March 14, 2010


(Franz Liszt: Representing the pinnacle of Romanticism in the 19th Century)

Some familiar territory in a somewhat historic context. Liszt's stalwart Les Preludes as performed in this 1950 recording made for the French Odeon company by the Paris Conservatory Orchestra conducted by Edouard Lindenberg.

First off, this performance might sound a little strange to you, particularly in the horn section. It's a technique of playing the French Horn that is, for the most part obsolete now. It was a technique that gave it that open and wavering quality that we never hear today. Same with the trumpets. Together a very lyrical (and some call pungent) sound that was uniquely French (with the exception of a few Russian orchestras and occasionally some American orchestras). For whatever reason (and I've never been able to actually find one), the technique was abandoned in the mid-1960s and that small piece of uniqueness had vanished.

Second, this recording was originally issued on 78s. It is, with all probability, one of the first recordings to make the transition over to the then-modern Long Playing (LP) album from it's original 78 form. And you can hear some of the crude "side-joins", the splices that patched together the end of one 78 side with another, in order to make it sound seamless (but rarely since many sessions in those days were stop-and-start affairs, in consideration of the 78's limited time).

Third, it's one of a handful of recordings made by the legendary Roumanian conductor Edouard Lindenberg who was, for many years professor at the Paris Conservatory. He is leading an orchestra he is very closely associated with and so it carries that extra added bonus of authority.

All in all, it's a rather unique reading of a very familiar work. One which may not appeal to everyone (the horns are an acquired taste if you aren't familiar with hearing them that way), but one which warrants at least one hearing.

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