MESSIAEN: Turangalila-Symphony (Yvonne
Loriod, piano; Jeanne Loriod, ondes martenot) (Rec. April 22, 1967).
HENKEMANS: Partita (Rec. Oct.
7, 1967). FALLA: Nights in the Gardens of Spain (Eduardo del
Pueyo, pianist) (Rec. Sept. 23, 1961). RAVEL: Suites 1 and 2 from Daphnis
(Rec. Sept. 23, 1961). HENKEMANS: Violin Concerto (Dick de Reus, violin)
(Rec. Feb. 5, 1966). FRANCK: Psyché (Netherlands Radio
Choir) (Rec. June 20, 1987). BADINGS: Symphonic Variations (Rec.
Oct. 12, 1970). Piano
Concerto No. 1 (Cor de Groot, piano) (Rec. Aug. 31, 1967). Symphony No.
3 (Rec. Oct. 4, 1966). FRANCK: Redemption (Gé Neutel, soprano;
Netherlands Radio Choir) (Rec. Mar. 12, 1976). MARTIN: Le mystêre
de la Nativité (Elly Ameling, soprano; Aafje Heynis, alto; Ernst Haefliger, tenor; Herbert
Handt, tenor; Serge Maurer, tenor; Louis J. Rondeleux, baritone; Leo
Ketelaars, baritone; André Vassieres, bass; Guus Hoekman, bass; Netherlands
Radio Choir) (Rec. Oct. 14, 1964). MASSENET: Le jongleur de Notre-Dame (Gerard
Garino, tenor; Bruno Laplante, baritone; David Wilson-Johnson, baritone;
Ad van Basbank, tenor; Math Dirks, baritone; Bernard Kruysen,
baritone; David Shapero, bass; Netherlands Radio Choir) (Rec. Oct. 27,
1985). DVD DISK: DEBUSSY: La Mer. RAVEL: La Valse. (Rec. Jan. 14, 1970).
BEETHOVEN: Violin Concerto in D, Op. 61 (Zino Francescatti, violin) (Rec.
May 13, 1973).
Jean Fournet, born in Rouen in 1917, studied flute and conducting at the Paris Conservatory and made his conducting debut when only 19. After operatic and orchestral performances in France he was appointed music director of the Opéra Comique, a position he held from 1944 to 1957. He first conducted in Holland in 1950, an all-Ravel program with the Concertgebouw Orchestra filling in for an indisposed Eduard van Beinum. Fournet first appeared with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra Nov. 12 of that year and eleven years later was appointed principal conductor, a position he held until he retired in 1978. Since that time he has returned often as guest conductor—the 2000/2001 season represented the fiftieth anniversary of their collaboration. During his official tenure with theNRPO he also was music director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic, from 1968-1973. CD notes state that Fournet recorded over 600 works with the Radio Philharmonic, a majority of which doubtless are studio or concert recordings—not commercial releases.
Fournet first came to the attention of collectors for his September 1943 recording of Berlioz' Grande Messe des Morts Requiem in Paris with the Paris Radio Orchestra and Emile Passini Chorale, a fine performance once available on CD (Arkadia 78558), as well as the same composer's La damnation de Faust. Fournet appeared with some frequency with the Concertgebouw and made one Philips LP consisting of Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain, Borodin's In the Steppes of Central Asia, Dukas' The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun and Chabrier's Espana, and a second LP of two suites from Grieg's Peer Gynt (which has just been issued on SD—see REVIEW). Fournet is slimly represented currently on CD. His early Philips recordings of Bizet's Pearl Fishers and Faure's Requiem are available as well as Debussy's La damoiselle élue (with Janinine Micheau). Later recordings include live performances of Boieldieu's La Dame Blanche (Netherlands 1964, with Erna Spoorenberg and Nicolai Gedda) and Massenet's Manon (Chicago Lyric Opera 1973, with Teresa Zylis-Gara and Alfredo Krauss). Fournet also recorded a Debussy CD (La Mer, Nocturnes, Iberia) with the Czech Philharmonic on Supraphon, and an all-Honegger CD and a Dukas program (Sorcerer's Apprentice, La Péri and Symphony in C) with the Netherlands RPO for the same label.
As there are relatively few commercial recordings by this conductor, this new issue may be of interest to many collectors. The 1967 Turangalila (the Dutch premiere of the work which was written 18 years earlier) surely is well done but sonically of course cannot match the splendor of the 1992 recording with Chailly/Concertgebouw now issued in surround sound (REVIEW). A highlight of this set is a vivid performance of Falla's Nights in the Gardens of Spain with the now-almost forgotten fine pianist Eduardo del Pueyo who currently is represented in the CD catalog only by a 1963 recording of Jongen's Piano Concerto, although until recently there were some Beethoven piano sonatas on Pavane. We also have music by two Dutch composers, one CD devoted to Henk Badings (1907-1987) featuring a superb performance of the Piano Concerto No. 1 with Cor de Groot. Hans Henkemans is the other Dutch composer, represented by one of his strongest works, the four-movement Partita of 1960.
Fournet's interest in opera is reflected in a 1985 concert performance of Massenet's rarely-performed Le jongleur de Notre-Dame, the only recording of this work aside from an imported EMI Classics version starring Jules Batin and Alain Vanzo with the Monte Carlo Opera conducted by Roger Boutry. Another seldom-heard work is Frank Martin's lengthy (105 minutes) oratorio Le mystère de la Nativité, a 1964 concert performance with a cast including many names familiar to collectors: soprano Elly Ameling, alto Aafje Heynis, tenor Ernst Haefliger and bass Guus Hoekman. Fortunately, this is one of the performances in this set recorded in the Concertgebouw (the others are the Martin, Falla, Ravel and Henkemans violin concerto). Ravel. Only one other recording of this work is listed, a premium-price Swiss production with Alois Koch conducting.
The prize of this set is the DVD which begins with a 1970 studio recording of La Mer in a superb performance. It's rather odd that Fournet steps onto the podium while the orchestra is tuning. After that the camera is always focused on the conductor against a black background. Next is La Valse, another studio recording made the same day—and this is a production number with superimposed images of various parts of the orchestra, some in silhouette, plus dancers. Fournet is seen only occasionally in this ill-advised rather amateurish production. Both of these are black/white, but the concluding work, Beethoven's violin concerto, is in color and very well photographed with the camera where it should be, alternating between soloist, conductor and various parts of the orchestra. Zino Francescatti is magnificent and it is a pleasure to see and hear him in his prime from a 1973 concert in Breda (he died in 1991 at the age of 89). One side of this DVD is for PAL playback, the other for NTSC, identified in print so small it is almost impossible to read without magnification. This set apparently is not available in the U.S. Sound quality is uniformly good, best when recorded in the Concertgebouw (Messiaen, Martin, Falla, Ravel, Henkemans concerto). The cost is about $90 US dollars.
R.E.B. (August 2003)