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Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
The Hebrides (Fingal’s Cave): Overture, Op. 26 (1830) [9:53]
Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt: Overture, Op. 27 (1828) [11:56]
Die schöne Melusine: Overture, Op. 32 (1834) [11:16]
Ruy Blas: Overture, Op. 95 (1839) [7:37]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Rosamunde, D.797 (1823); excerpts, Incidental music to Helmina von Chézy’s play: Overture (Die Zauberharfe, D.644) [9:45]: Entr’acte No. 3 – Andantino [6:22]: Ballet Music No. 1 [5:48]: Ballet Music No. 2 [6:13]
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Carl Schuricht (Mendelssohn), Pierre Monteux (Schubert)
rec. April 1954, Grosser Saal, Musikverein, Vienna (Mendelssohn) and November 1957, Sofiensaal, Vienna (Schubert)
ELOQUENCE 482 4955 [69:41]

In previous Decca CD restorations of Pierre Monteux’s Rosamunde incidental music, the Ballet Music No.1 has been missing. This has been a cause of some debate and consternation, not least for those who invested in the 20-CD Monteux/Decca box or the Original Masters Decca set. Its absence has been rectified in releases on other labels, but this is the first official Decca-associated release of this music and worth noting given the company’s previous, inexplicable omission.

The music was recorded in stereo in Vienna in November 1957 and the Philharmonic plays with expected warmth and refinement for Monteux. There’s a real sense of languor in the most famous piece, the Entr’acte No.3, an Andantino of limpid grace in this performance, and a sense of sure plotting in the two Ballet music scenes, not least the restored No.1.

The coupling was also recorded in the city but several years earlier. Carl Schuricht’s Mendelssohn overture sequence, four monos from April 1954, is quite well known but makes a reasonable disc-mate for the Monteux Schubert. Schuricht was a level-headed but flexible Mendelssohnian and these well-balanced, thoughtful and occasionally rousing examples of his art have been heard before on a Schuricht Decca box charting the years 1949-56. The Hebrides also featured in the relevant Great Conductors of the Century release. It is indeed a fine reading, exciting but detailed, the winds distinguishing themselves in the ample acoustic of the Great Hall of the Musikverein. The orchestra’s basses, deep and resonant, lay a rich carpet in the Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt overture, the percussion striding through the mono sound to acoustic prominence, and the brass rich and rounded. After an expert reading of Die schöne Melusine, Schuricht lets rip on Ruy Blas; stentorian brass and athletic strings ensure a central, recommendable reading not short of excitement, though arguably lacking the sheer panache and wit of Beecham’s reading with the RPO made just three years earlier.

The Monteux was originally released on RCA in 1958 and was issued by Decca in their ‘The World of the Great Classics’ series in 1973, where he shared all-Schubert disc space with Schuricht and Knappertsbusch. The Mendelssohn overtures were released in 1954. Both labels, nicely reproduced in miniature, are reprinted in the booklet.

Jonathan Woolf


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