The French composer-conductor, Paul Paray, was best known in the United States
as the conductor of the Detroit SO (1952-63). He was also a
multiple-prize-winning composer of international repute. His own Mercury
recording of the Joan Of Arc Mass has been a connoisseur's favourite
for many years.
In the present disc we meet the CD premiere of his Symphony no. 1 in c and
the first modern recording of the Mass.
What to expect: tuneful and melodious music out of the schools of Franck,
Fauré and Chausson.
The symphony dates from three years after the mass. It was written in 1934.
Its roots are in the Bizet and Franck symphonies but with romantic and mildly
impressionistic elements from Dukas. There is none of Poulenc's frivolity
in the emerald green elegance of the first movement although a nobility (quite
strongly reminiscent of Elgar 2) strides through the pages to return in the
fourth movement. The second movement has a tentative succinct eloquence.
The allegretto (III) is at the pace of any similar movement in a Bruckner
symphony and some of the string writing had the string cascades and
cradle-rocking hauntings of Franz Schmidt (second and third symphonies).
The finale is a bacchanal of boisterous joy and that very same Elgarian nobility
that stalks the first movement. The closing pages mix in a military set to
the jaw. This work makes me eager to hear the second (1940) and third symphonies.
Any chance Mr Paul and Reference?
The Mass is quite simply a gem. Its lineage goes back to the Fauré
Requiem. The Kyrie has all the soft beguiling of perfumed and
exotic plumes. It rises from this sybaritic possession to some operatic singing
for the soloists (Verdi's Requiem) and a grand processional for brass
in their most commanding mode. The long Gloria is another delight.
It is romantic and exciting: swirling and wondrously stomping. The work spirals
down from the heights to a reflective Miserere. The Quoniam has all the
candle-lit and incense absorbed splendour of the Saint-Saens Third Symphony.
The movement ends in tolling and swinging triumph . The Sanctus is
memorably celebratory in a vein rather like Walton but with a Gallic accent.
There is a blessed Benedictus and the Agnus Dei is a peaceful
and winding benediction. A discovery and one likely to appeal especially
to lovers of the Fauré Requiem, Saint Saens Third Symphony
and Howells' Hymnus Paradisi.
Very good documentation and recording is up RR's usual very demanding standards.
An easy recommendation. Don't miss another of RR's successful adventures
off the well-beaten and predictable track.