Search - Johann Sebastian Bach, Christoph Willibald Gluck, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart :: Pierre Monteux Decca & Philips Recordings, 1956-1964

Pierre Monteux Decca & Philips Recordings, 1956-1964
Johann Sebastian Bach, Christoph Willibald Gluck, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Pierre Monteux Decca & Philips Recordings, 1956-1964
Genres: Dance & Electronic, Classical
  •  Track Listings (15) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (6) - Disc #2
  •  Track Listings (12) - Disc #3
  •  Track Listings (19) - Disc #4
  •  Track Listings (27) - Disc #5
  •  Track Listings (19) - Disc #6
  •  Track Listings (17) - Disc #7


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CD Reviews

An easy way to get some of Monteux's greatest recordings in
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 04/23/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"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."
Innate Musicality
Johannes Climacus | Beverly, Massachusetts | 06/01/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Pierre Monteux belonged to a generation of conductors that prized musicality over careerism. Not that he didn't have an illustrious career: after all, he was the conductor chosen to premiere Stravinsky's *Rite of Spring* and subsequently directed and helped to build world-class orchestras here and abroad. But Monteux's first priority was to communicate -- with a geniality and effortlessness nearly unique among his peers -- both the letter and the spirit of the score. He was a great poet among conductors, and there are few even in his own generation who approached musicmaking with such exuberance.

The Decca compilation under review is a veritable treasure trove of Monteux's late work with three orchestras -- the LSO, the VPO and the Paris Conservatoire. Oddly it is his confederates from Paris who seem to let him down; the three Stravinsky Ballets featured here could use greater precision of execution as well as emotional vehemence. One might not have guessed from this somewhat etiolated *Rite of Spring* that Monteux was associated with this work, and with the composer, from the beginning of his career.

Apart from this caveat, however, there is some wonderful music-making here: including an exquisitely shaped Bach and Mozart (featuring the composer's son as the virtuosic flute soloist), an athletic Brahms Second and Haydn Variations, a uniquely poised, gallic account of Elgar's "Enigma Variations," and a generous sequence of excerpts (long unavailable) from *The Sleeping Beauty* (to remind us of Monteux's credentials as a ballet conductor). Best of all are the Debussy and Ravel items, with which one senses a total identification of conductor with composer. Not even Münch or Ansermet surpassed Monteux's accomplishment in "Impressionist" repertoire. Compared with Monteux, Münch seems hot-headed and Ansermet downright chilly.

A strong recommendation then, except for the Stravinsky (which Monteux recorded more sucessfully with other orchestras both earlier and later in his career -- perhaps Decca can be persuaded to give us those performances in any subsequent Monteux Anthology)."
Monteux: Quality Introduction as Stable Datum
D. Robidoux | 08/31/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I am no specialist of classical music, but I know I like the genre.

One thing I realised is that a same piece of music interpreted by different conductors,orchestras or on different labels will not sound the same and will not have the same effect on me!

I bought the Pierre Monteux:Decca & Philips Recordings 1956-1964 because it is the era of Living Stereo with high quality being put on the recording techniques. This makes a lot of difference for me. On a quality sound system I really hear the difference that is present in these recordings.

Also knowing that Pierre Monteux had a steady output of quality performances is another factor that made me get buy this boxset. I am learning alot on how an orchestra should sound!

Also the diversity of pieces in this boxset is really interesting. I discovered Stravinsky through this boxset and I am very happy for that. That kind of sound really gets to me!

My recommendation is to start building a classical collection around Pierre Monteux. You will assure yourself of having quality interpretations and this boxset is a very good place to start!