C1545. PAUL PARAY Cond. Detroit S.O.: Escales (Ibert); w.Henryk Szeryng: Violin Concerto in E (Bach); Violin Concerto #2 in e (Mendelssohn). (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL T-462, Live Performance, 1 March, 1962. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
"Henryk Szeryng, one of the more elegant representatives of a now fading school of Romantic violin playing, was known for the purity of his playing - exact intonation, well-organized phrasing and a broad, sweet, vibrato-filled tone that nevertheless did not sound oppressive. In the Romantic tradition, Mr. Szeryng applied his long, lyrical style to Mozart, Bach and Vivaldi as well as to Brahms and Tchaikovsky. The various schools of interpretation, in other words, were filtered through the single 19th-century Central European tradition that was his heritage. Among his teachers were Carl Flesch in Berlin and Jacques Thibaud and Nadia Boulanger in Paris.
Mr. Szeryng began his concert career in 1933 and spent World War II as liaison officer to the exiled Polish Premier. His musical life continued its close contact with politics and diplomacy when the Mexican Government invited him in 1943 to teach at the National University in Mexico City. He became a Mexican citizen and later traveled on a diplomatic passport as the country's Culture and Good Will Ambassador. After 10 relatively quiet years of teaching and occasional concerts, Mr. Szeryng met Arthur Rubinstein after a recital in Mexico City. With the help of his fellow pianist and Polish compatriot, Mr. Szerying developed an international career that was still flourishing at his death. While retaining his home and teaching responsibilities in Mexico City, he also kept apartments in Paris and Monte Carlo.
Mr. Szeryng also became a busy recording artist, with a discography of about 250 works. Mr. Szeryng's tastes ran to the standard literature. He was especially fond of Paganini, yet 20th-century composers like Carlos Chavez, Benjamin Lees and Michael Ponce wrote music for him. Mr. Szeryng also liked to play music by the contemporary Polish composer Karol Szymanowski. He exercised his diplomatic responsibilities in part by championing the music of Mexican composers, and he expressed his belief in the humanistic powers of music as an adviser to Unesco. He was also said to donate large portions of his income to charities. From Mr. Szeryng's collection of violins, 12 have been given away since 1975 - one, a Stradivarius presented to the city of Jerusalem, another a gift to the young violinist Shlomo Mintz. Mr. Szeryng retained for himself the 1743 Guarnerius named 'Le Duc'."
- Bernard Holland, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 4 March, 1988
"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