FRANCK: Symphony in D minor . STRAVINSKY: Petrushka (original
Chicago Symphony Orchestra (Franck); Boston Symphony Orchestra (Stravinsky)/Pierre Monteux, cond.
RCA/BMG 63303 [M] [ADD] TT: 74:00]
These are time-honored additions by Pierre Monteux (1875-1964) with two of the three US orchestras he was most closely associated with---"Living Stereo" digitally remastered from archival analog tapes during RCA Victor's stereo heyday. "Time-honored" is not to say, however, that both are equal in quality. Sadly, the 1959 Petrushka, recorded 35 years after Monteux was replaced on the Boston Symphony podium by Serge Koussevitzky, belies the fact that he led the original, Ballets Russes production in 1911.
The melon-shaped maestro with shoe-polish black hair and a white walrus mustache sounds all of his 84 years in this musicianly but matter-of-fact performance. Perhaps the work no longer engaged his full attention. Neither is the recording as voluptuous as the best from Bostonís Symphony Hall earlier and later. This is a cleaner performance than its mono companion, Le sacre du printemps, with the same orchestra in the same venue, which Monteux also premiered. But he was seldom if ever a guest in Boston after 1924, and hadn't the rapport he'd developed as a a regular summer guest with the Chicago Symphony, at Ravinia, after 1947.
The word "summer" is operative here, since he conducted in Orchestra Hall
downtown only twice---in 1948, and again in the winter of 1960-61, during
Fritz Reiner's season-long sidelining
by a heart-attack. This C»sar Franck, in fact, salvaged a session originally scheduled for
Reiner: Monteux's second version for RCA (he'd made it in mono with
his own San Francisco Symphony some 15 years earlier). It remains a classic
performance---some regard it as sine qua
non. But I've never liked the piece (truth? hate it!), although RCA asked
me to do the liner note. Since Edward R. Murrow's "You Are There" led the
Nielsen ratings in 1961, that's the kind of note RCA wanted---forget the
music, although I managed to sneak in a few details---just give us
R.D. (Sept. 1999)