There can be few, if any, musicians this century who have conducted as many illustrious and notorious premieres as Pierre Monteux. As conductor of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes from 1911 to 1914, he led the first performances of Ravel’s ‘Daphnis et Chloé ‘(1912), Debussy’s ‘Jeux’ (1913) and Stravinsky’s ‘Le Rossignol’ (1914), as well as the two works recorded here.
Monteux’s’ Petrushka’ was captured on disc three times (all in the 1911 version) and his affection for the work is obvious in this 1956 recording. He brought to the score his own characteristic blend of textual fidelity, clarity and effervescence.
Even more closely associated with Monteux is ‘Le Sacre du Printemps’. As well as the riotous premiere on 29 May, 1913 (just two weeks after that of ‘Jeux’), he conducted the first UK and Dutch performances and the hugely successful Paris concert premiere in April 1914. Stravinsky described this occasion as ‘a triumph such as few composers can have known the like … the musical realisation was ideal … I came on the stage and hugged Monteux who was a river of perspiration: it was the saltiest hug of my life.’ This was the last of Monteux’s five recordings of the piece and his only one in stereo.
Le Sacre du Printemps
Orchestre de la Société des concerts du Conservatoire de Paris
Julius Katchen, piano+
Recording Producer: John Culshaw
Balance Engineer: Roy Wallace
Recording Location: Salle Wagram, Paris, France, 6, 7, 9, 10 November 1956 (Petrushka), 2, 5, 6, 11 November 1956 (Le Sacre du Printemps)
‘It goes without saying the Monteux’s performance is magnificent. He charges the score with drama without ever hurrying on bullying the music. In some way the recording seems to match the performance, for it is superbly natural’ (Petrushka) Gramophone