When it originally appeared with a playing time of
less than fifty minutes at full price (on 9031-74863-2), this disc can
hardly have sold well. Franck’s D minor Symphony of 1886/8 has been
well served over the years (Beecham and Munch stand out). Despite the
fact that Masur directs a thoroughly well-rehearsed and well-balanced
performance (the New Yorkers sound very well drilled indeed), drama
is at a low. So much so, in fact, it is hard to believe that this is
a live performance - it just sounds so studio bound.
Masur’s Franck Symphony is a performance of ‘almosts’.
The Lento introduction to the first movement is almost portentous; the
climax is almost convincing but needs that bit more conviction; the
approach to the end of the movement almost makes the grade but needs
that bit more ‘schwung’; the opening of the finale is almost punchy
enough; the ensuing theme almost suave enough. But it never quite makes
the grade. The second movement comes off best. Masur takes it at a true
Allegretto (it is often heard at too slow a tempo) and it flows along
surely and inevitably with some notable solo contributions along the
The symphonic poem Les Eolides of 1876 was influenced
by Wagner and indeed at times does emerge as a Gallic version of that
composer’s music. It inhabits a more diffuse world than that of the
symphony and elicits a less svelte, clinical performance (it even feels
as if it is dancing along at one point).
Even at the low price, however, it is difficult to
recommend this disc, which certainly does not represent a true reflection
of the achievements of Masur’s New York years.