Cherubini, Beethoven, Strauss & Berlioz

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven,Cherubini,Strauss & Berlioz
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Pierre Monteux
WORKS: Works by Cherubini, Beethoven, Strauss & Berlioz
PERFORMER: RPO, BBC Northern SO, LSO/Pierre Monteux
Pierre Monteux’s performances were characterised by their acute sense of orchestral sonority and balance and a sensibility which was always at the service of the composer. He encourages the RPO of 1960 to play Cherubini’s Anacréon Overture as if it’s the greatest piece of music ever written, and, though he takes the first movement of Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony at a rock-steady tempo, his impeccable sense of phrasing and dynamics imbues it with inner life. The second movement is faster than some might feel is decent, but it is a march, and Monteux’s tempo ensures that this important aspect of the music isn’t completely submerged in funeral mourning. Similarly, he balances the dance elements and the symphonic structure of the finale through cunning manipulation of tempo within a basic pulse. You can’t pretend that the BBC Northern SO was a world-class band in 1960, but in Strauss’s Don Juan there’s a sense of its being inspired to play almost beyond their abilities, in both technical and tonal refinement, even though the occasional glitches remain. And Monteux makes sure, as he always does, that the strings really sustain their melodic lines. The LSO sounds a little brash in Berlioz’s Hungarian March, but otherwise the mono recordings are decent for the period. Martin Cotton