C0728. PIERRE MONTEUX Cond. Boston S.O.: L’Oiseau de Feu – Suite (1911 Version); Pulcinella (both Stravinsky); Der Rosenkavalier – Suite (Strauss); Psyché (Franck); w.Leon Fleisher: Piano Concerto #1 in d (Brahms). (E.U.) 2-West Hill Radio Archives WHRA 6012, Live Performances, 1953-57. Transfers by Maggi Payne. - 4015023160125
“Fans of Pierre Monteux will want to seize a 2-CD Boston Symphony collection of previoulsy unissued performances, this time from between 1953 and 1957 and offered by West Hill Radio Archives. Stravinsky’s ‘The Firebird’ ends with the ‘Infernal Dance’; the one that Monteux conducts here ends with the ballet’s ‘Apotheosis’ and contains movements not in the 1919 Suite, the latter being the version that I thought Monteux recorded in Paris for Decca– this is an atmospheric and cracking performance. Then comes the Suite from Strauss’s “Der Rosenkavalier” (made by Artur Rodzinski) and is followed by music from César Franck’s ‘Psyché’. There is a feeling of rightness to Monteux’s conducting and the Boston Symphony adds to the pleasure. The second CD includes Brahms’s Piano Concerto No.1 with Leon Fleisher as the patrician soloist, a linear account in which structure is uppermost and sentiment is welded to it. A tart account of the Suite from Stravinsky’s ‘Pulcinella’ completes this fine release; and with no complaints regarding Maggi Payne’s transfers.”
- Colin Anderson, classicalsource.com
"Pierre Monteux had one of the longest musical careers in memory, exceeded perhaps only by Pablo Casals and Leopold Stokowski. He retained a youthful appearance (and a full head of black hair!) well into old age, and he was well loved by colleagues and audiences alike.
He started violin studies at the age of six and then entered the Paris Conservatoire at the age of 9. He made his conducting début in Paris at the age of 12. He was a co-winner of the first prize for violin in 1896, with the great violinist Jacques Thibaud. He served as principal violist in the Opéra-Comique, and was also assistant conductor and concertmaster of the Concerts Colonne. In 1894 he joined the Quatuor Geloso as a violist and was priviledged to participate in the performance of a Brahms quartet in the composer's presence. In 1908 he became conductor of the Orchestre du Casino in Dieppe and in 1911 founded a series called the Concerts Berlioz. In the same year, he began a historic association when he was hired by Diaghilev to conduct his Ballets Russes. He led the premieres of Ravel's DAPHNIS ET CHLOÉ, Debussy's JEUX, and Stravinsky's PETRUSHKA and RITE OF SPRING, the last of which caused a notorious audience riot.
In 1914, when war broke out, he was called to military service. He received a discharge in 1916 and travelled to the United States, where he obtained a conducting post at the Metropolitan Opera that lasted until 1919. At that point he was engaged to conduct the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Taking up the post in 1920, he walked into a labor dispute, with his musicians on strike; by the time the strike was settled, the concertmaster and 30 other musicians had left. Monteux had to rebuild the orchestra - a difficult task, but an opportunity for Monteux to mold the orchestra according to his own taste; ever since then, the Boston Symphony Orchestra has been known for its French sound and its expertise in French and Russian repertoire. He remained in Boston through 1924, gaining a reputation as a supporter of modern music. He brought to America not only Stravinsky and the French composers, but such others as Respighi, Vaughan Williams, and Honegger.
In 1924 he began a ten year association with the Amsterdam Concertgebouw. He was a good fit with the orchestra's other conductor, Willem Mengelberg, who had a Romantic-era style, and who specialized in traditional repertoire and Dutch composers. In addition, Monteux founded the Orchestre Symphonique de Paris in 1929, and the École Monteux, a coaching school for young conductors in 1932.
In 1936 he returned to the United States as conductor of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, staying in that position through the 1952 season. During World War II he obtained American citizenship and transferred his École Monteux to his new hometown of Hancock, Maine, where Erich Kunzel, Neville Marriner, and André Previn were among his students. He guest conducted and recorded extensively, and in 1961, at the age of eighty-six, accepted the musical directorship of the London Symphony Orchestra.
RCA Victor recorded him extensively in stereo, not only in Debussy, Ravel, Milhaud, Stravinsky, and the like, but also in Beethoven and Brahms; Monteux was especially noted for his performances of these composers' music, to which he brought an unusual charm and lyrical quality. He strove for transparency of sound, precision, light and springy rhythms, and that elegance that seems particularly associated with French music."
- Joseph Stevenson, allmusic.com
"A piano, which produces a tone by striking strings with a felt-lined hammer, should not be able to sustain a legato as gorgeous as what Fleisher coaxes from the instrument. The next thing you realize is that this sound is not just a clever effect but it makes the music come to life and clarifies textures in way that seems utterly fresh and utterly right. That's the magic of Fleisher the pianist."
- Harvey Steiman, MusicWeb International - Aspen Festival, 25 July, 2005
"... a pianist with an individual cast of mind and much to say..."
- Paul Driver, The Sunday Times of London
"No American pianist can equal his combination of subtle phrasing, intellectual mastery and interpretive depth."
- The New Yorker