Post by email@example.com Post by Raymond Hall
The above link is very instructive. Added to the usual suspects, Desormiere, Abbado, HvK, Casadeus, is a thumbs up for Ansermet.
Ray Hall, Taree
Really like Ansermets second in stupendous stereo
According to the following:
- For me, the recording of Pelléas that comes closest to realizing Debussy’s ideal came from Ernest Ansermet and his Orchestre de la Suisse Romande in their 1964 remake with Erna Spoorenberg (Mélisande), Camille Maurane (Pelléas), George London (Golaud), Guus Hoekman (Arkel) and Josephine Veasey (Geneviève) (Decca). Like Debussy, Ansermet strove in all his work for clarity, efficiency, precision and proportion, and never more so than here. In his notes to this set he cited as his challenge “bringing out the continuity of the melos, scattered between the instruments and the voices, and giving the vocal line its true value without preventing it from being bathed in the orchestral harmony that clarifies its meaning.” Like the pioneering 1941 venture a generation before, Ansermet’s forces live and breathe the score, but with a difference – the recording is so detailed as to add a further layer of meaning to enhance Debussy’s art. Ernest Ansermet conducts Pelleas et Melisande (London LP set cover) The soundstage is thoroughly convincing, with voices slightly moving and receding with the action, and atmospheric resonance reflecting the settings and moods – the reverberant sound of the grotto where Golaud threatens Pelléas is truly terrifying without being overdone. Not only are the instrumental textures and their interplay fully displayed, but the timbres of the voices add complexity to the characters, tracing Mélisande’s transformation from scared waif to viable lover and then reverting to a wimpering cipher on her deathbed. While clearly respecting the French theatrical tradition of diffident lyrical expression, the vocal acting runs the gamut from the wrenching poignancy of Mélisande quietly sobbing “Je ne suis pas heureuse” (“I am not happy”) and piteously dissembling as she tries to explain the loss of her heirloom ring, to Golaud’s frighteningly intense demented tirade (abetted by snarling brass) and Pelleas's ardent profession of love. (The only weak link in the cast is an infantile-sounding Yniold, admittedly a difficult and unrewarding role.) The orchestral playing is superb, beautiful without lapsing into affectation, and Ansermet leads it all with sustained focus on presenting the external content while enabling us to explore its implications, keeping a firm grip on the emotional vicissitudes, ideally balancing stylized artistry and underlying emotion, and selecting tempos so “right” that the whole thing seems to transcend time and place to dwell in a universe that is remote yet infused with our most basic human feelings.
Ansermet’s recording is a remarkable achievement. Perhaps, then, he should have the last word: “[Pelléas] realizes at once that miracle which the musical theatre has always tried to produce as the highest ideal: the perfect identification of a musical essence with its poetic substance.”