on 13 April 2014
This is one of the best bargains I've bought for a long, long time - ca. £38 for 32 CDs with some of the best recordings of French music that you'll find on disc.
Back in the days of vinyl Ansermet's recordings were my introduction to a great deal of French (and Russian) repertoire - aided by Decca's outstanding production, Ansermet had an unerring knack of being able to make his recorded performances sound spontaneous and perfectly paced. The very French sound of the Suisse Romande Orchestra might jolt some listeners who are accustomed to the svelte performances of many of these works by US and other European orchestras, but for me they perfectly match Ansermet's humane and subtle readings - try the samples online of Ravel's La Valse or Le tombeau de Couperin.
I should also mention the mono recording of Pelleas et Melisande from the early 1950's with Suzanne Danco as Melisande - I had never gone to the trouble of listening to this before, believing that the sound would be too "boxy", but am bowled over by the clarity and quality of both the voices and the orchestra. This is far more than a mere historical document.
Looking forward to the next Ansermet box which will collect together his recordings of Russian music!
on 1 May 2014
This set is a very extensive survey of 20th century French music and if nothing else will introduce purchasers (myself included) to several previously unknown pieces. There are the well known works from Ravel (Bolero, Rapsodie Espagnole, Daphnis etc) and Debussy (La Mer, Nocturnes, Jeux etc) but also pieces from Lalo, Ambroise Thomas, Roussel and Alberic Magnard which are not so common these days. It's all good stuff however!
In the early days of stereo these recordings were the only ones available for much of this repertoire. Reviews in the Stereo record guide of 1960 of some of them were generally very good in terms of performance and sound. The sound stands up pretty well today actually but there are limitations at the frequency extremes of bass and treble. Where these performances score highly is in character, with a flavour of French authenticity. Sometimes the orchestral playing is not perfect but Ansermet seems to bring out all the colour in the scores. The Dutoit, Montreal versions of many of these works are better recorded and played but I find Ansermet the more engaging interpreter. The pungent sound of some of the woodwind playing is not heard in modern orchestras (for better or worse) but here it does not sound out of place.
This set is excellent value for money and may be the last chance to get some of these Ansermet recordings on CD. Universal in Italy should be congratulated for such a splendid gift to French music lovers!
on 7 April 2014
Ernest Ansermet is without any doubt the best interpreter of " la musique française" and much more. This box set is a dream come true, having all his recording of the French composers in a box set. Everything on the CDs are as good as expected, the sound quality is amazing. With the Bernstein Symphony Edition and the Bruno Walter The Edition this on top of my favorite box set.