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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    



César FRANCK (1822-1890)
Symphony in D minor. Les Eolides.

New York Philharmonic Orchestra/Kurt Masur.
Recorded at the Avery Fisher Hall in February 1992 (Symphony live). [DDD]
WARNER APEX 0927 41372-2 [48.24]


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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 way.

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.

 

Colin Clarke


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