André Cluytens & Emil Gilels - Classic Archives (Digital Video or Audio)
André Cluytens (1905-1967) was one of the pre-eminent conductors in post-war France, yet he was not so well known outside that country. Belgian by birth, he rose to lead the Paris Conservatoire Orchestra up until his premature death. He was a non-dictatorial conductor who was well liked by his players. This is borne out by the beaming, enthusiastic performances enshrined here. One sometimes wonders whether he was playing up to the cameras.
The first piece here is the Second Suite from the ballet Daphnis et Chloé by Maurice Ravel, well played by the Orchestre National de la RTF. This is a broadcast from a bare television studio made in August 1960. Cluytens stands on a bare podium without a score. The camera work is quite good, showing Cluytens from several angles as well as picking out individuals and groups from the orchestra. The impressionist music comes over well, but really needs better sound to make its full impact.
Following that is a performance from the same broadcast of Ravel's orchestration of Modest Mussorgsky's Pictures At An Exhibition, which was originally composed for piano solo. This orchestration has been so well done that there is a sense of it being the original version of this work, and it seems to be played more often than the piano version. This performance is very good and builds well to the climax, though it does not displace memories of recorded versions by Karajan and Sinopoli to name but two.
The final work is the First Piano Concerto of Pyotr Tchaikovsky, from a live concert at the Théâtre de Champs-Élysées in 1959. Cluytens conducts, and the soloist is the great Russian pianist Emil Gilels (1916-1985). The focus here is entirely on Gilels, and rightly so. Despite some wrong notes from time to time, this is a fine performance and demonstrates the excitement and intensity of Gilels' playing.