OP2887. PELLÉAS ET MÉLISANDE, Live Performance, 1 June, 1951, w.Inghelbrecht Cond. BBC Ensemble & Philharmonia Orch.; Camille Maurane, Suzanne Danco, Henri-Bertrand Etcheverry, Oda Slobodskaya, André Vessières, etc. (Austria) 3-Testament SBT3 1484. Brilliant Sound restoration by Paul Baily. Final copy! - 749677148423
“This is a major discovery: a magnificent performance of PELLÉAS ET MÉLISANDE recorded by an almost entirely francophone cast for the BBC in 1951 and never released until now.”
IRR Outstanding Recording, Jan., 2013
“This 1951 BBC air check has two claims on our attention. It is, first of all, an opportunity to hear PELLÉAS ET MÉLISANDE led by Désiré-Émile Ingelbrecht, a Debussy specialist who had worked directly with the composer, and who takes a free, impassioned and atmospheric approach to the opera. Ingelbrecht's cast includes recognized artists who can be heard on other mid-century recordings but never, to my mind, with the dramatic force - and apparent spontaneity - achieved here. The most striking of these singers — and the second crucial element in this enterprise — is French baritone Camille Maurane who makes an ideal Pelléas and seems especially adept at realizing the conductor's elastic shaping of the drama. Rarely is a PELLÉAS so language-driven. Not only do the native French singers articulate words with the kind of clarity and forward placement that have become a lost art today; their diction also suggests distinctive character traits, and the listener often feels the text propelling and varying the dynamic pacing. Maurane has unusual vitality in early scenes as he describes the morbid features of Allemonde to the heroine, so that even such classic earlier performers as Jacques Jansen or Charles Panzéra seem, in comparison, to be prosaic providers of background exposition; where they give information, Maurane's Pelléas barely contains his emotional response to the place and the moment. Each of his scenes becomes tauter and more emotive up to the explosive final duet.
From the first scene, the diction of baritone Henri-Bertrand Etcheverry as much as his timbre, conveys the nature of Golaud — verbose, managerial, prosaic — in contrast to Mélisande's pained, minimal cries, as if we were hearing a learned doctor examining and questioning a terrified, inarticulate patient. Etcheverry's Golaud had matured since his performance under Roger Desormière in 1941 (the first complete recording), by the time of this recording sounding darker, gruffer and more violent. While Belgian soprano Suzanne Danco is an affecting Mélisande, she seems more earthbound than the fragile, entrancing Irène Joachim on the Desormière recording. Arkel is the excellent André Vessières. The expert orchestra sounds as French as the singers. A live audience can sometimes be heard. Barring a slight distortion at strong volume, the recorded sound is vivid.
Some element of mystery clings to the recording, nevertheless. How close is Ingelbrecht's conducting to the composer's specific wishes? How close was the conductor to Debussy? Ingelbrecht's name occurs in most Debussy biographies and even in the collected correspondence, but of course — given the age disparity — always near the end of the composer's life.
The liner note quotes Ingelbrecht's published comments on the ‘right’ way to perform Debussy, in which he insists on a subtle, ‘insinuating’ orchestral attack….It reflects Ingelbrecht's own honest, vibrant response to the score — and the text — and his conviction, borne out each moment, that this is a drama of character.”
- David J. Baker, OPERA NEWS, Nov., 2013
“Testament’s issue of a June 1951, BBC broadcast of Debussy’s profoundly influential opera PELLÉAS ET MÉLISANDE conducted by the composer’s friend and colleague Désiré-Émile Inghelbrecht is actually not a reissue per se but a first appearance on any commercial media and perhaps on any media at all, of a performance which over the years has taken on a mythical quality.
Although it is not a revelatory bombshell in any manner, shape or form, it does provide a touchstone for mid century PELLÉAS performance practice; its main features are Inghelbrecht’s affectionate, comprehensively authoritative performance, the lovely light-voiced Mélisande of Suzanne Danco, the sterling Pelléas of Camille Maurane, buttressed by an outstanding Arkel from André Vessières and an affecting Golaud of Henri- Bertrand Etcheverry, despite being near the end of his career.
Oddly enough, in 1950, Debussy’s music still had little effect on English composers but because of the the English literary and visual arts sets, among whom Debussy was wildly popular, there was a lot of support for making him well-known. In fact the two performances during the week were part of an attempt to widen interest further in PELLÉAS specifically, climaxing a week on BBC Three devoted to ‘the impressionist and symbolic schools of which PELLÉAS was a result’.
—Laurence Vittes, AUDIOPHILE AUDITION, 30 Dec., 2013
“The Belgian soprano Suzanne Danco was the epitome of the well-schooled, clear voiced soprano in the French tradition. She sang her wide repertory with impeccable taste, an unerring sense of the requisite style for the music, and was especially admired for her Mozart, which she sang internationally in the 1950s, her readings both thoughtful and well-groomed.
Danco was Flemish, born and brought up in Brussels. Although her family discouraged her from a career as a musician, she was helped to become a singer at the Brussels Music Academy by the Queen of the Belgians. On the advice of the eminent conductor Erich Kleiber, she went to Prague to study with the famous teacher Fernando Carpi, before making her stage début in Italy in 1941 at the Genoa Opera, as Fiordiligi in COSI FAN TUTTI, a role that was a favourite with her and with audiences.
After the second world war, she appeared at La Scala as Jocasta in Stravinsky's OEDIPUS REX and Ellen Orford in Britten's PETER GRIMES (first performances in Italy of both operas), and at the San Carlo, Naples she sang Marie in the first Italian performance of Berg's WOZZECK. These roles demonstrated her eclectic taste. She once remarked that she didn't mind what she sang and enjoyed tackling all kinds of music.
Danco's first stage appearance in Britain was at Glyndebourne in 1951, where she was Donna Elvira, a role fitted to her talents, in DON GIOVANNI. That year she made her only appearance at Covent Garden, as Mimi in LA BOHÈME. Danco was prominent in the early years of the Aix-en-Provence Festival in her Mozart roles, encouraged by the festival's presiding conductor, Hans Rosbaud, who always chose his casts with discernment.
The Swiss conductor, Ernest Ansermet, was also taken with her talents, and thought her ideal for the French repertory he had just begun recording for Decca with his Suisse Romande Orchestra; she took part in many classic performances on disc with him in the 1950s, including the much admired earlier (and better) of Ansermet's two sets of Debussy's PELLÈAS ET MÉLISANDE. Danco's Mélisande strikes just the right balance between knowingness and innocence, a paradox at the heart of that equivocal role. Another recording triumph with Ansermet was as the sexy, scheming Concepcion in L'HEURE ESPAGNOLE and as the Princess in L'ENFANT ET LES SORTILÈGES, on a Ravel double-bill.
She caught to perfection the etheral tone of the soprano solo in Fauré's REQUIEM; produced a feted recording of Ravel's SHÉHÉRAZADE; and in Berlioz's LES NUITS D'ÉTÉ, her slightly cool, subtly inflected reading, notable for the intelligent treatment of the text, has stood the test of time.
She gave a distinguished account on disc of Schumann's LIEDERKREIS and of songs by Mozart, Schubert and Brahms, all still worth looking for. Even more memorable are her idiomatic readings of the mélodies of Fauré and Debussy. Of her concert roles, her Marguerite in Charles Munch's fine recording of Berlioz's LA DAMNATION DE FAUST is a worthy souvenir. She catches the ache of the betrayed heroine's romance.
From 1960, Danco's operatic appearances were few and far between, but she continued her concert career until her final appearance, in Mahler's Fourth Symphony in 1970. After her retirement she first taught at the Accademia Chigiana in Siena, and latterly was a frequent visitor to the Britten-Pears School at Snape, where she dispensed good advice in a strict but kind manner. Her joint courses with the Swiss tenor Hugues Cuénod were entertaining events and wonderful examples of the impeccable style of which both singers had been such important advocates.
She named her villa at Fieseole ‘Amarilli’, probably to recall her 1949 recording of Caccini's song of that name. It caused a sensation among connoisseurs of fine singing and has seldom, if ever, been surpassed.”
- Alan Blyth, THE GUARDIAN, 3 Sept., 2000
“Camille Maurane was a French baritone singer who studied at the Paris Conservatoire in the class of Claire Croiza from 1936 to 1939. He began his professional career as a singer in 1940 at the Opéra-Comique in Paris. He débuted as the Moine musicien in LE JONGLEUR DE NOTRE DAME on 14 January 1940.
His voice was typical of the baryton-martin range (between baritone and tenor). He is famous for his interpretation of Debussy's Pelléas, for which he took part in three complete recordings. He is also regarded as one of the best interpreters of French mélodies, of which he left many recordings. His repertoire extended back to music of Rameau through to Honegger and other contemporaries. A dedicated teacher, he taught at the Paris Conservatory until 1981.”
"[Slobodskaya] has a never-failing power to convey the precise significance of each song she sings....Working with her was always an adventure...."
- Ivor Newton, AT THE PIANO, THE WORLD OF AN ACCOMPANIST, p.111