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Customer Review

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ansermet in from the cold?, 2 Aug. 2012
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This review is from: Ansermet: The First Decca Recordings (Audio CD)
Recordings by Ernest Ansermet and the Suisse Romande Orchestra were very popular in the 1950s/60s but are largely forgotten now. He worked in this country too, particularly at Glyndebourne.

I bought this set on the strength of the inclusion of Stravinsky's 'Renard', in a recording I knew and loved at school and subsequently sought out many years later on a 10-inch LP from Harold Moore's - with a recording of 'Lieutenant Kijé' on the reverse in the slightly bizarre combination of Sir Adrian Boult and the Paris Conservatoire Orchestra!

To my mind, 'Renard' in French is an absolute knock-out, not least because it is very funny; whether it is funny in the original Russian I cannot say, but I rather doubt it. The singers are perfect, not least the tenors Michel Sénéchal and the ineffable Hugues Cuénod. The recording comes up sparkling in its new format, the cymbalom in particular. I am very happy to have this.

Many of the other recordings are variable - a matter of technology rather than performance, particularly the 1950 'Sacre du Printemps', rather a tame beast on account of the feebleness of registration of the timpani - though this allows the double basses and tuba, which often duplicate the timpani line, to be heard as never before. 'Oedipus Rex' from 1955 is the longest piece and a very good performance. The recordings date from 1946 to 1962; technically the later ones fare better.

I hope this doesn't sound like damning with faint praise, for this is well worth acquiring for performances that in their day were staples and still have much to commend them (and the booklet reproduces several of the original sleeves with wonderful artwork). They are an antidote to many over-excitable and too-highly-coloured (and indeed, too slick) Stravinsky performances of the present day and go back to the Urtext that Stravinsky would have heard and expected when the works were new (which they nearly were, back then). Ansermet was an almost exact contemporary of Stravinsky and deserves reassessment nearly 45 years after his death.
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Initial post: 21 Sep 2015 16:49:46 BDT
A splendid review. I was working at Kingsway Hall (which included the Methodist Church's social work centre,) towards the end of 1968, when Ansermet came to make his last recording in the main hall, and as I was in friendly with some of Decca's recording team by then, was able to sit-in for some of the sessions. I have just ordered this set of early Stravinsky recordings on the strength of your review and am eagerly awaiting delivery, particularly being able to compare Ansermet conducting the Suisse Romande Orchestra when he was in his prime, with the Philharmonia Orchestra in 1968, when he had become a frail figure. Thank you for sharing your impressions of this CD re-issue; to Eloquence for compiling it and Amazon for making it easy-to-purchase, (I hadn't noticed the set before.)
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Location: London, England

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