Bartók, Chabrier, Debussy, Rachmaninov, Ravel, Rimsky-Korsakov, Stravinsky
CD No: IMG Artists CZS 5 75094 2 (2 CDs) Duration: Reviewed: August 2002
Great Conductors - Ernest Ansermet
Reviewed by Bill Newman
The issue devoted to Ernest Ansermet is a subtle attempt to portray the distinctive clarity of the Masters approach to repertoire that he was associated strongly with. It somehow does not quite come off, and I dont understand exactly why!
Nalen Anthonis booklet note convinces the reader that the conductor requires certain re-evaluations in the light of comments, statements and new findings, yet, in my view, Ansermet did not always enjoy the fruits of his vast experience, perhaps because his strivings were sometimes analytical and that some orchestras lacked the sympathy of true understanding. I find parts of Stravinskys Le Chant du Rossignol (1956, Suisse Romande Orchestra) and Rimsky-Korsakovs Scheherazade (1954, Paris Conservatoire) both shapeless and floppy in ensemble. He did the Rimsky better later on. Debussys Faune (1956, SRO) is acceptable because of its marvellous refinement.
Bartóks superb Concerto for Orchestra (1956, SRO) suffers (for me) from a fastidious approach to inner balance and correct dynamics, but this is a personal opinion from one who reveres the opulent Hungarian dynamism of Reiner and Dorati (1956, SRO). Live recordings of Duke Bluebeards Castle and an accompaniment to Menuhins outstanding account of Violin Concerto No.2 show a more exciting and firmer grasp of the composers complexities.
Rachmaninovs prophetic Isle of the Dead (1954, Paris Conservatoire) is undeniably interesting in the way Ansermet pieces the strands together into a whole, varying his instrumental dynamics most carefully. Ravels La valse (1953, same forces) is equally compelling but a certain video clings firmly in the memory where the conductors facial intensity added so much more charisma. Chabriers Fête polonaise is the Ansermet we all loved and admired in superb sound courtesy of my old friend James Lock.