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Seen & Heard
Editor in Chief
Darius MILHAUD (1892-1974)
Symphony No. 6 (1955) [28:31]
Symphony No. 7 (1955) [22:47]
Ouverture Méditerranéenne (1953) [5:30]
Orchestre du Capitole
de Toulouse/Michel Plasson
rec. Toulouse, 1990s. DDD
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 439
online retailer ArkivMusic has struck a most remarkable deal with
several of the majors and not-so-majors including Sony, Universal,
Ondine, Vanguard and Vox. They have been licensed to reissue,
on demand, CDR versions of some 2000 discs deleted by these
companies and now EMI have joined the list. The price is
dropped to $14.99. The product is almost identical
to the original. The cover is a colour-scanned inkjet-printed
version of the original sleeve but with the ArkivMusic logo. The
tracks are listed as usual on the insert at the back of the
jewel case. ArkivMusic clearly produce the items on a custom basis
as and when ordered.
is good – presumably identical to the original. The disc
is a plain jane CDR transfer with the names of the works,
the playing time, the original DG disc number and the name
of the orchestra but not that of Plasson.
got as far as recording Milhaud 1 and 2, and 6 and 7 but
then stopped. DG-Universal reissued the disc of 1 and 2 a
couple of years ago but 6 and 7 has stayed in deletion oblivion … until
now. I suppose that with ArkivMusic having added this to their
own custom catalogue this will doom the disc as a deleted
item. Even so it makes one wonder whether ArkivMusic are having
to give their sales figures to DG-Universal so that they
might when sales reach a critical level produce a domestic
reissue. Perhaps ArkivMusic are limited in the total number they
can make. Who knows?
Symphony is a work of warm and Mediterranean-sweet
predilection. The first movement is marked Calme et
Tendre. The second movement Tumultueux is given
to outbursts of headlong joy - even the occasional glance
towards South America. The Lent et Doux (III) returns
us to the irresistible - but not quick - seductive embrace
of the first movement and its warming sunlight. For the Joyeux
et robuste movement Plasson takes the whole thing too
deliberately. That might also be true of the second movement.
Still, this at least gives the chance of taking in the
mercurial flow of ideas more easily.
Symphony is also from 1955 and is in three movements
not four. Not surprisingly the mood is sparky and exuberant
but again in these hands more deliberate than fleet. After
that very short first movement marked Animé comes
a Grave lasting 12:27. The sense it gives of threat
is emphasised by stabbing and brutal dynamic thrusts through
a bed of pensive writing for strings and woodwind. This
is music more in step with the bleakness of so many scores
of the time including the tougher elements of Milhaud's
own Symphonies 4 and 8 so memorably recorded by the composer
for the ORTF (reissued on Warner Apex and previously on
Erato). The finale is marked Vif which turns its
back - perhaps a little too easily - on the preceding Grave. It
recalls the animated writing of Walter Piston with a neo-classical
undertow from Stravinsky. Its peroration is superbly optimistic.
to hear, as a filler, Milhaud's little Ouverture Méditerranéenne from
two years earlier. I have a tape of Barbirolli conducting
this work and it seems to go with more natural élan in his
hands than with Plasson. There is more pepper and dissonance
in this flighty piece than you might have thought.
Toulouse Capitole are full of character their strings are
not a luxury article - more searching than ample.
some cavils this is a good way of adding three otherwise
separately unavailable recordings to your collection. You
should also give consideration to the splendid and inexpensive
complete Milhaud symphonies box from CPO (Alun Francis).
Plasson while sometimes given to languor gives fundamentally
sound, informed and sympathetic performances.
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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