Marvellous programming from Avie here.
The mix of Bizet's life-affirming symphony
with a tone-poem of d'Indy - why don't
we hear more of his music here in the
UK? - and Strauss's swashbuckler makes
for an invigorating combination.
Of course there is
hallowed competition around, especially
in the case of the Bizet. Here,
the shadow of Beecham looms large: French
Radio National Symphony Orchestra on
HMV. There are other good versions,
too - Dutoit and ASMF/Marriner - but
Lombard on his own terms projects the
joie-de-vivre so necessary to this work.
Right from the punchy opening there
is a feeling of intense affection here,
especially notable in Lombard's openness
to the lyric qualities. There is a surprising
amount of drama running through this
performance. The slow movement flows
easily and has a simply gorgeous solo
oboe, while the Scherzo evokes the rustic.
Cellos really dig in as they imitate
drones. The highlight has to be the
finale: active, almost opera buffo in
ethos. It is full of fizz, in other
words, and thoroughly enjoyable. The
recording, from 1976, is excellently
rounded yet detailed.
The d'Indy is
the possible curio here. Souvenirs
(subtitled, 'Poème pour orchestre')
has also been recorded by James De Priest
(Koch; now deleted) and the Württemberg
Philharmonic on Marco Polo. It is a
simply superb work. The composer dedicated
it to the memory of his wife, who died
the year before composition. And what
a piece it is! The opening is magnificently
dark; d'Indy was a master orchestrator.
Perhaps a little more depth to the recording
would have been useful, for this is
French monumentalism at its height.
There is an undercurrent of intensity
throughout that Guschlbauer underlines.
One might point to similarities of expression
with Scriabin - the language is very
perfumed - and Richard Strauss: listen
around 7'40 and you might find yourself
reminded of the Alpine Symphony!
Personally I shall be returning to this
recording many times, I am sure. Guschlbauer
inspires the orchestra to great delicacy
around the 13 minute mark, and the close
is supremely atmospheric. Do hear this.
hints make a link to the Don Juan
that closes the disc. Jan Latham-Koenig
(an RCM graduate) is the conductor here
and his interpretation opens carefully
– little hint of the daredevil in the
initial ascent. Another gorgeous oboe
solo around 7'30 illumines the experience.
Again it is the lyric side to the fore
– horns simply do not swagger enough
in the triumphal theme; that’s the one
that later in Strauss's career gets
'remembered' in Heldenleben.
There are Juans aplenty that
set the pulse racing more than this
Lombard arrived at
Strasbourg in 1972, where he stayed
until 1983. Guschlbauer was Lombard's
successor (from 1982). He remained until
Buy this disc primarily
for the d'Indy, then. Notes are in French
only and concentrate on the conductors.