Symphony in C Ravel
Daphnis et Chloe Suite No.2
Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Georges Pretre
CD No: HANSSLER CD 93.013 Duration: Reviewed: June 2001
Georges Pretre on CD - Bizet and Ravel
Reviewed by Colin Anderson
Georges Pretre was born in 1924. He studied at the Paris Conservatoire and cut his conducting teeth at provincial opera houses in his native country. An operatic and symphonic conductor, hes possibly best known for his recordings with Callas of Carmen and Tosca. He remains active and wonderfully musical as a recent recording of Strausss Capriccio testifies. Although Pretre - like his older and no less wonderful contemporary Jean Fournet - belongs to a group of musicians that connoisseurs appreciate, the man-in-the-street, flattered by the deceptions of much-feted bigger names, hasnt necessarily allowed Pretres personality to infiltrate received perceptions.
Anyone whos seen Pretre conduct will know of his total commitment. His is a happy marriage of involvement, ear for colour, dynamic contrast, sensitivity and expressive phrasing. These hallmarks are evident in Daphnis, which reports a vivid atmosphere, great attention to instrumental detail and an expressional volatility that is manifested here in the breathing slow music and thrilling danse generale. Throughout, Pretre compels attention with a theatrical import that is never superficial or applied he has peered beneath the surface of the music, read the small print, and gives the listener an individual, echt-realisation.
These Stuttgart Radio tapings natural, well-balanced sound are from concerts; Pretre is the Symphony Orchestras Honorary Conductor. A former Principal Conductor was Sergiu Celibidache. At the beginning of Daphnis (1997), Pretres deeply considered response to colour and sound reveals a kinship with that great maestro the fastidious harp ripples (from 005), the veiled string sonority, and the suggestive double bass glissandos (020-033); there are countless such felicitations en route.
Sometimes, Pretres volatility loses focus I would have welcomed more of the brass kiss (at 354) when Daphnis and Chloe are united. Similarly in La valse (95), the potent atmosphere suggested at the opening the ghostly harp at 049 for example isnt always followed-through with the same concern for musical fabric as the emotional temperature rises; yet a wealth of singular detail and inflection will be heard. What a masterpiece La valse is this great work about destruction, the nineteenth-century Vienna ballet-setting surely a metaphor for music written in the aftermath of the First War. Pretre does well in delaying the cataclysm by prettifying the earlier sections to an unusually decorous degree; the tragic denouement is urgently signalled at 922 note the baleful, tenuto trombones from 931 deliberately out-of-sync with the whirling surroundings before the free-fall to chaos is vividly chartered as an unstoppable accelerando.
A tad more breadth to that coda might have intensified the shock though. Not that Pretre lacks for poise as his delightful account (1991) of Bizets evergreen symphony displays, an elegant, lightly-tripping reading of huge affection for one of the loveliest works in the repertoire. The gorgeous oboe melody of the first movement is tinged here with nostalgia (beautifully played) and heard with pleasure a second time when Pretre repeats the exposition. He obtains a delicacy of response from the Stuttgart musicians that is elegantly French; leaving aside the occasional scrappy phrase, the playing is lucid and pastel-coloured. Not that Pretre sees Bizets Symphony as lightweight theres plenty of emotion here, especially in the spaciously-moulded slow movement, which once again features the oboe (a tenor aria!); the fugal section (from 530) is in tempo and most persuasively phrased. The finale, taken very rapidly (alas, no repeat), has great dash and precision; note how Pretre yields at 107 to shape the second subject so winsomely.
Youll have spotted I rather like this CD! I would take it as a personal favour if Hanssler could unearth more Pretre material a conductor of character and insight.