Honegger: Symphonies Nos. 2, 3 & 4; Pacific 231; Le Roi David; Une Cantate de Noël; Martin: In Terra Pax

Honegger: Symphonies Nos. 2, 3 & 4; Pacific 231; Le Roi David; Une Cantate de Noël; Martin: In Terra Pax
Ernest Ansermet
Catalogue No.

The DECCA ANSERMET LEGACY has been systematically releasing the vast recorded legacy of Ernest Ansermet, a key Decca artist in the 1950s and 1960s. It has become one of the most sought-after and praised of all reissue series. The latest brings together Ansermet’s Honegger recordings, including the first international release on CD of the Symphony No. 3 ‘Liturgique’ and the 3CD set includes three Swiss works on biblical texts – Honegger’s Le Roi David (King David) and Une Cantate de Noël (Christmas Cantata), and Frank Martin’s In terra pax. Best known today for his tone poem Pacific 231 (of Ansermet’s two recordings of the piece, the second, in stereo, is featured here) and said to have been inspired by the massive physical energy of a railway engine, Honegger’s other music receives only rare outings in the concert hall. Although it has, in the last two decades, enjoyed greater representation on record, Ernest Ansermet was one of the composer’s pioneers and these recordings represent some of the most notable and widely available efforts. To mark the cessation of hostilities in 1945 around Europe, Radio Geneva in Switzerland commissioned a celebratory work from Frank Martin, the ‘oratorio breve’ In terra pax (Peace on Earth). Martin set the work joyfully, feeling that he was somehow, like Bach, in the privileged situation of an old master working for the church.


Symphony No. 2
Symphony No. 3 ‘Liturgique’*
Symphony No. 4 ‘Deliciae Basilienses’
Pacific 231
Le Roi David

Suzanne Danco, soprano
Marie-Lise de Montmollin, Pauline Martin, mezzo-sopranos
Michel Hamer, tenor
Stéphane Audel, narrator
Chœur des Jeunes de l’Église National Vaudoise

Une Cantate de Noël
Pierre Mollet, baritone
Chœur des Jeunes, Lausanne
Chœur de Radio Lausanne
Le Petit Chœur du Collège de Villamont

In Terra Pax
Ursula Buckel, soprano
Marga Höffgen, contralto
Ernst Haefliger, tenor
Pierre Mollet, baritone
Jakob Stämpfli, bass
Union Chorale
Chœur des Dames de Lausanne

L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande
Ernest Ansermet


Recording information

Recording Producers: Michael Bremner, Erik Smith (Symphony No. 2, Une Cantate de Noël); John Mordler (Symphonies Nos. 3, 4); Michael Bremner (Pacific 231, In terra pax); James Walker (Le Roi David)
Balance Engineers: Roy Wallace (Pacific 231, Symphony No. 2, Une Cantate de Noël); James Lock (Symphonies Nos. 3, 4, In terra pax); James Brown, Roy Wallace (Le Roi David)
Recording Location: Victoria Hall, Geneva, Switzerland, October 1956 (Le Roi David), November 1961 (Symphony No. 2, Une Cantate de Noël), April 1963 (Pacific 231), September-October 1963 (In terra pax), September 1968 (Symphonies Nos. 3, 4)


‘With Ansermet in charge, Le roi David was always in safe hands, and this set comes up as fresh as paint.… a Decca recording that may still serve as a model to sound engineers elsewhere’ Gramophone (Le roi David)

‘In these wonderful performances the wise, octogenarian conductor seems to be returning the young compatriot [Honegger] who predeceased him back to their common French-Swiss homeland. How splendidly he realises both the turbulence and peace of the Symphonie Liturgique and the lighter lyricism of the Deliciae Basiliensis. Player for player, the Suisse Romande Orchestra has never been rated among the world’s crack orchestral ensembles, yet, more often than not, in recordings with their illustrious founder-conductor, it sounds like one. And this, one of the last examples of that great and fruitful collaboration, is a disc to be treasured. The recording captures a wide dynamic range of musical sound.’ Gramophone (Symphonies Nos. 3 & 4)

‘The sense of presence and the sheer body of sound is impressive. Ansermet and the Suisse Romande Orchestra give a splendidly exhilarating account of the piece’ Gramophone (Pacific 231)

‘The solo baritone … sings most beautifully. The choirs have a lightness of touch … Ansermet welds the diverse music into a satisfactory whole … the recording is very good’ Gramophone (Cantate de Noël)

‘The performance is extremely fine … Excellent soloists’ Gramophone (In terra pax)