Classic Record Collector

Most of the pieces on the Milhaud disc are unavailable elsewhere. This alone makes it a very welcome offering, especially as they include two of the great scandal-provoking works of the composer’s early career, the Second Symphonic Suite and the Five Studies for piano and orchestra. Even 80 years on these are not easy listening. One hangs on to the often catchy tonal tunes while all around seems to be harmonic mayhem- it is not, of course, but there are moments when one has to sympathise with Saint-Saëns’s view that “several instruments playing in different keys have never produced music, merely a racket”. For me most of the extracts from the opera Maximilien come under this heading. The suite, op. 157b, on the other hand, is utterly delightful, with particularly fine clarinet playing from Ulysse Délécluse, while Pierre Monteux directs a splendidly vigorous performance of the Second Symphonic Suite, braying horns and all. There are good notes by Stephen Sutton, and Andrew Rose’s concerns over matching shellac and vinyl originals are quite without foundation: he has done an excellent job.

—Roger Nichols