Zubin Mehta / Wilfrid Pelletier / Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal

Concert inaugural, Place des Arts (Édition anniversaire)

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The opening concert at Montreal's Place des Arts has been reproduced with considerable effort for this 40th anniversary release on CD. It was recorded on September 21, 1963, by RCA Victor and released in a limited edition, but the master tapes were subsequently lost. The concert, as heard here, was only retrievable from a few available LP sets, painstakingly duplicated and remastered for the best sound. The program is rather progressive for its time, since Jean Papineau-Couture's Pièce Concertante No. 5, conducted by Wilfred Pelletier, is a robust, even bellicose, modernist composition; this performance probably unsettled more than a few subscribers. Zubin Mehta took the podium for the rest of the event, and his rendition of Ravel's La valse is also quite ferocious and riveting. But if Disques XXI's replication of the concert fails anywhere, it is in Mahler's Symphony No. 1, which opens with telltale signs of warped vinyl, impossible to correct in remixing. If one listens past the exposed flaws of the beginning, it is possible to appreciate Mehta's brisk, energetic conducting and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra's glorious sonorities. But this should not be anyone's first choice for a recording of the symphony because of the uneven balance and numerous other sound defects that pop up throughout.

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