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Ernest Ansermet - The Early Days
Details at end of review
Ernest Ansermet (conductor) with soloists and orchestras, as noted below
rec. 1916-55
CASCAVELLE VEL 3119 [8 CDs: 547:29]

Experience Classicsonline

Cascavelle has released some important Ansermet recordings, studio-based and live, well-known and rather more obscure. It’s now half a century since his death, and the discs here show him in a wide range of music. Once again it’s a question of the expected and the rare. This review will give a few pointers as to what you can find in this 8 disc box. 

I don’t suppose you’ll be at all surprised that the first disc majors in Stravinsky; the 1947 LPO Firebird which is rather better than the Suisse Romande remake, and also the Symphony of Psalms, in which the LPO chorus is not really a match for the Vlassof choir in Stravinsky’s own earlier Parisian recording. Finally we go back to Paris in 1930 for Stravinsky the pianist in the Capriccio - an essential recording. His 1946 Petrouchka is contained in the second disc which then ushers in what will be for many - and for me too - the rarity of hearing Ansermet’s 1916 New York recordings as conductor of the orchestra of the Ballets Russes. These include brief extracts from Scheherazade and contemporary fare from Tcherepnine, as well as witty orchestrations of Schumann’s Carnaval from a battery of orchestrator-composers, including Glazunov, Liadov and Sokolov. For the time, the recorded sound is good.
In 1942 Ansermet and the Suisse Romande recorded Mozart’s last two symphonies, but neither sounds especially noteworthy now. The level is a touch low and the performances are rather ponderous. Janine Micheau makes a sprightly showing in Exsultate, Jubilate, recorded after the war. The fourth disc disinters the 1947 LSO Pictures at an Exhibition, inferior to the Suisse Romande remake, and rather pulling its punches. La Valse is better, but this disc is most exciting for Danco’s 1948 Ravel Schéhérazade; you’ll find her 1954 remake in the eighth disc, along with the Mallarmé poems. Disc 5 features six Handel Concerti grossi from the Op.6 set. Though these recordings have been reissued before, they’re rare birds, and for a long while not much was known about then. The recordings were made for Decca in London in 1929. The leader was William Primrose, still playing violin, and the harpsichordist was Leslie Heward. The rallentandi are sometimes drastic, but this is an ingeniously played set and well worth hearing.
Haydn’s Clock Symphony (No.101) continues the fine vein established by Handel - this was a Suisse Romande recording from 1948 - and then we delve back to the Schumann Piano Concerto in 1928 with the venerable pupil of Clara Schumann, Fanny Davies at the helm; again this has been reissued more than once. Disc 7 takes in La Mer - atmospheric but lacking polish - and the Petite Suite in the accustomed Büsser orchestration. Jacqueline Blancard is a good, though not quite outstanding, soloist in the de Falla, and there are pioneering but brief extracts in 1929 from Honegger’s Le Roi David. The final disc sees Blancard joining Ansermet once again for the Ravel concertos. These are both good performances, though the recorded sound makes Blancard’s tone rather harder than it might be in the G major.

So this retrospective set ranges widely and some may think rather haphazardly through the chronology of Ansermet’s studio recordings. I am glad to make its acquaintance, not least for the rarer items and for those truly fine recordings among them.
Jonathan Woolf

see also reviews of other releases in the Cascavelle Ansermet Edition

CD 1 [61:10]
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
The Firebird, suite [21:42]
London Philharmonic Orchestra, rec. Kingsway Hall, London 1946
Capriccio for piano and orchestra [17:32]
Igor Stravinsky (piano)/Orchestre des concerts Straram, rec. Paris 1930
Symphony of Psalms [21:55]
London Philharmonic Chorus and Orchestra rec. Kingsway Hall, London 1947
CD 2 [68:32]
Petrouchka, ballet [34:40]
Ernest Christensen (piano solo)/London Philharmonic Orchestra, rec. Kingsway Hall, London 1946
Nikolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)
Schéhérazade (extracts); La mer et le vaisseau de Sindbad [4:18]- Fête à Bagdad [4:26]
Snegourotchka (extract); Danse des bouffons [3:48]
Nikolaï TCHÉREPNINE (1873-1945)
Le pavillon d’Armide, ballet fantastique (extract); Grande valse noble [4:26]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Carnaval (extracts); Préambule (orch. Glazounov) - Valse noble (orch. Petrow) - Coquette (orch. Kalafati) - Reconnaissance (orch. Wihtol) - Paganini (orch. Liadov) - Valse allemande (orch. Liadov) - Aveu (orch. Sokolov) [7:56]
Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Les Sylphides (extracts); Valse op. 70 n° 1 - Mazurka op. 33 n° 2 - Prélude op. 28 n° 7 - Valse op. 64 n° 2 [8:34]
Orchestre des Ballets Russes de Diaghilev, rec. New York, 1916
CD 3 [68:00]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K 550 [24:41]
Symphony No. 41 in C majorK 551 Jupiter [28:28]
Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, rec. 1942 in Studio 1 of Radio Suisse Romande, Genève
Exsultate, Jubilate, K 165 [14:51]
Janine Micheau (soprano)/Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire, rec.1948 in the Salle de la Mutualité, Paris
CD 4 [69:16]
Modeste MUSSORGSKY (1839-1881)
Pictures at an Exhibition(Orchestration: Maurice Ravel) [33:05]
London Symphony Orchestra, rec. Kingsway Hall, 1947
Nikolaï RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)
Le Coq d’or(extracts); Introduction (Le Tsar Dodon dans son palais) [4:15] - Cortège de noces [3:44]
Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, rec. 1948 Victoria Hall, Genève
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
La Valse, poème chorégraphique [12:59]
Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire, rec. Kingsway Hall, London 1949
Schéhérazade [15:06]
Suzanne Danco (soprano)/Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire, rec.
1948 la salle de la Mutualité, Paris
Orchestre de la Suisse Romande
CD 5 [78:03]
Georg Friedrich HANDEL (1685-1759)
Concerti Grossi Op.6 - N° 2 in F major - N° 3 in F minor - N° 4 in A minor - N° 6 in G minor - N°10 in D minor - N° 12 in B minor
William Primrose (violin)/Leslie Heward (harpsichord)/The Decca String Orchestra, rec. 1929, London
CD 6 [61:50]
Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Symphonie No. 101 in D minor The Clock [23:26]
Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, rec.1948, Victoria Hall, Genève
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Ouverture; Genoveva, op. 81
Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire, rec. 1947 Salle Pleyel, Paris
Piano Concerto op. 54 [28:45]
Fanny Davies (piano)/Orchestra of the Royal Philharmonic Society, rec. 1928 London
CD 7 [73:18]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
La Mer [21:55]
Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, rec. 1947, Studio 1 of Radio Suisse Romande, Genève
Petite Suite (orch. Henri Büsser) [13:25]
Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire, rec.1948 la Salle Pleyel, Paris
Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946)
Noches en los jardines de Espana [21:49]
Jacqueline Blancard (piano)/Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, rec 1942, Studio 1 de la Radio Suisse Romande, Genève
Arthur HONEGGER (1892-1955)
Le Roi David (extracts); N° 3. Psaume: « Loué soit le Seigneur » - N° 5. Le Cortège - N° 7. Psaume : « Ah! si j’avais des ailes de colombes » - N° 23. Marche des hébreux - N° 24. Psaume : « Je t’aimerai Seigneur » [7:02]
Chœur Romand/Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, rec.1929, Grand Théâtre de Genève Pastorale d’été [7:44]
Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, rec. 1942, studio 1, Radio Suisse Romande
CD 8 [67:20]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Piano Concerto for the left hand in D major [20:21]
Piano Concerto in G major [21:48]
Jacqueline Blancard (piano)/Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, rec1953, Victoria Hall à Genève
Schéhérazade [15:03]
Trois Poèmes de Stéphane Mallarmé [10:02]
Suzanne Danco (soprano)/Orchestre de la Suisse Romande. rec. 1954, Victoria Hall de Genève























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