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Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureux cond. Jean Martinon

The complete Philips recordings 1953 ­ 1958

DECCA 480 5589 (3CDs)

TPT: 77’50”; 68’21”; 67’27”

reviewed by Neville Cohn

4805588_JeanMartinon_ThePhilipsLegacy_CoverFor aficionados of Jean Martinon, this set of three compact discs including all his LP recordings for Philips from as far back as the 1950s is musical treasure trove. With the exception of Falla’s
Nights in the Gardens of Spain, all of these performances are available for the first time on CD, an event to celebrate. Much of it is a catalogue of musical delights which are now available to a new
generation of listeners – and not before time. It’s certainly been well worth the wait.

Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is given a fascinatingly detailed reading, a performance that draws the listener ineluctably into the composer’s unique mood and sonic world. With lively rhythms and finely gauged ritardandi, this is a performance that leaps from the page. At climaxes, the playing is informed by a sizzling intensity that grips the attention.

Honegger’s Pastorale occupies a very different sound and mood world; it’s lulling, dreamily swaying quality is the antithesis of the Dukas work. Here, Martinon coaxes a consistently unified response from his forces.

The chief joy of this collection is a superb account of de Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain. Exquisitely handled orchestral detail is a perfect foil for Eduardo del Pueyo who is magical in the solo role. Throughout, pianist, orchestra and conductor sound as one. Here, we have intensity whether quiet or sizzling – and rippling keyboard figurations that are everything that could be hoped for – and more!

In the hands of a lesser conductor, Noches can so easily sound formless, confused and interminable. Not here! From first note to last, one sensed an irrefutable musical logic on the part of both soloist and conductor. Bravissimo!

Martinon is no less impressive in de Falla’s El Amor Brujo which flares into pulsing life. Even Fire Dance, that most hackneyed of all de Falla’s pieces, sounds here quite irresistible. Alto Corinne Vozza is an ideal choice; she sings the words as if they really mean something.

Music director of the Chicago Symphony and artistic director of the Israel Philharmonic, among numbers of other highest­level postings, it’s interesting to reflect on Martinon’s remarkable career.

His original intention was to work primarily as a composer. How fortunate that he took both paths in his stride, leaving much that is memorable – and for the very best reasons.

Although the Mozart performances date from as far back as 1958 when recording techniques were not what they are now, their shortcomings in a purely sonic sense pale into insignificance when
considering the sheer spontaneity and immaculate sense of style which Martinon brings to these long­ago Phillips LP recordings.

Mozart’s delightful little Symphony No 32, which lasts all of 8 minutes, could well serve as a handy overture­like piece as curtain raiser to a program of more substantial music. It’s robust, jovial, busy music here given a first rate reading with beautifully maintained momentum.

Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony is given masterly treatment here. Its opening movement has a delightful aerial quality that sounds entirely right, spiced with abrupt fortes. Much of the work has a tongue­in­cheek quality, decorated cleverly with glittering trills and rapid arabesques to all of which Martinon and his forces respond with engaging skill.

A suite from the same composer’s suite from The Love for Three Oranges yields listening wonders as well. Scene infernale is particularly pleasing with strings ­ whether violins in high treble or slashes of double bass tone ­ very much on the ball.. The famous March brims with vigour ­ and the Prince and Princess episode is in the best musical sense meaningful.

Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun features flute phrasing of faultless finesse. Faure’s Pavane, , too, with its gentle pizzicato, is finely considered.

Roussel’s compositions are very seldom heard locally. More’s the pity because his wondrously imaginative music is an Ali Baba’s cave of sonic gems. Martinon and his forces seem positively to selish coming to grips with the scores in both the Bacchus and Ariane ballet suites – and The Spider’s Banquet is a joy.