Here is a splendid
collection of major works by Franck.
The generous playing time is but icing
on the cake of a well-chosen collection.
And it’s well-chosen from the point
of view of who the performers are, too.
The Orchestre de Paris
plays the music with both affection
and dedication. Barenboim, not usually
this reviewer's favourite conductor,
paces the works well and ensures excellent
balances throughout. The clear and spacious
recording helps in this too.
(subtitled 'Morceau symphonique') is
actually an orchestral interlude in
a large-scale oratorio of the same name.
The recording, with its full dynamic
range, is perfect for the mysterious
opening, while at the other end of the
scale the imposing brass sound is resplendent.
The Wagnerian slant that can be heard
in this music clearly appealed to Barenboim.
Perhaps the single
gem of this disc is the Nocturne,
a work that comes fully to life with
soloist Christa Ludwig. The sensuous
orchestration by the Franck pupil Guy
Ropartz is appropriately fragrant. Ludwig
sings with rapt intensity – the disc
is worth it for these four minutes alone.
Le Chasseur maudit
('The Accursed Huntsman') is given
a wide-ranging performance. The horns
evoke the huntsman of the title superbly.
He is accursed because he ignores the
pleas of the church and goes hunting
on a Holy Day, resulting in eternal
damnation – more accurately, to being
hunted himself by demons for all eternity.
This is a 'Poème symphonique'
in four movements, and Barenboim and
his forces react to each with chameleon-like
agility. Try the depth and sensitivity
of the strings in the second movement,
or the shifting, textures (again Wagnerian)
of the third ('Molto lento'). The Wagner
link comes to a head in the descending
chromatic and harmonic progressions
of the finale, a movement Barenboim
whips up into a frenzy of excitement.
takes us to the realms of myth - the
titular heroine was the lover of Eros.
The work consists of a love-scene (the
first movement), Psyché's flight
(carried by the Zephyrs, the winds),
a Garden of Love and finally 'Psyché
et Eros'. The allusions to Tristan
in the dream are subsumed in a mesh
of delicacy with the strings reduce
to a mere whisper at times. There is
some gorgeous, hushed playing here.
The whole work, whatever its dynamic
climaxes, is enveloped in a tendresse
that culminates in the Orchestre de
Paris caressing Franck's score in the
final movement. This is music that positively
It came as a shock
to realise the Barenboim recordings
were taken down in 1976. The recording
quality implies many years ahead of
Finally, a trip down
memory lane to the days of Ernest Ansermet
and his Suisse Romande orchestra in
Les Éolides. If Barenboim
is superb - and he is - what word is
left for Ansermet's consummate understanding
of the Franckian idiom?. This is surely
the Master Ansermet at his best. He
seems intent at times to point to the
score as a sort of Franckian equivalent
to Debussy's elusive ballet of many
years later, Jeux (1912-13).
A good idea on Eloquence's part to save
the best for last. Barenboim and his
Parisians might not sound quite so compelling
An excellent compilation
of Franckian gems. Very, very strongly