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Great Conductors Of The 20th Century Vol.21 - Pierre Monteux

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Great Conductors Of The 20th Century Vol.21 - Pierre Monteux

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CD1
Beethoven - Symphony No. 2 in D Op. 36:
1. I.Adagio – Allegro con brio
2. II. Lerghetto
3. III. Scherzo (Allegro)
4. IV. Allegro molto
Wagner –Tristan und Isolde:
5. Prelude
6. ACT 3. Mild und leise (Liebestod)
Hindemith - Symphony "Mathis der Maler"
7. I. Engelskonzert (Ruhig bewegt/Ziemlich lebhafte Halbe)
8. II. Grablegung (Sehr langsam)
9. III. Versuchung des heiligen Antonius - "Ubi eras, bone Jhesu ubi eras, quare non affuisti ut sanare vulnera mea?" (Sehr langsam, frei im Zeitmass/Sehr labhaft)

North German Radio Symphony Orchestra (1-6)
Danish State Radio Orchestra (7-9)

CD2
Debussy – Nocturnes for Orchestra
1. I.Nuages
2. II. Fêtes
3. III. Sirènes (with women's choir)
Tchaikovsky – The Sleeping Beauty, Op. 66
4. Introduction
5. Prologue: No.1:Marche/N.3:Pas de six
6. Prologue: Intrada
7. Prologue: Var IV:Canari qui chante
8. Prologue: Var V:Violente
9. Act I: No.6:Valse
10. Act I, No.8:Pas d'action: Adagio
11. Act I, No.8:Pas d'action: Variations d'Aurore
12. Act 2 - Coda
13. Act I: No.9:Finale
14. Act II: No.13:Farandole:scène
15. Act II: No.17:Panorama
16. Act III: No.22:Polacca
17. Act III, No.23:Pas de quatre: Intrada
18. Act III, No.23:Pas de quatre: Var.II:La Fée Argent
19. Act III, No.23:Pas de quatre: Var.IV:La Fée-Diamant
20. Act III, No.23:Pas de quatre: Coda
21. Act III, No.25:Pas de quatre: Var.I:L'Oiseau bleu et la princesse
22. Act III, No.25:Pas de quatre: Coda
23. Act III: No.26:Pas de caractère
24. Act III, No.28:Pas de deux:Aurore et Désiré: Adagio
25. Act III, No.28:Pas de deux:Aurore et Désiré: Coda
26. Act III: No.30:Finale
27. Act III: Apothéose
28. National Anthems - La marseillaise (Rouget de Lisle)

Boston Symphony Orchestra,  Berkshire Festival Chorus Women (1-3)
London Symphony Orchestra (4 – 28)

Pierre Monteux – conductor

 

The Pierre Monteux entry in EMI's Great Conductors of the 20th Century series is hardly an overview of the conductor's incredibly long career; rather it's a sampling of the repertoire he regularly conducted in his last years. The earliest recording dates from 1955, when he was 80; most of the rest comes from the early 1960s, when he was crowding 90. It would be easy to carp at a 2-disc collection that includes no Stravinsky from the man who premiered Petrouchka and Le Sacre, or Brahms, one of Monteux's favorite composers (Monteux's recording of the Second Symphony for Philips is still one of the best). But we should be grateful that EMI hasn't overloaded the set with the French music in which he excelled, although I wish his San Francisco Chausson Symphony had been included. And we should be pleased that the first disc is devoted to representative samples of the German music that he performed exceptionally well.

The Hamburg 1960 Beethoven Second Symphony is the disc's highlight, a vibrant, dynamic performance with an urgent first movement that takes the "allegro con brio" marking seriously, and a nicely flowing, beautifully shaped Larghetto. An irrelevant oddity is how much Monteux's reading of the work resembles that of another venerable conductor who was 85 when he recorded it, Gunter Wand, who benefits from more transparent engineering and a better orchestra (the NWDR, 37 years later). The Prelude and Liebestod from Wagner's Tristan und Isolde is given a graceful performance that's deficient in string tone and slightly lacking in atmosphere. There's also what sounds like tape print-through at the start of the Prelude. Hindemith's Mathis der Maler Symphony, a work Monteux often led, benefits from his obvious affection for the piece and his no-nonsense interpretation, but it suffers from the Danish Orchestra's deficiencies (weak winds and undernourished strings) and engineering that plays havoc with dynamics (solo winds sometimes rival the full orchestra in volume).

Disc 2 opens with Monteux's classic 1955 Boston Symphony recording of Debussy's Nocturnes, still a treat despite engineering that shows its age in a work that requires modern sound to fully project its atmosphere. There are some odd balances here too, as the female chorus in Sirènes is recorded far too close. A lengthy (49-plus minutes) set of excerpts from Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty shows Monteux's proficiency in ballet music. He phrases lovingly but the pace is always lively and the rhythms bouncy. The set closes with The Marseillaise, from a 1962 London rehearsal. [4/1/2003] --- Dan Davis, ClassicsToday.com

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