Paul Paray conducts Detroit Symphony Orchestra – Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Albeniz – Forgotten Records

by | Jul 3, 2023 | Classical CD Reviews, Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

Paul Paray conducts Detroit Symphony Orchestra = HAYDN:  “Surprise” Symphony; MOZART: Exsultate jubilate; BEETHOVEN: Ah! Perfido; ALBENIZ: “Triana” – Eleanor Steber, soprano/ Detroit Symphony Orchestra/ Paul Paray – Forgotten Records FR 2155 (52:47) [] ****: 

Forgotten Records makes available the majority of the Detroit concert of 22 March 1962, led by resident conductor Paul Paray (1886-1979) and guest soprano Eleanor Steber (1914-1990). Of Steber’s two musical items, the first, Mozart’s 1773 solo motet, Exsultate jubulate, testifies to the flexible brilliance of Steber’s range and vocal technique, soaring in high tessitura and throaty energy, when required. Set in F Major in its two outer movements, interrupted by a recitative and an Andante in A Major, the piece captures an extended moment of pious ecstasy that serves liturgical and celebratory purposes. The often swooping vocal line and its ornamental melismas, conceived for a castrato voice, find unwavering technical facility in Steber’s lyrical studied use of breath control and head tone. After the vocal pyrotechnics of the first three movements, all await her thrilling runs and acrobatics in the finale, Alleluja, and she does not disappoint. Steber and the attentive Detroit strings achieve an astonishing coda, soaring to glory.

Steber and Paray proceed to Beethoven’s 1796 concert aria Ah, Perfido, more a dramatic scene in C with recitative – taken from Metastasio – that prefigures the themes of loyalty and betrayal that mark his sole opera Fidelio. The assignment of the work to Op. 65 came in 1819 by the Viennese publisher Artaria, thus placing it among Beethoven’s mature, middle period compositions. The later aria, Per pietà, non dirmi addio, “for pity’s sake, do not abandon me,” proceeds in E-flat Major, and the emotions range from fulminating rebellion to meek subservience to a cruel lover and ineluctable fate. The Detroit woodwinds and bass viols provide a constant, emotional undercurrent to the plaints expressed by the protagonist. The spontaneous uproar of the Detroit audience reflects the success of the collaboration, although the sonic presence of these vocal portions of the concert seems compromised after the initial force of the opening Haydn symphony.

The final selection offered here, the Triana from the Iberia Suite, proceeds in the sultry colors of Seville’s gypsy quarter, set in F# Minor and resonant with swaying fandango rhythms in the orchestral arrangement by Enrique Fernández Arbós. The appearance of Albeniz amidst the otherwise Classical repertory creates an incongruous, if vibrant, juxtaposition. 

The opening selection, the long-familiar Haydn 1792 Surprise Symphony, avoids anything like a routine reading, performed in a consistently brisk, alert fashion that attends to tempos and dynamics with athletic authority. The first movement’s Adagio cantabile may move slowly, but it rings with ominous hints that the succeeding Vivace assai never quite alleviates. While the main theme avoids G Major, the secondary theme revels despite a displaced accent. Of course, the famous second movement, Andante, a theme and four variations, stands out for its one big moment of Paukenschlag, the intrusive drumbeat. The musical means remains relatively simple major and minor alternations, and selective, color filigree that culminates with the oboe’s turning a wedding dance into a clucking moment of rural life. The obligatory Menuetto avec Trio retains the stamping, folkish energy of the last variant of the slow movement, while the Trio delights in the blend of violins and bassoon. Paray guides the final movement, a combination of sonata and rondo forms, with a healthy verve, almost a whistling realization of the will to healthy life. While many versions of this symphony exist under other music directors, this one stands out as especially refreshed. My only quibble lies in the relative brevity of an otherwise rare musical event.

—Gary Lemco

Paul Paray conducts Detroit Symphony Orchestra

HAYDN: Symphony No. 94 in G Major “Surprise”;
MOZART: Exsultate jubilate, K. 165;
BEETHOVEN: Ah! Perfido, Op. 65;
ALBENIZ: “Triana” from Iberia

Eleanor Steber, soprano
Detroit Symphony Orchestra

More information through Forgotten Records

Album Cover for Paul Paray conducts Detroit Symphony