Recently acquired: Yvonne Loriod, The Complete Vega Recordings 1956-1963 (Decca)

Recently acquired (and that I hope to fully review someday):

A superb 13 CD set from Decca, “Yvonne Loriod, The Complete Vega Recordings 1956-1963” (2019) barcode 028948170692

Years ago, I had, if I remember well, a very scratching, 10″ LP with two Mozart Concertos played by Loriod and conducted by Boulez, that I had inherited, I think, from my dad or my uncle. Yes! Boulez conducting and Loriod – Madame Messiaen – playing Mozart. Not exactly what you might have expected from those two specialists of 20th century, avant-garde music. But the record was so unbearably scratchy that I happily parted with it, offering it to a dear friend of mine and record collector.

Well, those Mozart concertos are back, first time on CD – there were actually four of them recorded by Loriod and Boulez for Vega, Nos. 1-4. No scratches, excellent transfers. In fact, the set is lavishly done, with an excellent booklet that is in itself a fine compendium of Messiaen documentation, sporting reproductions of the original Vega LPs, rare early photos of the Messiaens and associated performers, and posters of various concerts of Loriod and Messiaen, an introduction by esteeemed French critic, Messiaen specialist, founder of the Olivier Messiaen piano competition and erstwhile artistic director of Vega records in the early 1960s, Claude Samuel, and moving tributes by Loriod’s pupil and Messiaen specialist Roger Muraro, and by musicologist and Messian biographer Nigel Simeone. No slapdash job, a work of care.

As for the recordings compiled on those 13 CDs, I had many of them, both on old crackling Vega LPs and on their CD reissues by Adès or, later, Accord, which picked up the Adès catalog in the 1990s. But some are rarities making their first CD appearance: the four Mozart Concertos (CDs 1 & 2), Liszt’s Piano Sonata (CD 2), 12 Chopin Etudes and 8 Schumann Novelettes (CD 3), the complete Iberia of Albeniz (CDs 4 and 5) – only excerpts had been previously reissued to CD, in 1985, by Adès, 14.071-2 barcode 3129671407127 -, Jean Barraqué’s daunting Piano Sonata (CD 6). The Messiaen recordings – Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant Jésus, Visions de l’Amen, Cantéyodjayâ, Catalogue d’oiseaux, 7 Haikai, Oiseaux exotiques, Turangalîla Symphonie –  are not to be confused with those she later made for Erato. 7 Haikai was first CD-released in 1985 on Adès 14.073-2 (barcode 3129671407325), paired with Boulez’ Marteau sans maïtre and Sonatine for Flute and piano, Vingt Regards on Adès 14.112-2 (1987) bc 3129671411223, Visions de l’Amen and Cantéyodjayâ on 13.232-2 (1988) 3129671323328. Falla’s Night in the Garden of Spains was reissued in 1989 on Adès 13.272-2 barcode 3129671327227 (with Dances from the Tri-Cornered Hat and Arbos’ orchestration of Albeniz’ Iberia, all conducted by Manuel Rosenthal). Maurice Le Roux’ Turangalîla was first reissued on Accord 204 792 bc 3229262047920. Oiseaux Exotiques, Boulez’ Sonata No. 2 , Henze’s Concerto per il Marigny, Berg’s Sonata, Webern’s Variations op. 27 and Schoenberg’s Suite op. 29 saw their first CD outing in 2006 on two Accord sets documenting  Boulez’ Domaine Musical 1956-1967, 476 9209 barcode 028947992096, and 476 8862 bc 028947688624. Those two sets were reissued in 2015 with more on a 10-CD set, Accord 4811510, barcode 028948115105, the “more” including Boulez’ first (and rough) recording of  Marteau sans Maître, with Marie-Thérèse Cahn, in 1956 (the version previously reissued was with Jeanne Deroubaix, from 1964). There were a number of individual reissues  of the Messiaen recordings (and Falla’s Night) on Accord, but all Vega / Adès’ Messiaen was compiled (with Catalogue d’Oiseaux making its first CD appearance) in 2008 on a 7-CD set Accord 480 1045 “Messiaen Les Premiers enregistrements 1956-1962”  barcode 028948010455.

The set is wrong in some of its indications of “First CD release”. As I mentioned, excerpts from the four books of Iberia were published on Adès 14.071-2 (1985) barcode 3129671407127. The four Mozart Fantasias, Sonata K331, Rondo K485 were on Adès’ budget collection “Or”, 13.204-2 (1987), barcode 3129671320426 (best documentation for the latter is on Muziekweb.nl). But all these early Adès CD reissues are now offered on the marketplace (if they are at all) at cut-throat prices, it’s good to have them back in a single set. Nigel Simeone, in his otherwise very detailed and informative essay on Loriod’s performance and recording career, is, I believe, also wrong when he states that that Loriod and Messiaen’s first recording of Visions de l’Amen, in 1949, was made for the American label Dial. I believe it was for the French Contrepoint, 6 78rmp sides CO 1 to 6. My understanding is that Dial 8 was a reissue to LP.

As a great bonus, the set adds two recordings made for Boîte à Musique (Messiaen’s 8 Preludes, 1958, first CD reissue) and Club Français du Disque (Stravinsky’s Petrouchka by Orchestre des Cento Soli under Rudolf Albert, a recording from 1957 in which Loriod was the pianist). The latter was previously reissued to CD on Accord 476 8957, barcode 028947689577 (paired with Le Sacre by same conductor and orchestra).

One small frustration, maybe: Decca left out the recordings made for Vega’s successor Adès, of Yvonne Loriod’s sister, Jeanne, a famous player of Ondes Martenot, who participated with Yvonne in (most of) the recordings of Messiaen’s works with piano and Ondes. Vega’s Turangalîla-Symphony conducted by Maurice Le Roux is there of course, but in the early 1980s Adès published two LPs of Jeanne’s Sextet (originally on 21.007, see entry on Discogs.com), and two pieces there included were for Ondes and Piano, with Yvonne at the piano, of course: André Jolivet’s 3 Poèmes pour ondes Martenot et Piano and Darius Milhaud’s Suite pour ondes musicales Martenot et Piano.

Independent even of one’s appreciation on the interpretations, this becomes (if you don’t already have the Accord 7-CD set mentioned above) an indispensable acquisition for the fan of Messiaen, one of the building blocks of any serious Messiaen collection, together with the twofer from EMI’s Rarissimes, 3 85275 2 (2007) barcode 094638527527 (documenting the earliest recordings on Ducretet-Thompson, Pathé, Contrepoint and others: Trois petites Liturgies de la présence divine, Visions de l’Amen, Quatre Etudes de rythme, 3 preludes, Offrandes oubliées), and the great Erato 17-CD set ECD 71580 (1988) 3269657158022, reissued on 2292-45505-2, barcode 022924550522, augmented reissue (18 CDs) Warner  2564 62162-2 (2000)  825646216222 (and, for Messiaen’s organ works, you also have EMI-France’s 4-CD set 7 67400-2 “Messiaen par lui-même” documenting the composer’s 1957 recording, barcode 077776740027). But in this case, it is not just a tribute to Messiaen, it is a beautiful tribute to Yvonne Loriod.

1 thought on “Recently acquired: Yvonne Loriod, The Complete Vega Recordings 1956-1963 (Decca)”

  1. The Dial recording of Visions de l’Amen is indeed the first edition. It was in the brief time when the LP had already appeared in U.S. but still unknown in Europ. Same case for Berg’s chamber concerto with Leibowitz-Charmy-Monod.

Comments are welcome