A valuable coupling of symphonies completed in 1896 and 1913 respectively;
Alberic Magnard (1865-1914) was shot dead in his garden by German
soldiers the following year, and they went on to burn down his house with
many manuscripts. An important Franckian and d'Indy pupil, he was an
individualist and, in personal life, a noted misanthrope.
Each of these symphonies is in four movements lasting about 40 minutes. The
second symphony is the only one of his to begin in the major. The second
movement is a suite of dances, the third a very beautiful chant varié.
The fourth, composed in a state of 'utter depression' achieved initial success
at its 1914 premiere, but soon after his death near the beginning of the
War his music fell into oblivion. It is more sombre, but not unrelievedly
so, and the orchestration is richer, sumptuous sometimes, yet not overloaded.
Both symphonies are continuously absorbing and well worth exploring if any
readers haven't yet come across them. There is a welcome revival of interest
in Magnard, with several competing versions of the symphonies now available,
though not necessarily in your local record shop!
The performances under Thomas Sanderling seem to me excellent (I do not have
access to scores). The recording is up to BIS's reliable standards, with
an honest, well balanced sound. Nos. 1 & 3 are on
and the continental Keller catalogue (available on CD-ROM) also has EMI Classics
versions by Plasson & Toulouse Capitol Orchestra. There are recent recordings
by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Ossonce (which I have not heard) of
all four Magnard symphonies
67040). These have been enthusiastically reviewed
by Rob Barnett for CMotW, and I have had repeated satisfaction from dipping
into the boxed set of 5 Accord CDs comprising Magnard's complete chamber
music (some of them individually available), with comprehensive notes by
Harry Halbreich on this important, but still all too little known composer
(Accord 200752 MU 756
). Alberic Magnard warrants a major comprehensive review
of his music and of all the CDs.
Peter Grahame Woolf