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75 ans Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne
rec. 1950-2016
CLAVES 50-1711 [7 CDs: 477:25]

I always associate the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne with their collaborations with Antal Doráti in his distinguished Haydn Opera cycle from the 1970s and 80s. They provided me with much listening pleasure. This set, from the Swiss label Claves, to mark the ensemble’s 75th anniversary, is most welcome in showcasing a wide cross-section of their work under the six artistic directors that have guided them from their beginning to the present day.

The orchestra was founded by the Swiss conductor Victor Desarzens, its first artistic director, in 1942, and successfully thrives today, being in great demand. Its current director is the American born Josua Weilerstein, appointed in 2015. The orchestra consists of about forty personnel, and their repertoire extends from early Baroque to contemporary. They've toured extensively across Europe, the USA and Russia. Over the years they've collaborated with some star players: Haskil, Cortot, Argerich, Grumiaux, Tortelier, Wand and Hindemith, the list goes on. The aim of this collection is to highlight some of their work via the six musical directors that have shaped the ensemble over the years: Victor Desarzens (1942-1973); Armin Jordan (1973-1985); Lawrence Foster (1985-1990); Jesús López Cobos (1990-2000); Christian Zacharias (2000-2013) and Josua Weilerstein, the present incumbent.

What attracts me most about this box is the wide ranging repertoire of the OCL. Victor Desarzens, the orchestra's first artistic director is allocated the first two CDs.  We begin with a live performance of the Sinfonia from Bach's Easter Oratorio, a fitting start as it's the earliest work in the set. The oboe solo is eloquently contoured by Bernard Schenkel. Samson François is the soloist in Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 23. This is most welcome because, as far as I know, he never recorded any of the composer's concertos commercially, neither have I come across any live airings. Noted for playing that can be  erratic, quixotic, mercurial and unpredictable, these reservations can be put aside here. This captivating live performance from January 1961 makes one regret he didn't set down any of them in the studio. His playing is elegant and stylish and divested of quirky mannerisms. Staying with Mozart, there's a 1950 radio broadcast of his Flute Concerto in G, K313 with the Swiss flautist Aurèle Nicolet. The outer movements are spirited, with the exquisite Adagio breathtaking in its phrasing and delicate pianissimos. Nicolet later went on to make a commercial recording of the work with David Zinman and the Royal Concergebouw.

The second CD showcases the orchestra  in 20th century music. The Swiss conductor Victor Desarzens tirelessly championed the music of his fellow countrymen, and we have examples of music by Julien-François Zbinden and Frank Martin. Zbinden at the time of writing is still alive, aged 100.  His Concerto da camera for piano and orchestra, is new to me. Its style is neo-classical, with an exuberant opener, a dreamy slow movement and a fugal finale. Karl Engel is the pianist and injects plenty of personality into his playing. Martin's Ballade for flute and orchestra is also neoclassically orientated yet with chromatic leanings. Although stretching the soloist technically it has remained a popular repertoire piece. Edmond Defrancesco seems to meet the challenges with unruffled ease.

Armin Jordan, another Swiss conductor, made his name in French repertoire, but here he directs the ensemble in Haydn, Britten and Brahms. Dame Felicity Lott is the soprano soloist in Haydn's Berenice, che fai? and Britten's Les Illuminations, both taken from a live concert in Lausanne in November 2000. Lott is in wonderful form and her voice has a radiant bloom. The Britten is the highlight for me. She had already recorded it in 1988 with the Scottish National Orchestra under Bryden Thomson, but this performance I much prefer for its freshness, spontaneity and sense of elation. I've always preferred the cycle sung by a soprano rather than a tenor. The Haydn Berenice is equally successful, where Lott truly immerses herself into the character she’s portraying.

Lawrence Foster has done much to champion the music of George Enescu and I've always admired the recordings he's made for EMI. Three works from the same 1987 sessions feature on CD 4. Claves issued this CD previously but it’s long since been deleted. It's good to see it again restored to circulation. The Symphonie de chambre, Op. 33 is scored for flute, oboe, cor anglais, clarinet, bassoon, horn, trumpet, violin, viola, cello, double bass and piano. It was Enesco’s final work and remained incomplete when he suffered a severe stroke in July 1954.  Marcel Mihalovici, a close friend, made the completion. It’s rife with dissonance. Not so Two Intermezzos for strings from the early part of his career. Both are tonally based. The first is bucolic in mood, the second glances back wistfully to bygone days. The Dixtuor is cast in lighter vein, and has always been one of my favorite Enescu works.

The Spanish conductor Jesús López Cobos held the reins from 1990-2000 and sadly passed away earlier this month at the age of seventy-eight. He brings a characteristic latin warmth to the pieces he conducts. Gidon Kremer's purity of tone, elegant execution and pristine intonation in the two Schubert pieces has immense appeal. The Polonaise is new to me, and I’m more than happy to make its acquaintance. The conductor is on home turf in Manuel De Falla's Sept Chansons Populaires Espagnoles. Berganza's passionate delivery, idiomatic phrasing and inflections coupled with López Cobos'  subtle nuanced direction are a winning combination. The enthusiastic audience applause says it all. Stravinsky's Suites are proof of the enthusiasm and commitment these players bring to all they address. The performances are well-rehearsed with flawless ensemble.

Christian Zacharias and Josua Weilerstein stay with mainstrean repertoire, with the exception of the Golijov work on CD 7. Osvaldo Golijov (b. 1960) is an Argentinian composer. His Night of the Flying Horses is a Yiddish-inflected score, tuneful and personable. Zacharias fulfils the dual role of director/soloist in a fluent and well-poised rendition of Chopin's Second Piano Concerto. Weilerstein brings a wealth of detail, vitality and verve to a compelling reading of Beethoven's Fourth Symphony.

Despite the fact that these recordings span more than sixty years, they are all in remarkable sound. I have nothing but praise for this 75th anniversary tribute, and it gets my warm-hearted recommendation.

Stephen Greenbank

CD 1 [76:40]
Direction: Victor Desarzens
Johann Sebastian Bach, Sinfonia de l'oratorio de Pâques BWV 249 (Live)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Concerto No. 23 en La Majeur K. 488 (Live)
(soloist: Samson François)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Concerto pour flûte et orchestre No. 1 en Sol Majeur K. 313
(soloist: Aurèle Nicolet)
Joseph Haydn, Symphonie No. 54 en Sol Majeur
rec. 1950-1969

CD 2 [65:30]
Direction: Victor Desarzens
Francesco Malipiero, Hommage à l'OCL (Live)
Frank Martin, Ballade pour flûte et orchestra
(soloist: Edmond Defrancesco)
Julien-François Zbinden, Concerto da Camera pour piano et orchestre Op. 16
(soloist: Karl Engel)
Hans Werner Henze, Fünf neapolitanische Lieder pour ténor et orchestra
(soloist: Nasco Petroff)
Paul Hindemith, Kammersymphonie No. 4 Op. 36 no. 3 pour violon et orchestra
(soloist: Stéphane Romanesco)
rec. 1950-1963

CD 3 [68:38]
Direction: Armin Jordan
Joseph Haydn, Symphonie No. 22 en Mib Majeur "Le Philosophe"
Joseph Haydn, "Berenice, che fai ?" , Scena di Berenice, Hob XXIVa:10 (Live)
(soloist: Dame Felicity Lott)
Benjamin Britten, Les Illuminations., Op.18
(soloist: Dame Felicity Lott)
Johannes Brahms, Neue Liebeslieder Walzer Op. 52 (Live)
rec. 1976-2000

CD 4 [51:25]
Direction: Lawrence Foster
Georges Enesco, Symphonie de chambre, Op. 33
Georges Enesco, Deux intermèdes pour cordes, Op. 12
Georges Enesco, Dixtuor pour instruments à vent, Op. 14
rec. 1987

CD 5 [68:53]
Direction: Jesus Lopez-Cobos
Juan Antonio de Arriaga, Ouverture Los Esclavos Felices (Live)
Franz Schubert, Polonaise pour violon et orchestre en Sib Majeur D 580 (Live)
Franz Schubert, Rondo pour violon et orchestre en La majeur D 438 (Live)
(soloist: Gidon Kremer)
Manuel de Falla, Sept Chansons Populaires Espagnoles
(soloist: Teresa Berganza)
Igor Stravinsky, Suite No. 1 pour petit orchestre (Live)
Igor Stravinsky, Suite No. 2 pour petit orchestre (Live)
Maurice Ravel, Ma mère l'Oye, cinq pièces enfantines, suite pour orchestre (Live)
rec. 1993-2000

CD 6 [79:50]
Direction: Christian Zacharias
Joseph Haydn, Symphonie No. 80 en ré mineur (Live)
Frédéric Chopin, Concerto pour piano No. 2 en fa mineur Op. 21 (Live)
(soloist: Christian Zacharias)
Franz Schubert, Symphonie No. 7 en si mineur D. 759 « Inachevée » (Live)
rec 1996-2003

CD 7 [66:33]
Direction: Joshua Weilerstein
Joseph Haydn, Symphonie No. 60 « Le distrait » (Live)
Osvaldo Golijov, Night of the flying horses, pour orchestre (Live)
Ludwig van Beethoven, Symphonie No. 4 en Sib Majeur, Op. 60 (Live)
rec. 2015-2016



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