Sunday, February 10, 2013

Eduard van Beinum conducts Ravel and Debussy

   Each turn of the periods is very interesting time for many reasons. The collapse of the old order and the absence of new rules makes apparent whether the worst instincts and noblest dreams, allowing us better understand ourselves. Nineteenth century was a real explosion of extreme efforts in art and social improvements. After romantic ideas determined life of few generations, marking goals and setting ratings in every kind of creativity, a part or complete defiance was a natural reaction. And the stronger cultural changes were, the greater was the pressure for a change. In the end of the century many romantic ideas were looking just hackneyed schemes.  After defeat of Franco-Prussian war, opposition against “German romanticism” in the city on the River Seine was even more than natural pose. This may be the reason why among many composers developing modern idea of symphonic music the group of French artists was strongest.
   The cultural reaction gave development on many fields and in different new directions. One of clearest anti-romantic styles was impressionism, inspired by new painting school. Marking anti-romantic turn, composers changed position of melodic factor and spread coloristic using of harmonic elements. As every kind of an avant-garde artistic action, impressionism in music was the movement of very few artists. In fact there were two French composers who highlighted the route, Claude Debussy (1862-1918) and Maurice Ravel (1875-1937). The others, Frederic Delius, Manuel de Falla, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Karol Szymanowski, Arnold Bax, Paul Dukas and Maurice Duruflé were not so closely connected and not consequently “impressionistic”. Ironically, the most prominent representatives of this style did never recognize themselves as the Impressionist composers. And in fact impressionism is not as clearly the style as the attitude to sound colors and orchestration and even best works of Debussy and Ravel are rather representation of their personal style than any impressionistic pattern.

Eduard van Beinum conducts Ravel and Debussy (1972)

   One of iconic manifestations of new style called impressionism is Claude Debussy’s La mer (1905), subheaded as trois esquisses symphoniques pour orchestra (three symphonic sketches for orchestra). This three part composition is often interpreted as a cycle of symphonic pictures. First De l'aube à midi sur la mer in B minor and very slow tempo shows changes of the sea between down to the midday. Next two composed in C-sharp minor are more animated, showing Jeux de vagues (Play of waves) and Dialogue du vent et de la mer (Dialogue of the wind and the sea). Many musicologists see this cycle in relation to romantic symphony, and some features justify considering this work as the open symphonic form. Interpretations of this work one can find in almost every symphonic orchestra discography ant the one especially full of colorful and sensitive moments is the rendition recorded by Eduard van Beinum and Concertgebouworkest in Amsterdam.
   In late 50’s Eduard van Beinum with Concertgebouw-Orchester he led, made for Phillips series of archival recordings. From this series three recordings were choosen for album presenting highlights of impressionistic music: Claude Debussy’s La mer and two later Ravel’s works, choreographic poem La valse (1920) and his most famous balet Bolero (1928). Amsterdam orchestra recorded these works in the daring style of virtuoso band. Ravel’s and Debussy’s music is giving performers many chances to show deep coloristics and harmonic nuances and expressive possibilities of French modern symphonic style. This recording documents good years of legendary orchestra successful under the baton of great conductor. Ravel’s symphonic works were recorded in 1958 and Debussy’s in 1959. The album is very interesting for historical and artistic values. It is widely known in 1972 edition of Eterna – original pressing with black labels or in reprint with blue label. Vintage recordings and well produced album. Until it’s in perfect quality, album deserves four stars out of five.

No comments:

Post a Comment