Magazine article Gramophone

Ingelbrecht's BBC-Broadcast Pelleas Now on Testament

Magazine article Gramophone

Ingelbrecht's BBC-Broadcast Pelleas Now on Testament

Article excerpt

Debussy (H) (G) (GP)

Pelleas et Melisande

Camille Maurane bar                          Pelleas
Suzanne Danco sop                          Melisande
Henri-Bertrand Etcheverry bass-bar            Golaud
Andre Vessieres bass                           Arkel
Oda Solbodskaya sop                        Genevieve
Marjorie Westbury sngr                        Yniold
Ernest Frank bass                    Doctor/Shepherd

BBC Chorus; Philharmonia Orchestra/ Desire-Emile Ingelbrecht

Testament mono (B) (3) SBT31484 (165' * ADD)

Broadcast on the BBC Third Programme, June 1, 1951

Half-English and a colleague and friend of Debussy's (a published correspondence exists), Desire-Emile Ingelbrecht sculpts a rich, weighty but microscopically balanced reading of the composer's only completed opera. It's quite a shock to ears brought up on the sound worlds of lighter, supposedly more 'modern' interpreters such as Roger Desormiere--EMI's choice to lead the iconic wartime (and first-ever) complete Pelleas recording--or his disciple Pierre Boulez (Sony). Whereas these latter interpreters have Debussy only a short step away from the music of Boulez himself and Dutilleux that followed, Ingelbrecht's realisation of the score looks further back, with clear fingerprints of the Parsifal that Debussy so admired, and even of the lushness of successful operatic contemporaries of his childhood like Gounod and Massenet. If you're used to Act 5(Melisande's death) as a kind of quiet minimalist afterthought, the passion evoked here by Arkel and the orchestra will refocus your attention. Wagner listeners of a certain age may compare the effect to that time in the 1970s when performances by Reginald Goodall and live tapes of Hans Knappertsbusch surprised and delighted those used to the slimmer dynamic range and brisker gait of the available studio recordings from Karajan and Solti.

A combination of lucky accidents brought this new reissue's performers together for a June 1951 BBC studio recording that had been mooted originally with Ernest Ansermet, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Maggie Teyte (Debussy's own second Melisande) as Genevieve. Corresponding very precisely via his (third) wife and securing exactly what he wanted in terms of intervals (one) and no cuts, Ingelbrecht transformed Walter Legge's young Philharmonia in little time into a virtuoso version of a French theatre orchestra, evidently enjoying his work with the orchestra's star wind players. …

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