturally. It also gives insight into this lovable (I have never, in any conversations with anyone, heard anyone say anything bad or negative about this Grand Old Man or his work) man and his ways.
So, simply "repeating" what others have said here before me seems nonconstructive or helpful to one coming here for advice. The simplest conveyance is for me to just state that any collector will want this box in their possession to hear how this great man and his work was preserved at the extreme end of his association with these pieces. Serious collectors will also, naturally, be in need of the RCA recordings that preceded them. All of these are serious documents of these works, the orchestras that committed them to disc, and of course, under the directorship of Pierre Monteux.
The absolute highlight of this box is the recording of Claude Monteux (Pierre's son) of Mozart's 2nd Flute Concerto. I was not previously familiar with this recording, and wonder if there may have been other, unknown, recordings with them together. The Debussy, also, is some of the finest he ever laid down on tape.
In closing, I highly recommend this set to anyone, particularly those interested in this great conductor (The Grand Old Man as I call him) and his recorded legacy. Further, if your wallet will allow, an even higher recommendation of the RCA Pierre Monteux Edition...I know it comes at a steep price, but it is definitely worth the investment!
By the way, "Happy Listening!"