C1598. PAUL PARAY Cond. Orchestre National de la RTF: La Mer (Ravel); Boléro (Debussy); w.Samson François: Piano Concerto #1 in E-flat (Liszt), Live Performance, 9 May, 1957; w.Aline van Barentzen: Piano Concerto #2 in g (Saint-Saens), Live Performance, 7 Feb., 1969. (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL T-535. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
"Aline van Barentzen still holds the record as the youngest pianist, at 11 years old, to have won the First Prize at the Paris Conservatory. Her first recital was at the age of four, after which her mother moved with her from Boston to Paris for further music studies. Practicing six hours a day, at the age of seven she performed Beethoven's First Piano Concerto with orchestra, and at nine was accepted into the Paris Conservatory. Her teachers there included Marguerite Long and Delaborde. Later she studied in Berlin with Heinrich Barth and Ernst von Dohnanyi (among her fellow students were Arthur Rubinstein and Wilhelm Kempff), and in Vienna with Leschetizky.
With Paris as her home she became friends with many of the leading musicians and composers of the early twentieth century, including Enescu, Poulenc, Messaien, Roussel, and Villa Lobos, whose works she often premiered. She performed frequently throughout Europe with the leading conductors and recorded for His Master's Voice. She became a French citizen in the 1930's and spent the war in Paris, playing concerts as part of the effort to boost morale.
Aline absorbed scores quickly, learning all 24 Debussy Préludes during a vacation, and the Brahms 'Paganini Variations' in five days. At one time she had an active repertoire of over 500 works. Her extensive early training resulted in complete technical mastery, it being told that when she went to study with Leschetizky he declared himself satisfied with her technique and spent his time on interpretation."
- Z. D. Akron
"A pupil of Alfred Cortot, but standing apart from others who also studied with the French master, Samson François was a pianist of exceptional persuasiveness in live performance, but only intermittently as arresting in the recording studio. Nonetheless, he left on disc several samples of work approaching his best concert form, albeit with some evidence of the eccentricities critics complained about. His interests were wider than his recorded legacy might suggest; even at his most idiosyncratic, he offered moments of wry humor and rare magic. In addition to studies in Paris with Yvonne Lefébure and the esteemed Marguerite Long, François was a student of Alfred Cortot at L'Ecole Normale de Musique, the school Cortot co-founded with Auguste Mangeot. Before François had reached the age of 20, he won the Long-Thibaud Competition and thereafter embarked on a career, one of international scale once WWII had ended. Even during the war, Jacques Thibaud brought François to the attention of Walter Legge, the English recording producer turned wartime concert organizer; François was soon flown to England for an extended tour of factories and camps. Concentrating on the Romantic piano literature, and especially the French repertory, he was acclaimed for his performances of Liszt, Schumann, and Chopin, as well as Fauré, Debussy, and Ravel. His Prokofiev, too, was impressive. French critics and audiences were especially receptive to his virtuosic approach. François found an appreciative audience in London as well, and enjoyed a largely positive reputation there during his mature years. François' early death denied the world a chance to hear how the pianist might have developed had he lived longer, but his recordings preserve sufficient work of high interest to assure him a place as a major artist."
- Erik Eriksson, allmusic.com
"Throughout its history, treble clef graphic classical music developed in distinct national schools. While European artists occasionally would entrain for Russia or set sail for the New World, most were content to remain nestled in their own culture. Recently, though, that all changed.
Blame America as the catalyst. At first, we were the poor stepchild, with no distinct heritage of our own. But as repression and then genocide pushed European artists to emigrate to fill the vacuum among our wealthy but unenlightened masses, something new emerged - a multicultural force that blended together into a pluralism that gleamed brighter than any of its components....the very essence of refined French culture is in the Motor City, or at least it was from 1952 to 1963. That's when the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (the 'DSO') led by Paul Paray recorded a legendary series of LPs with Mercury's 'Living Presence' label.
Paray established a solid reputation as a French conductor, heading orchestras in Lamoureux, Monte Carlo and Paris. American guest stints led to his appointment as permanent conductor of the recently reorganized DSO. Their very first records prove that he quickly forged the ensemble into a truly great orchestra and transformed its sound into a replica of those he had known in France.
It's especially remarkable that the fiercely proud French tradition should thrive in the heart of America, the very place where national trends became forsaken and assimilated. After all, French culture is the most deeply chauvinistic of any, proudly defended to the death against the pollution of foreign influence. Indeed, the most famous French music has a unique sound, often described as impressionistic, much like the paintings of Monet and Renoir. It's a valid analogy. Like that art, French impressionist music is concerned more with color effects than formal structure, as sensual melodies briefly appear before flitting away. While the overall effect is of subtle, blended mist, the sound is achieved through a layering of distinct instruments, much as in a Seurat painting in which the pastel atmosphere arises from dots of intense color. That's what Paray gives us - not a sonic blur but precise dabs of bold instrumental coloration. Just as brushstrokes are carefully placed, the DSO's rhythm and articulation of individual notes are always precise and luminously clear.
Naturally, Paray brought an appropriate Gallic touch to the great French repertoire. His Debussy, Ravel, Chabrier and Roussel are magnificent, beautifully capturing their elegance with a self-effacing confidence. The DSO complements Paray's approach with superb playing, each instrument gleaming with individual pride yet perfectly nestled in the ensemble. Paray also produced unusually polished and convincing readings of overtures and light pieces, according them a respect usually reserved for more challenging music....He works similar wonders with Rachmaninov, Sibelius and even Wagner, the epitome of German music and about as far from the French aesthetic as possible.
Paray brought to all his work the highest achievement in any art, whether acting, painting or music - from careful preparation, constant revision and grueling work emerges something natural, accessible and inviting. And through this process, Paray created and preserved an island of his native land in a most unlikely place, as distant geographically and culturally as could be. His DSO records prove his undeniable success."
- Peter Gutmann, classicalnotes