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Debussy: Pelléas et Mélisande
Claude Debussy, Ernest Ansermet, L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande
Debussy: Pelléas et Mélisande
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (16) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (21) - Disc #2


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CD Details

All Artists: Claude Debussy, Ernest Ansermet, L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Camille Maurane, Erna Spoorenberg, George London, Gregore Kubrack, Guus Hoekman, John Shirley-Quirk, Josephine Veasey, Rosine Bredy
Title: Debussy: Pelléas et Mélisande
Members Wishing: 0
Total Copies: 0
Label: Decca Import
Release Date: 3/6/2003
Album Type: Import
Genre: Classical
Style: Opera & Classical Vocal
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaCD Credits: 2
UPC: 028947335122

CD Reviews

Not Just the Best Bang for the Buck, It's the Best, Period.
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Well, the best in stereo, anyway. Erna Spoorenberg is a memorably pointed Melisande, with a timbre somewhat like Soderstrom but less astringent. Camille Maurane is as good a Pelleas as they come, the heir to Jacques Jansen and the end of the line in the great tradition. George London is a burly, physically frightening Golaud and Guus Hoekmann is the bassiest of Arkels. Ernest Ansermet directs his Suisse Romande Orchestra with vast knowledge, love and experience, and miraculous balance and timing. Decca/London's production team keeps the drama front and center, working rarely enough in an actual opera house.There are great mono recordings of Pelleas, including Desormiere, Fournet and Ansermet's earlier version. There are fine individual things in stereo versions with Ingelbrecht, Baudo, Dutoit, Boulez, Jordan and Carewe (about in that order). There are Teutonized inflations with Karajan, Abbado and Haitink that have pleasures of their own. There is also an atrocious wipeout with Casadesus on Naxos that testifies to the death of the French performing tradition. The singing there is the worst of any Pelleas recording. This Ansermet reissue is actually sold by Amazon for less than the Naxos version, so there is no reason anymore for anyone to buy that terrible night in Lille under Casadesus.You can buy this Ansermet recording in the warm, comforting knowledge that you have paid for the cheapest commercial stereo CD set of Pelleas, and also the best at any price."
Thank goodness for reissue of excellent recording - better t
Alexander Z. Damyanovich | Flesherton, Ontario, Canada | 07/02/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)

"When I started to take a serious interest in "Pelléas et Mélisande," it was with this recording that I started (even though it wasn't quite rated the best in the "Penguin Record (now CD) Guide." It got 2 out of 3 stars, with Ansermet's tempi + Spoorenberg's characterization of Mélisande both being under attack. Well, speaking for myself (having finally bought this release of the recording {thus refreshing my memory - and even revealing a slight change of taste...}, which I had earlier contrasted with those of Herbert von Karajan and Armin Jordan {the latter of which is unavailable these days} long ago), let the following stand:

While Ansermet's tempi and orchestral balances may not be quite as dramatic or riveting as Karajan's EMI/Angel recording in many respects (and yes, quite a few times Karajan has the edge here also in terms of orchestral playing and overall conception in addition to allowing the music to roar when it is best to do so, Debussy's restraint notwithstanding!), it often also best brings out the poetry of this unique opera, assisted by Decca/London's outstanding recording.

[It should be pointed out that "Pelléas et Mélisande" very possibly IMHO is not only the most subtle and atmospheric opera ever written, but also an example of how much the voice can do better in characterization with Debussy's approach than the conventional way almost everybody else uses!]

Also, while Frederica von Stade (for Karajan) frequently sounds a bit too coquettish and actively part of events, there's no question of Erna Spoorenberg being genuine in her rôle - there's a very definitive understanding of and empathy with the enigmatic and other-worldly character of Mélisande! In fact, I'll even go as far as to say that so far she for me is the perfect embodiment of this timid, coweable (even into lying) yet sympathetic, gentle woman!!! [From another source, one learns that she is the only one of the many wives of the brutal, evil Duke Bluebeard who manages to escape his reign of terror and wickedness - which can account for her being so emotionally damaged as a character...]

George London makes a truly frightening yet all-too-understandable Golaud (he well might have been more at home in the Karajan recording)! Also, on having reheard this recording, I'm pleased to upgrade my opinion about Camille Maurane: his voice doesn't sound as strangled in the upper register as it those 20 years ago struck me as being. [Still, I very strongly prefer a genuine tenor in the rôle of Pelléas - all too often given to a baritone thanks to the frequent low writing of this part!]

What stops me from giving this recording a full 5 stars is 1) how it fares in comparison overall with Herbert von Karajan's reading (especially for somebody who does enjoy things loud when appropriate - in that regard, sometimes Ansermet is truly just too held back...); 2) Rosine Brédy as Yniold sounds just too much like a boy for my tastes, while Guus Hoekman as Arkël for me is edged out for me likewise by Karajan's Ruggero Raimondi. [Admittedly, the treble Matthew Fish did get me to accept him as playing the part of Fjódor in Rostropóvich's recording of "Borís Godunóv"...]

Overall, an excellent counterweight to Karajan (especially for those who insist on Debussy being pianissimo as much as possible - though I love the Karajan recording dearly, in part precisely because he knows when the music can do with a louder level and more Wagnerian scope!). I strongly recommend buying it TOGETHER WITH EMI's product (that way, furthermore, the EMI recording will provide the libretto booklet missing here - surely not that much of an excuse to downgrade this recording so severely as somebody else does...).

[My next project will be to research a 3rd recording that in all events MUST have a genuine tenor for Pelléas - so far like Eric Tappy in Jordan's recording, and will eventually wish to check that of Boulez, not to mention seeing who else may be out there. Even then, to be honest, this piece can be open to more of a range of interpretations than perhaps one might imagine.]"
Ansermet is very direct, the voices are unusual
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 02/24/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Aficionados of Pelleas et Melisande (it attracts them) tend to know every recording and to argue over every nuance in an opera that is practically all nuance. Ernet Ansermet was Decca's house conductor of French music for decades, and his classic first Pelleas, in mono, featured the great Suzanne Danco. But this, his stereo remake, is among the least French of the famous performances. Ansermet is quite forthright, even plain, and ignores what most conductors try to achieve: a gossamer, mysterious, half-lit msical atmosphere. That's all to the good if you find Debussy's elusiveness too much (as I tend to).

The cast in general sounds less wispy, too, with George3 london a rare basso Golaud, weighty and physical in his presence--we hardly ever get a Wagnerian crashing the gates of Pelleas's dream world. Erna Spoorenberg also breaks the mold; unlike most Melisandes, she isn't fragile or unearthly. She sounds almost sensible, and her voice has no French nuance or delicacy. The only conventional lead is the Pelleas of Camille Maurane, whose nasally, tenorish baritone is to the manner born.

In sum, this amounts to a frothright Pelleas that many debussians wouldn't be able to warm up to, but I like its earthiness very much. It's a relaxed performance whose flame doesn't rise high, but in a modest way it's very appealing."