Thus wrote the Gramophone critic on hearing - clearly for the first time in his life - Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony taken at precisely the speed its composer had intended when he added metronome timings to the score. It is astonishingly swift, and very few conductors have abided by the composer's instructions in this respect.
But it makes for a quite different reading - and once you've climbed over the metaphorical stile that is this sudden increase in tempo, and stroll into Paray's pastoral world, you may well find it's one which agrees with you. Certainly there's much to like here in both recordings - Paray had molded the Detroit Symphony into a world class orchestra, and Mercury's Living Presence sound recordings were the perfect way to capture them in the early years of the LP era.
This is the first of a short series of Mercury recordings by Paray at Detroit that we have planned for the coming weeks, and it's a great start - transferred from near-mint British Pye pressings by Edward Johnson. The somewhat constricted and hard sound of the original recordings has really opened out wonderfully thanks to XR remastering, and with the additional (optional) Ambient Stereo processing you might be forgiven for thinking you were listening to a recording made a decade or two later.
biographical notes from Wikipedia
Paul Paray (born Le Tréport, May 24, 1886 - died Monte Carlo, October 10, 1979) was a French conductor, organist and composer. He is best remembered in the United States for being the resident conductor of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra for more than a decade.
Paray's father, Auguste, was a sculptor and organist at St. Jacques church, and leader of an amateur musical society. He put young Paul in the society's orchestra as a drummer. Later, Paul Paray went to Rouen to study music with the abbots Bourgeois and Bourdon, and organ with Haelling. This prepared him to enter the Paris Conservatoire. In 1911, Paul Paray won the Premier Grand Prix de Rome for his cantata Yanitza.
As World War I started, Paul Paray heeded the call to arms and joined the French Army. In 1914, he was a prisoner of war at the Darmstadt camp, where he composed a string quartet.
After the war, Paray was invited to conduct the orchestra of the Casino de Cauterets, which included players from the Lamoureux Orchestra. This was a springboard for him to conduct this Orchestra in Paris. Later he was music director of the Monte Carlo Orchestra, and president of the Concerts Colonne.
In 1922, Paray composed the ballet Adonis troublé. In 1931, he wrote the Mass for the 500th Anniversary of the Death of Joan of Arc, which was premiered at the cathedral in Rouen to commemorate the quincentennary of Joan of Arc's martyr death. In 1935, he wrote his Symphony No. 1 in C major, which was premiered at the Concerts Colonne. He composed his Symphony No. 2 in A major in 1941.
Paray made his American debut with the New York Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra in 1939. In 1952, he was appointed music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, conducting them in numerous recordings for Mercury Records' "Living Presence" series.
Paray could and did conduct the entire orchestral repertoire well, but he specialized in the French symphonic literature. One of Paray's most renowned recordings, made in October 1957, is that of the Saint-Saëns' Symphony No. 3 in C minor. The circumstances surrounding the recording were fortuitous. Paray had built the Detroit Symphony Orchestra into one of the world's most distinguished. Marcel Dupré, a friend and fellow student from childhood, was organist for the session. Dupré, as a young student, had pulled the organ stops for the composer Camille Saint-Saëns in a performance of the Symphony No. 3 in Paris, and the organ of Ford Auditorium in Detroit was well suited to the work. As well as being among the most authoritative readings of the work, the original analogue recording on the Mercury label remains an audiophile reference in vinyl, and the analogue-to-digital transfer produced by the original recording director Wilma Cozart for compact disc is also available from Mercury (recording number 432 719-2).
Biographical notes from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Paray
Detroit Symphony Orchestra
historical notes from Wikipedia
The Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) is a leading American orchestra based in Detroit, Michigan whose performances are heard throughout the world. The orchestra is the fourth oldest in the United States. Its main performance center is Orchestra Hall at the Max M. Fisher Music Center in Detroit's Midtown neighborhood.
The DSO is currently heard by one million listeners a week on the nationwide broadcast, the General Motors' "Mark of Excellence" radio series. Its live concert series is attended by 450,000 people a year and includes a series of free educational concerts for children begun in 1926.
The Detroit Symphony was founded in 1914 by ten Detroit society women who each contributed $100 to the organization and pledged to find 100 additional subscribers. They soon hired the orchestra's first music director, Weston Gales, a 27-year-old church organist from Boston. The orchestra's first performance was held on February 26, 1914 at the old Detroit Opera House.
The appointment of famed Russian pianist Ossip Gabrilowitsch as music director in 1918 brought instant status to the new orchestra. A friend of composers Gustav Mahler and Sergei Rachmaninoff, Gabrilowitsch demanded a new auditorium be built as a condition of his accepting the position. Orchestra Hall was completed for the new music director in 1919 in a remarkable four months and twenty-three days. Under Gabrilowitsch, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra quickly became one of the most prominent orchestras in the country, performing with the leading artists of the day. In 1922, the orchestra gave the world's first radio broadcast of a symphony orchestra concert with Gabrilowitsch conducting and guest artist Artur Schnabel at the piano. From 1934 to 1942, the orchestra performed for millions across the country as the official orchestra of the The Ford Sunday Evening Hour (later the Ford Symphony Hour) national radio show.
In 1939, three years after Gabrilowitsch's premature death, the orchestra moved from Orchestra Hall to the Masonic Temple Theatre due to major financial problems caused by the Great Depression. The orchestra disbanded twice in the 1940's as it moved around three different performing venues. In 1956, the orchestra moved to Ford Auditorium on the waterfront of the Detroit River, where it remained for the next 33 years. The orchestra once again enjoyed national prestige under music director Paul Paray, winning numerous awards for its 70 recordings on the Mercury label. Paray was followed by noted music directors Sixten Ehrling, Aldo Ceccato, Antal Doráti, and Günther Herbig. It should be noted that most, if not all, of the recorded string accompaniments on Motown's classic hits were performed by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
In 1970 the DSO instituted the Detroit Symphony Youth Orchestra as a training group, under Maestro Paul Freeman.
In 1989, following a 20-year rescue and restoration effort, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra returned with great acclaim to Orchestra Hall. Music director Neeme Järvi began his tenure in 1990, the second-longest in the orchestra's history.
In 2003, the Detroit Symphony completed further renovations to Orchestra Hall and added a $60 million addition, including a recital hall and education wing, named the Max M. Fisher Music Center. The Detroit School of Arts was added to the DSO campus in 2005.
The symphony has produced many recordings on the Victor, London, Decca, Mercury, RCA, Chandos and DSO labels. The DSO recording of Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring was the first CD to win the prestigious Grand Prix du Disque of the Charles Cros Academy. A fine arts high school on part of the symphony's property opened in 2005.
The Orchestra today
After a five-year search, the DSO announced on October 7, 2007, that Leonard Slatkin, music director of the National Symphony Orchestra, would become its twelfth music director, succeeding Neeme Järvi. Peter Oundjian, currently Music Director of the Toronto Symphony, is the DSO's current Artistic Advisor and Principal Guest Conductor. The current Resident Conductor is Thomas Wilkins. (See below for a complete list of DSO Music Directors)
Historical notes from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Detroit_Symphony_Orchestra