The recordings of Pierre Monteux (1875-1964) have been important to me since I was in my early 20s (which was a long time ago). In fact, they had something to do with me becoming a music critic. The French maestro gave the premieres of “The Rite of Spring,” “Petrushka,” “Daphnis and Chloe” and “Jeux,” among many other works. He had a long career, made recordings from 1903-1964, served as music director of the Boston Symphony, the San Francisco Symphony, the London Symphony, and guest conducted the world over. He is celebrated especially in the French and Russian repertoire, but I like his work in everything I’ve heard, which is most of what he put on record from about 1940 on. The list below is a starting point. Some of them are out of print, but with a little effort can be found for sale online. But if you have a little cash on hand there’s no reason not to get this new release.
1. Stravinsky: “The Rite of Spring.” Boston Symphony. RCA.
2. Franck: Symphony in D minor. Chicago Symphony. RCA.
3. Tchaikovsky: “The Sleeping Beauty,” highlights. London Symphony. Australian Eloquence.
4. Tchaikovsky: Symphonies Nos. 4-6. Boston Symphony. RCA.
5. Debussy: “La Mer.” Boston Symphony. RCA.
6. Berlioz: “Symphonie Fantastique.” San Francisco Symphony. RCA.
7. Beethoven: Symphony No. 8. Vienna Philharmonic. Decca.
8. Ravel: “Daphnis et Chloe.” London Symphony; Royal Opera House Chorus. Decca.
9. Rimsky-Korsakov: “Scheherazade.” San Francisco Symphony. RCA.
10. Chausson: Symphony in B-flat. San Francisco Symphony. RCA.
Bonus record: Mozart: Symphonies Nos. 35 and 39. NDR Symphony Orchestra of Hamburg. Preludio.
In a march – even one by Berlioz – solid and precise rhythm is a basic requirement, but in this recording of the “Rakoczy” that aspect leaves much to be desired. The tempo is so shaky during the first three minutes that the intentional speed changes after that do not achieve the intended effect. Whether this is fault mainly of the conductor or the orchestra is hard for me to tell because the quality of the recorded sound is far from ideal.
I knew you’d like it! (Yes, it’s pretty sloppy in spots.)
Unfortunately i did not like it as much as i hoped i would. And it is all your fault because you spoiled me with many outstanding recordings presented on your blog in the past. Perhaps i should lower my expectations next time…
Please don’t lower your expectations. Yes, it is my fault. This recording has actually been written about (other than by me). It’s both very sloppy and very exciting. Monteux had to work with the union in SF and was required to hire a certain amount of local musicians. Also, he believed in spontaneity more than precision (though he loved precision), so that sometimes he gave the orchestra it’s head, so to speak. I think this is a very exciting recording, but I understand why you don’t like it. Many of the SF/Monteux recordings are not especially impressive precision-wise, but they have other attributes. You may want to look up the Monteux/SF “Scheherazade” and “Symphonie Fantastique” on this site. P.S. Listen to his “La Mer” with Boston and tell me what you think.
My objection to this recording of the Rakoczy was not about imprecision but mostly about its shaky rhythm which in my opinion damages the very character of the piece. For me, the fourth movement of the Fantastique suffers from a similar shortcoming, though to a somewhat lesser extent: there are definitely several truly exciting moments in it. As for the finale of Scheherazade, i really enjoyed hearing that one: the interpretation is both colorful and exciting, and it is quite well realized by the orchestra, including beautifully played violin solos. Unfortunately i don’t have the BSO/Monteux La Mer recording.