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Le Domaine musical (1956-1967) Volume 2
CD1 -Stravinsky

Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971) Concertino pour douze instruments (1952) [5:54] Trois pieces pour clarinette seule (1919) [4:10] Trois pieces pour quatuor à cordes (1914) [6:27], Symphonies d’instruments à vent (1947) [8:33] Renard (1916/7) [15:01] Agon (1953-57)[21:57]*
CD 2 – L’Ècole de Vienne 1

Arnold SCHOENBERG (1874-1951) Verklärte Nacht (1917) [31:12], Trois pièces pour 12 instruments (1910) [2:02] Pierrot Lunaire (1912) [31:50]
Anton WEBERN (1883-1945) Sechs Stücke für Orchester (1928) [10:17]
CD 3 – L’Ècole de Vienne 2

Alban BERG (1885-1935) Sonate en si mineur (1908) [8:27] Drei Stücke für Orchester (1915) [5:02]*
Arnold SCHOENBERG Kammersymphonie (1906) [17:15]
Anton WEBERN Zwei Lieder (1910-25) [2:0] Vier Lieder (1914-22) [6:19] Cantate no 1 (1939) [8:28] Cantate no 2 (1943) [12:30]
CD 4 – L’Ècole de Vienne 3

Arnold SCHOENBERG Sérénade (1920-23) [30:46] Suite for 7 instruments (1925) [24:31]
Anton WEBERN Variations für Klavier (1936) [6:18] Symphonie (1928) [9:33]
Soloists and Orchestra of Domaine musical/Pierre Boulez (conductor) * Orchester de Südwestrundfunks de Baden-Baden/Hans Rosbaud
rec. Paris 1956-1967
ACCORD UNIVERSAL CLASSICS 476 8862 [4 CDs: 62:14 + 65:02 + 74:30 + 70:04]
 


This is the second volume in the series of recordings made of Domaine musical concerts in Paris from 1953 to 1967 (for background, see review of Volume 1). While the first volume gave a general perspective on the scope of music promoted by the Domaine, this volume focuses in more detail on Stravinsky and the Second Viennese School. Stravinsky in particular was no stranger to French audiences. Mainstream audiences in France may have been conservative by Boulez’s standards and in his time, but Paris had long been receptive to musical innovation, as Stravinsky knew from experience. Many of the Domaine audience and musicians would have known Stravinsky’s work in performance, so the Domaine was effectively building on a sound foundation.
 
Domaine audiences and musicians were sophisticated and knowledgeable, and could respond to new ideas as a result. Ignorance fuels bigotry: learning disperses it. It’s this combination of a knowledgeable audience and good musicianship which makes this series so rewarding. The players are doing what they wanted to do, which they couldn’t in their normal orchestras. Furthermore, they knew full well that those who were listening were receptive and non-judgmental. Some of the venues used seated less than three hundred people, there was very direct, intimate communication between all present. The sense of rapport between performers and audience is al most palpable. This alone makes these recordings worthwhile. It’s impossible for anyone listening, even casually, to miss the spontaneity of these performances.
 
The Concertino for 12 instruments (here in the “new” 1952 revision) is a stunning example of just how good they could be. The trumpets and trombones are very punchy, and the piece is animated with a real sense of discovery. This is virtuoso playing indeed. Anyone hearing the clarinet solo pieces cannot fail to be impressed by Guy Deplus’s confident poise. He’s clearly enjoying himself, and knows his audience is, too. The Symphony for Wind Instruments is a triumph. This, too, is the revised 1947 version, which is now better known than the original, but in Domaine times was new. Each soloist is a virtuoso, yet they work together in perfect ensemble. The opening fanfare is spine-tinglingly good, as are the contrasts between large brass and woodwinds. Stravinsky had the measure of French idiom, too. Renard here is performed with panache, the singing spirited and stylish. It’s definitely enhanced by the rapport between musicians and audience.
 
In the first years of the Domaine, Boulez did everything, writing programme notes, commissioning programme art and even, personally, distributing wage packets to the musicians. Yet he was by no means the only conductor. In the October 1957 Domaine concert, Hans Rosbaud conducted the European première of Stravinsky’s new ballet Agon, in the prestigious Salon Pleyel. Rosbaud knew Boulez’s work. His compositions were featured at Donaueschingen as early as 1950. Indeed, when Poésie pour pouvoir was performed, Rosbaud conducted the primary part while Boulez conducted the secondary. When Rosbaud was indisposed, Boulez substituted for him, once receiving no less than twenty curtain calls. It must have been some performance!
 
Boulez would go on to make far superior recordings of Verklärte Nacht and Pierrot Lunaire, but these early versions are of interest because they show what they developed from. For example, in Pierrot Lunaire, Helga Pilarcyzk is very strong and direct, very different from the superlative version with Christine Schäfer. Boulez develops a more lucid, luminous style as he goes deeper into the soul of the music. Similarly, the versions of Webern songs here, with Jeanne Héricard, are interesting though not in the league of Boulez’s later Webern which is far more distinctive. Good conductors don’t spring, like Venus, fully formed and knowing everything. They listen, learn and find something new, and here we can follow how.
 
As elsewhere in this series, there’s excellent playing from Yvonne Loriod. Here she essays Berg’s Sonata in C, Webern’s Variationen für Klavier and leads the ensemble in Schoenberg’s Suite for Seven instruments. Loriod has unfortunately been, for me, first and foremost, connected to Messiaen, so it was good hearing her with the Domaine, where she was a guiding spirit.
 
The booklets for this series are not at all informative, or even particularly helpful. Perhaps they assume that anyone listening will have a grasp of late 20th century music-making, but of course this isn’t the case. If I’ve written at some length it’s because it’s worth pointing out why the series is important and shouldn’t be overlooked. Firstly, it is a time-capsule of an exciting period in new music. Then, it’s a guide to following the development of interpretation. It’s wonderful example of interaction between audiences and musicians. And above all, there are some very fine performances here, indeed.
 
Anne Ozorio
 

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