BERLIOZ: Symphonie fantastique, Op. 14a; SCHUMANN: Symphony No. 4 in D Minor, Op. 120 – Pierre Monteux/San Francisco Symphony Orchestra – Preiser

by | Jul 15, 2005 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

 BERLIOZ: Symphonie fantastique, Op. 14a; SCHUMANN:
Symphony No. 4 in D Minor, Op. 120 – Pierre Monteux/ San Francisco
Symphony Orchestra

Preiser Famous Conductors of the Past 90661  74:22 Mono (Distrib. Albany)****:

Culled from two RCA LP inscriptions 1951-1952, this splendid
restoration features the grand master Pierre Monteux (1875-1964) in
spirited readings of works he knew well; in fact, he recorded the
Berlioz five times, beginning in 1931 with his own Orchestre
Symphonique de Paris.  For the 1951 Symphonie fantastique (LM
1131), the characteristic Monteux qualities prevail: the quick tempo
buffered by a silken pulse that defies any heaviness in the rhythm, the
lithe melodic phrasing, the silky transitions, the attention to
individual, color lines, the clarity of polyphonic passagework, the
excited sensuality of conception. Listen to the passing, fluttering
figures in the flutes of A Ball, even as the oboe, clarinets, and
horns  play ever-elongated and quickening lines. The eeriness of
the idee fixe suddenly busts into a torrent of sound that never sounds
forced. Musicians will likely savor the Scene in the Country above all
for its ability to manage disparate emotional states without sag;
audiophiles will gravitate to the wild, two final movements for their
visceral eliciting of Walpurgis-Night images.

The 1952 Schumann Fourth (LM 1714) remains notable for Monteux’s
absolute fidelity to the composer’s desire for no break between the
Allegro of the first movement and the ensuing Romanza.  While the
tempos and instrumental execution are in the streamlined, Toscanini
tradition, the conception is not so hurried that orchestral detail
suffers. The interplay of lower strings, woodwinds and brass maintains
a perfect balance, and the string lines of Romanza are wistful without
collapsing into syrup. What delights the ear is the Schumann polyphony,
here made transparent and songful. The continuity of conception, the
plastic transition to the powerful Lento; Allegro finale is as
dramatically powerful as that realized by Cantelli, without the
mystique that Furtwaengler and Bernstein achieved, albeit by overly
histrionic means. Intelligence, brilliant execution, and sober nobility
of thought mark the Monteux style, qualities often at a premium in the
life of our troubles times. Recommended.

–Gary Lemco

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