Paul Paray, The Concert Hall Recordings = LISZT: Mephisto Waltz; Les Preludes; Mazeppa; SAINT-SAENS: Dance Macabre; Le Rouet d’Omphale; DUKAS: The Sorceror’s Apprentice; BIZET: Carmen Suite; RAVEL: Alborada del Gracioso; La Valse – Paul Paray – Scribendum

by | Oct 6, 2005 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

Paul Paray, The Concert Hall Recordings = LISZT: Mephisto
Waltz; Les Preludes; Mazeppa; SAINT-SAENS: Dance Macabre; Le Rouet
d’Omphale; DUKAS: The Sorceror’s Apprentice; BIZET: Carmen Suite;
RAVEL: Alborada del Gracioso; La Valse – Orchestre National de l‚Opera
de Monte-Carlo/ Paul Paray

Scribendum SC 017  69:25; 50:26 (Distrib. Silver Oak) ****:

Inscribed c. 1958-1967, this two-disc set does ample justice to the
virtuoso style of French composer-conductor Paul Paray (1886-1979),
whose tenure with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra is still recalled with
affectionate pride. Monte Carlo, however, was Paray’s first home,
especially after his tenure with the Municipal Orchestra and his work
at Concerts Colonne. Had not WWII intervened, Paray may well have been
Toscanini’s successor at the New York Philharmonic. As it stands, Paray
still enjoys credit for having transformed the Detroit Symphony into
America’s “first French orchestra,” although Koussevitzky certainly
imbued a French sound into the Boston Symphony.

What is compelling about these Concert Hall discs, despite their often
fatuous or missing recording data, are the intensity of sound and
orchestral projection Paray elicits from his players. The Liszt pieces,
bravura works all, easily rival Karajan and Dorati in their respective
spheres. The opening Mephisto Waltz is all business, lithe and sinewy
like a tiger possessed. The Mazeppa, by whose Karajan recording I have
reaped colossal auditory pleasure for years, sounds quite a finesse
job, with blazing brass and strings, the same facile triple-tonguing in
the trumpet coda. Les Preludes has grandeur and panache, even the same
flexible continuity I hear in the greats like Fricsay, Furtwaengler,
and Mengelberg.

The Saint-Saens Omphale Spining Wheel proceeds with the breezy but
monolithic stature Beecham accorded it. The colors and sleek attacks in
Dukas might have collectors guessing Stokowski or Mitropoulos. Listen
to that bassoon!  The battery and triangle shimmer in a way most
surreal, and the cumulative effect had me thinking the word “throes” to
describe my engagement. Dare I say, per expectation, the extended suite
from Carmen vibrates with pageantry and tragic intimations. Paray
favors those little hints of pesant phrasing and dynamics that add a
girth that too many other interpreters pass over glibly. Our bassoon
friend is back in pungent form for Les Dragons d’Alcala. Once again, we
out-Beecham Beecham. The Ravel selections throb, even hover, in almost
predatory expectation, the way Paray anticipates harmonic and textural
transitions. Again, is Mitropoulos so far away from Paray’s ravishing
colors in the Alborada? The concluding La Valse glides to its
inevitable explosion with passing homage to the Viennese models which
inspired it, until from its own centripetal acceleration it splinters
into the fragments of a vanished, romantic ethos.

–Gary Lemco

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