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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



CD REVIEW

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Paul Dukas (1865-1935)
Goetz de Berlichingen, Ouverture après Goethe (1883) [13:27]
Le Roi Lear, Ouverture après Shakespeare (1883) [22:17]
Symphony in C minor (1896) [42:05]
Württembergische Philharmonie Reutlingen/Fabrice Ballon
rec. no details given. DDD
STERLING CDS 1074-2 [78:18]
Experience Classicsonline


The fame of L’Apprenti Sorcier has tended to make Dukas a one-work composer, but his lack of productivity and the fact that he burnt many of his unpublished works has not helped either. On this disc we have his comparatively well-known symphony and two works written when he was eighteen. The overtures are really symphonic poems and while they cannot be placed among the few works of the composer’s maturity, they each have a lot to offer.

Although dating from 1883 Goetz is to some degree a new piece as it was lost for a long time and only rediscovered in the mid-1990s. While Schumannesque in style it shows a plastic and very competent sense of form in its depiction of the reluctant leader of the Peasants’ Revolt in 1525. Most notable beside the formal mastery is the quality of the orchestration. The work relies on a constant forward motion and Ballon and his players do well here. Their playing is straightforward if not totally subtle, but their build-up to the restatement of the Goetz theme at the end of the work is admirable.

Even though it was written directly after Goetz, Le Roi Lear shows a lot of progress in the creation and handling of themes. The subject matter gives the composer opportunity to create many different types of atmosphere and Ballon and his players take full advantage of this. Indeed this work contains the best playing on the disc - the Württembergers seem to have an affinity for tragedy. They again save the best for last with the dying of Lear as portrayed by Dukas’s almost disintegrating music.

With the Symphony we are in more familiar territory. There are half a dozen recordings currently available and each will have its supporters. I have always been partial to the Armin Jordan on Apex, but nothing really equals the old George Sebastian recording. In the first movement of this work the formal mastery mentioned above has reached total fruition. Ballon supports the composer in this, keeping the development and combination of themes absolutely clear. The symphony’s second movement is one where the continuity of both playing and mood can easily be lost. It is to Ballon’s credit that he only lets this happen a few times and produces what is overall a beautiful reading of this movement. In the third movement, however, there are problems. The conductor emphasizes the connections between the movements adroitly but the orchestra frequently blares away or almost breaks down. This spoils what has up to now been quite a fine performance.

In appraising this disc one must separate the overtures from the symphony. Ballon gives a very creditable account of the symphony, but he is not always backed up by his players and the recording quality is lackluster. It is interesting that no venue is mentioned. On the other hand, there are no other recordings currently available of the overtures and the playing is better here. While obviously an imperfect disc it can be definitely recommended if only to those who do not have the overtures.

William Kreindler

 


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