Ernest Ansermet

Stravinsky: Symphonies

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After the invention of the long-playing record and stereophonic sound, these recordings by Ernest Ansermet and L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande of Stravinsky's three instrumental symphonies from 1960 and 1961 were the industry standard. There were good reasons for this. Ansermet was once one of Stravinsky's favorite conductors, and his association with the composer's works was as long as his dedication was deep. Still, despite the performances' obvious air of authenticity, there were those at the time who complained that the Swiss orchestra was not quite able to deliver the goods technically and that much of its playing was rough. Hearing these recordings again nearly 50 years later in these 2009 reissues, both those verdicts appear questionable. Ansermet's interpretations may in some sense be authentic, but his grip on the works' details, long lines, and big forms seems less sure than it once did and compared with later accounts by Pierre Boulez or Charles Dutoit. On the other hand, L'Orchestre sounds more in control of the parts than before and the ensemble has tightness and a unity that went unsuspected by earlier critics of its performances. Thus, the performances on this disc appear both better and worse than previously thought, but fans of the composer who don't already know them should at least try them to see what industry standard Stravinsky sounded like half a century ago. London's stereo sound is warm, round, full, and deep.

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