Haydn: Symphony No. 85; Debussy: Nocturnes; Etc.

Haydn: Symphony No. 85; Debussy: Nocturnes; Etc.

by Ernest Ansermet
     
 

When the old timers used to talk about what a great conductor Ernest Ansermet was, especially about how his recordings of Debussy, Ravel, and Stravinsky were as close to definitive ever made, it was always easy to prove them wrong. In most of Ansermet's readily available recordings, it was allSee more details below

Overview

When the old timers used to talk about what a great conductor Ernest Ansermet was, especially about how his recordings of Debussy, Ravel, and Stravinsky were as close to definitive ever made, it was always easy to prove them wrong. In most of Ansermet's readily available recordings, it was all too easy to point out to the soggy textures, the flabby rhythms, and the scrappy ensemble. The old timers, however, would always blame such technicalities on the players of L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande -- discounting entirely the fact that Ansermet himself had led the Swiss orchestra since he founded it in 1918. What we should have heard, they'd say, were Ansermet's performances with other, better orchestras -- then we'd find out what made Ansermet a great conductor. Here's the proof: recordings of Ansermet live in the studio with the BBC Symphony in 1964 and live in Edinburgh with the Philharmonia Orchestra in 1958. Both were front-rank English orchestras -- the BBC Symphony was superbly trained under its conductor and founder Adrian Boult, and the Philharmonia, of course, was EMI's house orchestra -- and both clearly gave everything they had to Ansermet. This was a good thing because the same soggy textures, flabby rhythms, and scrappy ensemble that were the hallmark of his work with the Swiss orchestra were likewise the hallmark of his work here. Feeble attacks, weak releases, unsteady tone, uneasy intonation, and slack tempos abound -- the central Elegia from Bartók's "Concerto for Orchestra" alone is enough to make any competent conductor's hair fall out in clumps. And yet, undeniably, Ansermet was a great conductor, he was just not a great technical conductor. While his Haydn "85th" and his Beethoven "Fourth" are, on top of being sloppy and slovenly, utterly unidiomatic, there things in the colors and forms that make these performances curiously persuasive. Better yet is the shape and drive in his performance of Bartók's "Concerto for Orchestra," but best of all are the shadows and light of his performances of Debussy's "Nocturnes" and "Ibéria," performances that while they are nothing like Boulez or Dutoit, much less Monteux and Münch, in terms of orchestral spit and polish, are still strangely compelling. What it is exactly that Ansermet brought to the performances can't really be described or measured -- but it is exactly what made him a great conductor. BBC's live sound is harsh and unappealing -- but probably the best it could do.

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Product Details

Release Date:
01/30/2007
Label:
Bbc Legends
UPC:
0684911420227
catalogNumber:
4202
Rank:
282760

Tracks

  1. Symphony No. 85 in B flat major ("La Reine"), H. 1/85  - Franz Joseph Haydn  - Ernest Ansermet  -  BBC Symphony Orchestra  - John Patrick
  2. Nocturnes, for female chorus & orchestra, L. 91  - Claude Debussy  - Ernest Ansermet  -  BBC Symphony Orchestra  - John Patrick  -  BBC Women's Chorus
  3. Ibéria, for orchestra, L. 122/2  - Claude Debussy  - Ernest Ansermet  - John Patrick  -  New Philharmonia Orchestra
  4. Ernest Ansermet discusses Debussy with Robert Chesterman  - Spoken Word  - Ernest Ansermet  - John Patrick
  5. Symphony No. 4 in B flat major, Op. 60  - Ludwig van Beethoven  - Ernest Ansermet  - John Patrick  -  New Philharmonia Orchestra
  6. Concerto for Orchestra, Sz. 116, BB 127  - Béla Bartók  - Ernest Ansermet  - John Patrick  -  New Philharmonia Orchestra

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