IN FEBRUARY 1973, the late Jean Martinon, appearing as guest conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra, offered Washington a rare opportunity to hear the neglected Symphony in C major of Paul Dukas, which he had just recorded for Pathe-Marconi with his Orchestre National. For some reason or other, Angel decided not to issue the recording in this country, but it has appeared here at last, on the label of the Connoisseur Society. The disc includes the Introduction to Act III of Dukas's Maeterlinck opera Ariane et Barbe-bleue (CS-2134).
Only last year London issued a recording of this symphony by the London Philharmonic under Walter Weller (CS-6995), whose feeling for the work is also quite remarkable.He has the advantages of richer string tone from the LPO and more sumptuous sonics from his engineers, but ultimately it is Martinon's galvanic performance that carries the greater conviction. One of the elements that especially helps his version take wing is his intuitive feeling for ideal tempo: his slightly faster pacing of the long slow movement helps create and sustain a momentum Weller doesn't quite achieve.
Moreover, while his recording is less sumptuous than Weller's, it is more finely detailed, making the mumerous felicities of Dukas's imaginative scoring readily apparent. And finally, there is that exquisite except from Ariane. (Weller's filler is The Sorcerer's Apprentice, and it is a knockout, but it is something many people must have already in two or three good versions.)
At about the same time Martinon was recording the Dukas Symphony, the Musical Heritage Society released his Erato recording of three attractive works of Gabriel Pierne - the Suite No. 1 from the ballet Cydalism et le Chevre-Pied, the Divertissements sur un Theme pastoral and (with Lily Laskine) the Concertstueck for harp and orchestra (MHS 1489). This is a disc that has given much pleasure, and many must hoped would lead to a general expansion of the Pierne discography, but it has taken until until now for another all-Pierne record to appear, and it duplicates a full side of Martinon's.
The new entry is the first in a series of recordings made for Angel by the Paris Opera Orchestra under the Algerian-born conductor Jean-Baptiste Mari; it offers both of the suites Pierne assembled from Cydalise, together with an Overture on Basque Themes from his incidental music for Pierre Loti's Ramuntcho (Angel S-37281), and it must be acknowledged as superseding the Martinon package.
Enjoyable as that was, Mari's more expansive approach to the Cydalise music makes itself irresisitibly felt right off in the famous "Entrance of the Little Fauns," and his program, on balance, is a more appealing one than the assortment on MHS. The Paris Opera Orchestra here sounds a more brilliant aggregation than either of the other Parisian orchestras in their recent recordings, and every advantage of interpretation and executive is driven home by really marvelous sound. This is one of Angel's compatible quadraphonic discs, and in two-channel playback it strikes me as the finest-sounding orchestral recording this label has given us in years. Try it.