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CD Review

Ernest Ansermet

Decca Recordings 1953-1967

Suzanne Danco, soprano
Marie-Lise de Montmollin & Pauline Martin, mezzo-sopranos
Michel Hamel, tenor
Stéphane Audel, narrator
Choeur des Jeunes de l'église National Vaudoise
L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande/Ernest Ansermet
Decca Original Masters 475814-0 6CDs ADD Rec 1953-67
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We have been waiting quite long for an Original Masters box set dedicated to that great and faithful Decca legend Ernest Ansermet, and this sumptuous yet astonishingly varied selection is well worth the modest outlay.

As soon as this set arrived in the post, I popped the discs into my CD player and sat back enjoying the magnificent recordings courtesy of those legendary engineers such as James Brown, Gordon Parry and the 'chez qua non' Kenneth Wilkinson. From the glorious sounds of the Sinfonia to Bach's BWV 31 Cantata to the biting modernism of Frank Martin's Concerto for 7 Wind Instruments, Timpani, Percussion and strings, the sound is a glorious reminder of what could be achieved in the heady days of the Victoria Hall in Geneva.

But there's much more off the beaten track than these items listed above. How about a sparklingly played 4th symphony from Beethoven and two powerful overtures from Weber, not to mention a beautiful account of Mendelssohn's 'Ruy Blas'? Then there is the rarely heard Symphony #22, 'The Philosopher by Haydn, this reminds me of another fine set by the same conductor of that composer's 'Paris' symphonies which I happen to have on both LP and CD.

Ansermet was sine qua non in French repertoire and there are bagfuls of this here including some delightful excerpts from Delibes' ballets, his beloved Chabrier, ravel's 'Le Tombeau de Couperin' and the conductors own orchestrations of 'Six epigraphes antiques' alongside Busser's orchestration of the 'Petite Suite' (both of these recordings are available on a Testament CD).

An interesting item is the first CD recording of the orchestration of Schumann's 'Carnaval' whilst one welcomes Franck's 'Les Chausser Maudit' although sadly there is no space for 'Les Eolides' from the same source. Another curio is the recording of Sibelius' 4th Symphony which although rather strait laced is another souvenir of Ansermet's great versatility.

Apart from Martin, Ansermet also served Honegger very well with this pioneering recording of 'Le Roi David' which is finally restored to the catalogue. There are also some classic recordings of Borodin's 'Polovtsian Dances, short pieces by Stravinsky, Rimsky-Korsakoff and Lyadov and a lovely recording of Respighi's 'Rossiniana'. A magnificent collection then which should be on the shopping list of any self respecting collector of orchestral music.

Copyright © 2007, Gerald Fenech