Ansermet: Beethoven Sym No 2, Grosse Fugue, Coriolan Ov - Decca ECS 739, NM
Jacket NM / LP NM
This handsome LP from Decca (ECS 739, UK pressing, purple/silver label, stereo, front laminated jacket) features Ernest Ansermet and L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande's vibrant and thrilling account of Beethoven's Symphonies No. 2 in D Major Op. 36, recorded in the fabled acoustics of Geneva's Victoria Hall on 4 January 1960.
Filling out the disc is Ansermet and the OSR’s equally potent renditions of Beethoven’s Overture to Coriolan Op. 62 and the Grosse Fugue Op. 133. Both were set down in the same venue, the former on 7 October 1958 and the latter on 2 May 1959.
Somewhat disparaged by producer John Culshaw in his autobiography Putting the Record Straight, Ansermet’s readings remains grossly underrated. In fact, they prove consistenly inspired and inspiring, with countless moments of special insight. Beethoven was a part of Ansermet's core repertoire from his earliest concerts and he brings a lifetime's wisdom and experience to music that was as close to his heart as the French and Russian repertoire he is more generally associated with, an false impression gained from his discography.
Indeed, Ansermet once averred: "The classics [have taken] as a great a place in my life as the contemporaries, perhaps even greater, because of their perfection and grandeur."
Similarly, the endless apologies made for the supposed deficiencies of L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande fail to stand up here, given the superbly refined and powerful playing throughout. There is a tremendous sense of occasion to these recordings, as if L'Orchestre de Suisse Romande relished the occasion to flash their mettle in Beethoven.
Incidentally, the cover art reproduces a photo of Bodiam Castle, East Sussex, provided by The National Trust. There are informative liner notes (uncredited) on the reverse side of the jacket, printed in English only.