There is so much Monteux; he was so often recorded, in the studio and live, and it is hard to know if what one is getting is something already owned or otherwise out there. Of these five recordings -- Rimsky-Korsakov and Borodin works from San Francisco, and of at least six recordings known of Monteux in Stravinsky's Le Sacre du printemps, a work he premiered, from Boston -- the San Francisco items also appear on Music & Arts set Sunday Evenings with Pierre Monteux. However, the Le Sacre du printemps with the Boston Symphony Orchestra hasn't circulated before, and it is the standout performance. Monteux did not vary his four studio recordings of Le Sacre greatly from one another, though personally his interpretation was different from other conductors in many respects. Monteux maintained fairly even-keel tempi in certain sections of the work, seemingly with the steps of the dancers in the original (failed) production of the piece as a ballet in the back of his mind. Nevertheless, in the live Boston broadcast recording -- made just a week after Monteux' 80th birthday, and his last of Le Sacre -- departs from the dance-based concept entirely, and seems to have fire in its veins. Although this is somewhat accentuated by the loud, somewhat overmodulated broadcast recording, Monteux demands breathtakingly fast tempi and seems to be emphasizing the inherent violence in the piece, so much that certain solos fall apart, though not trumpeter Roger Voisin, whose blazing, precise staccato in high registers makes one's hair stand on end.
For the other pieces, the Music & Arts set should be regarded as authoritative, as they come from as original a source as one can get for Monteux' San Francisco broadcasts, the discs belonging to Monteux now stored at the school in Hancock, ME, that bears his name. It is indeed a pity that Guild wasn't able to come up with filler that's as unique as the Le Sacre du printemps heard here. However, it is an extraordinary performance, and if one can get past the slight distortion of the sound in the broadcast source, this is an exciting and revelatory performance.