Pierre Monteux conducts Boston Symphony Orchestra (1959) [Music Video]

by | Jul 2, 2005 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Pierre Monteux conducts The Boston Symphony Orchestra (1959)  
BRAHMS: Tragic Overture, Op. 81; HINDEMITH: Nobilissima visione; STRAVINSKY: Petrouchka
Studio: VAI DVD 4316  
Video: 4:3 Black & White
Audio: PCM mono
Length: 80 minutes
Rating: ****

A virtuoso concert in every way, the WGBH Boston Symphony Orchestra
telecast 20 January 1959 from Sanders Theater, Harvard University featured
eminent guest-conductor Pierre Monteux (1875-1964), who had himself been
director of the BSO 1919-1924. Demure and utterly in control of his
medium, Monteux may have appeared relatively undemonstrative on the
podium, but his flawless stick technique,  invoking both clarity of line
and a relentless inner pulsation, was a model of musical deportment.
Monteux’s long affinity for the music of Stravinsky extended back to 1913,
when he gave premiers of Le Sacre du Printemps, at the second concert of
which, Stravinsky embraced Monteux in what he later called “the sweatiest
kiss of my life.”

Monteux opens with a spirited, intense reading of the D Minor Tragic
Overture of Brahms, whose tympani part keeps Everett Firth quite busy,
along with the BSO’s long-esteemed string line. The Hindemith suite,
derived from his treatment of the St. Francis of Assisi legend, is in
three sections that permit the absolute music to speak, without the reliance
of operatic text nor balletic realization. Brighter in colors than the
Brahms overture, the music responds to Monteux’s coaxing and aristocratic
line. The BSO brass section, with Roger Voisin in the trumpet principal,
shines here, as it does again for the resounding colors of the

The strictly visual aspects of the kinescope are less than brilliant, with
the bleached-out black and white graphics typical of the format.
The soundtrack, too, suffers occasional pitch or dynamic drop-outs.
Nevertheless, I have awarded this historic document highest marks since
it is our only video record of Monteuxs leadership of the ensemble with
whom he shared much glorious music-making, and the concluding Stravinsky
ballet shimmers with grand energy. At the conclusion of the program,
Monteux shares the audience’s admiration with Bernard Zighera, the BSO
resident harpist, heard in the obbligato piano part; and with first flute
Doriot Anthony Dwyer – both of whom had rendered inspired service in the
course of this ever-scintillating score.

–Gary Lemco

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