C1268. PIERRE MONTEUX Cond. Berlin Phil.: Beethoven, Strauss & Stravinsky; w.Michel Schwalbé: Violin Concerto #3 in b (Saint-Saëns). (England) 2-Testament SBT 1476, Live Performance, 1960, Berlin. Final copy! - 749677147624
"Pierre Monteux is featured on this live recording taken from a concert at Berlin's Hochschule für Musik. It is particularly special because Monteux conducted the Berlin Philharmonic on only two occasions - in 1933 and again for this 1960 concert. The program includes Beethoven's third Leonore Overture, Strauss' 'Till Eulenspiegel', Stravinsky's 'Petrushka' and Saint-Saens' Violin Concerto #3. The soloist in the concerto is the orchestra's famous leader Michel Schwalbé.
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 privileged 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
“Michel Schwalbé, leader of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra from 1957 to 1985, throughout the heyday of the Herbert von Karajan era. An ebullient character with a sumptuous technique combining the qualities of both the Russian and the Franco-Belgian schools, he chose a life away from the plaudits he would have received on the international platform and the timing of the outbreak of the second world war probably changed the course of his career. He appeared happy with a role where he was an integral part of one of the world's finest ensembles, and often appeared as soloist with his orchestra, as well as conducting in the maestro's absence.
Born in Radom, south of the Polish capital of Warsaw, the young boy was soon recognised as an outstanding talent by Maurycy Frenkel, pupil and assistant of the great violin teacher Leopold Auer, and teacher of another fine Polish violinist, Henryk Szeryng. At the age of 15, Schwalbé travelled with his mother to Paris, where he had lessons from Georges Enescu, an extraordinary teacher whom he always revered for his not just for musicianship, but also for his faultless memory. Schwalbé's musical education also included studies in chamber music and conducting with Pierre Monteux, and with the now little-known violin master Jules Boucherit. In 1938 the final-year student carried away the highest marks of his year at the Paris Conservatoire, and the Sarasate prize.
When war came the following year, he fled France for Switzerland, and found himself leading unknown orchestras as a means of survival. But he put his time to good use, learning the art of violin making with Adolf Stahl. Schwalbé achieved enough mastery to be able to win the Scheveningen competition in the Netherlands in 1948 by playing one of his own fiddles. In the mid-1940s he was appointed leader of the Suisse Romande Orchestra, and also led the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, now coming into contact with the leading conductors of the time, including Wilhelm Furtwängler and Ernest Ansermet.
However, it was during the Lucerne Festival that he first encountered the young, unknown Karajan. Nonetheless, he did not accept the offer immediately. The Polish-Jewish instrumentalist had lost his mother and sister in the Holocaust, while Karajan, a Nazi party member, had conducted in wartime Berlin. The agreement of the appointment was seen as one of the many steps in Germany's postwar reconciliation.
Once installed in Berlin, Schwalbé established a secure niche in the top violinists' hierarchy, teaching at the Mozarteum's summer school in Salzburg, appearing as a jury member in various international competitions, and receiving many honours for his playing.
In 1984 he accepted an invitation to teach at the Yehudi Menuhin school in Surrey, and returned to Britain a year later to give masterclasses in London and at the Britten-Pears school in Aldeburgh, Suffolk. He said that he liked the quiet humour and kindliness of the British and once professed a wish that he had been English by birth.”
- Anne Inglis, THE GUARDIAN, 29 Oct., 2012