Ansermet: Firebird (OSR) + Sym. of Psalms (LPO) - German Decca LXT 2916
Jacket VG / LP EX / German pressing
This handsome LP from German Decca (LXT 2916, German Teldec-Telefunken-Decca pressing, heavy vinyl, orange/silver label, mono) features Ernest Ansermet's famous recording of Stravinsky's The Firebird (version 1910), set down in the rich acoustics of Victoria Hall, Geneva during 11-14 May 1955 with L'Orchestra de la Suisse Romande on glittering form – a gramophone classic (producer: Victor Olof / engineer: Gil Went).
Filling out the disc is Ansermet’s early recording of Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms, made with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir (Chorus Master: Frederic Jackson), set down at Kingsway Hall, London, during 13-17 October 1947 (producer: Victor Olof / engineer: Kenneth Wilkinson).
As one of Stravinsky's most steadfast champions, Ansermet had known this score intimately for over 30 years, and brings tremendous authority and a lifetime's wisdom. This is truly one The Firebird's great performance on disc, hypnotic from first to last – a wonderful, thrilling, vibrant, poetic reading – unforgettable!
In his review of the Decca Eclipse LP re-issue of this performance, the critic M.E.O. wrote in his August 1978 review for The Gramophone:
“Stravinsky described Ansermet as ‘a perfect executant of my works’, praising especially ‘his faculty for seeing what is actually in the score’, his lack of any ‘determination to find there what he would like to find’. Fidelity and precision are indeed the prime characteristics of these performances and there must be many listeners who are grateful for having learned their Stravinsky from them…In Arisermet, Stravinsky found an interpreter as insistent as he was himself on letting the notes speak for themselves, with the minimum of subjective 'interpretation', wouldbe effective gestures and dramatic exaggerations…Here and in The Rite and in The Firebird, Stravinsky's orchestral colours have a vivid clarity, the phrasing a sharp pungency; one is made freshly aware, too, of how much delicacy and subtlety of sound there is in these scores. Stravinsky again: ‘Ansermet's merit lies precisely in his ability to reveal the relationship between the music of today and that of the past by purely musical means.
“Brief summaries, then, of my notes on Ansermet's Stravinsky revisited. ECS 817: a lyrical, Rimskyan Firebird. Much delicacy and tenderness (the Princesses' Dance exquisitely done); edges finely moulded (the wind solos in the Prelude, for example) rather than sharp or hard; a good sense of drama (Kashchei makes a formidable entrance) but a certain lack of Slav luridness; a richly glowing crescendo to the final wedding scene; good, clear recording.”
The remarkable front cover art is credited, but I cannot make out the artist’s signature. There are fine liner notes (uncredited) on the reverse side of the jacket, printed in French only.
CONDITION – PLEASE READ CAREFULLY:
The gradations of condition I use are as follows: MINT, Near-Mint, Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, Poor.
The condition of the jacket is VERY GOOD. There is laminate lift to the lower edge, as well as bumping at corners and discoloration to the rear panel. However, there are no bends, seamsplits, owners' markings or other defects, and the album remains solid, bright, glossy, and highly attractive – overall, a very good collector's copy.
The condition of the LP itself is EXCELLENT. Though there is light surface noise throughout, in general the playback remains quite fine. However, those wanting a flawless or near-MINT copy are kindly advised to look elsewhere. Overall, this rates as an excellent collector's copy.