Two familiar names tonight – one; one of the most celebrated composers of the 20th century and the other, one of the most admired conductors on the French podium whose many premiers and close associations made him a leading light in the musical life of France from the 1930s all the way to his death in 2003, at the life-well-lived age of 99.
Originally composed for piano, Ravel‘s Menuet Antique was orchestrated in 1929 by the composer and received it’s world premier in 1930. It has gone on to become a staple of the concert hall, both in its original piano form and its later orchestration. Manuel Rosenthal was one of Ravel’s last pupils, so this performance, done for the ORTF (French public radio pre-1968) for a broadcast adds a certain authority to it, as did many of Rosenthal’s performances of Ravel’s works.
But because Rosenthal had formed friendships with many composers among his peers, he was very active introducing audiences to new works as well as doing a lot to promote French music abroad.
He frequently guest conducted many American orchestras and was, for many seasons, conductor of most French stage works at the Metropolitan.
In addition to frequently guest performing, he was very prolific in the studio and has a huge catalog of recordings to his credit; many winning prestigious awards and many of them definitive.
So this performance isn’t particularly special; it’s been recorded by him several times for several labels, it is a broadcast performance which highlights another prolific side of his work – as a frequent conductor of most of the orchestras of France and a frequent performer via French Radio and TV, which I suspect many of his performances have survived.
In any case – enjoy and relax.