Prêtre – who, now in his nineties, still has an active career – is very much the international maestro, conducting most of the world’s major orchestras and appearing in the world’s top opera houses, while Jordan (who died in 2006) focused his career largely on Switzerland and France, though he gained a reputation in the USA in the last decade or so of his life.
Particularly notable in Prêtre’s Warner Classics catalogue are the recordings he made with Maria Callas in the 1960s (Carmen, Tosca and the two Callas à Paris recitals) but the 17-CD ICON collection displays the extraordinary breadth of his achievement. The French component features Berlioz, Debussy, Ravel, Saint-Saëns, Satie, Poulenc, Milhaud, d’Indy, Roussel and Dukas, but also the much less widely-known Alexis de Castillon and Marcel Landowski (who was a personal friend of Prêtre’s). Beyond that already impressive array, the set also includes works by Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin, Mussorgsky, Shostakovich, Dvořák, Berg, Gershwin, the Hungarian composer Tibor Harsányi and the Belgian composer Joseph Jongen (whose Symphonie concertante for organ and orchestra, a work close to Prêtre’s heart, is performed here with the composer Maurice Duruflé as soloist). The orchestras on this ICON set are from France, Monte Carlo, the UK and Austria and featured performers include Marie-Claire Alain, Aldo Ciccolini, Alexis Weissenberg, Michel Béroff, Christian Ferras and Peter Ustinov.
Both collections include a number of recordings that have never before appeared on CD. On the Prêtre set, works by Saint-Saëns, Milhaud, Poulenc, Dutilleux, Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin, Mussorgsky, Shostakovich, Dvořák, Berg, Harsányi and Gershwin; on the Jordan set, works by Chausson, Fauré, Ravel and Lekeu.