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This review is from: Ernest Ansermet: French Music (Audio CD)
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!