The name of Pierre Dervaux (1917-1992) is perhaps not one which is as familiar with younger collectors as it might be. Most of his working life was spent in France with a variety of orchestras and opera companies as well as teaching conducting. His currently available recordings, often deriving from broadcasts, include many French operas and operettas. Of these the most important is Poulenc’s
Dialogues des Carmélites
of which he conducted the first performance in France and of which this is the first recording. Although he also conducted many recordings of concertos with distinguished soloists his international reputation was nonetheless limited. Like such figures as Hans Swarowsky, George Hurst or Rudolf Schwarz he was perhaps more a musician’s musician than an idol of the international public. It is good to have an opportunity to assess his merits further.
Much of the music on these discs was more commonly found in concerts and on record in the first half of the twentieth century. For instance opportunities to hear the Overture to Zampa
or Le Calife de Bagdad
, let alone the rest of those operas, are rare. The performances of these and the rest of the programme are not the most polished imaginable, and the recordings are variable and sometimes poor, but everything is well considered and nothing is taken for granted. Even such a warhorse as the Overture to Die Fledermaus
is made to sound individual without resort to gimmicks or over-stylisation. The Wagner extracts suggest a conductor very obviously at home in the theatre, and the Overture to Ruslan and Ludmila
is taken at an unusually steady speed and gains much by it. It would be an exaggeration to suggest that there are major musical revelations here, but the listener soon develops a confidence in the imagination and musicianship of the conductor. I suspect that with front-rank orchestras and more rehearsal the results could have been even better, but there is enough here to demonstrate that Pierre Dervaux was an excellent musician, a real professional and an artist whose other recordings are worth looking out for.
The presentation is helpful and the discs are well filled, making them a useful and intriguing introduction to the work of the conductor. It would be good if it could be followed by some of his broadcast performances, especially of the unfamiliar French music of which he was an expert.