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CD Review

Pierre Monteux

Decca & Philips Recordings 1956-1964

Claude Monteux, flute
Julius Katchen, piano
London Symphony Orchestra/Pierre Monteux
* Orchestre de la Société du Conservatoire Paris/Pierre Monteux
** Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Pierre Monteux
Decca 475779-8 7CDs ADD
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This fine set is a timely tribute to one of the greatest masters of the baton, Pierre Monteux who was a legend in his own lifetime. The seven CDs in the collection bring together some famous recordings but there are also some interesting rarities that are seeing the light of the day for the first time in this format.

Monteux's affinity for Bach was well known and this comes across in this lovely recording of the Suite #2 with the LSO. The Gluck is also lovingly performed as the Mozart Flute Concerto with Claude Monteux as soloist. Haydn's lovely 'Clock' Symphony also comes across wonderfully in a 1963 VPO recording.

The second disc is dedicated to Brahms and the third to Debussy, both composers for which Monteux had a great affinity as well. The Brahms overtures are well played and energetic enough whilst the famous Second Symphony remains slightly earthbound but comes alive in the whopping Finale. Monteux's Debussy was without peer, comparable to that other great Decca artist, Ernest Ansermet but the recording of the 'San Sebastien' fragments was made for Philips and it has been accorded star status ever since its issue in 1963.

Stravinsky, Monteux's mentor and close companion is rightly accorded space with what one can only term as definitive readings of the 'L'Oiseau de Feu' Suite, 'Le Sacre du Printemps' and 'Pétrouchka'. Over forty years on, these are still definitive Stravinsky in all departments. Decca also find space for some rather untypical Monteux such as the lengthy excerpts from Tchaikovsky's 'Sleeping Beauty', Sibelius' Second Symphony and the famous recording of Elgar's 'Enigma Variations'.

When faced with such magnificent music making, it is hard to really give an opinion but I would be safe by stating that every self respecting lover of orchestral music and historical recordings must have this set in their collection.

Copyright © 2007, Gerald Fenech