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Richard FRANCK (1858-1938)
Symphonische Fantasie op. 31 (1899) [12:54]
Serenade for violin and orchestra in A minor op. 25 (1896) [6:57]
Suite for orchestra op. 20 (1898) [20:08]
Liebesidyll - Amor und Psyche op. 40 (1905) [12:26]
Serenade for violoncello and orchestra in D minor op. 24 (1896) [6:10]
Wellen des Meeres und der Liebe – Concertoverture in E minor op. 21 (1895) [10:27]
Fabian Wettstein (violin); Tim Strüble (cello)
Württembergische Philharmonie Reutlingen/Christopher Fifield
25-27 March 2008, Studio WPR, Reutlingen, Germany. DDD
STERLING CDS1078-2 [69:09]

The German Audite label has been a friend to the works of Franck, father and son. This has nothing to do with César. We are talking here about Eduard and Richard, father and son. Audite’s commitment extends to four CDs of the father’s music and one of the son’s (see below). Eduard’s music shattered no shibboleths but it was intensely tuneful in the lively manner of Mendelssohn – perhaps with the occasional zest from Schumann and the Elysian voice of Beethoven heard intermittently. Richard Franck is also a romantic-conservative – at least he is judging by these works. He seems to have had no truck with the expressionists or the first stirrings of dissonance. For him the Grail lay with Schubert and Brahms with a modicum of Schumann.
Audite have given us one CD of Richard’s chamber music (92.522 - see review). It is reviewed on this site by the conductor of the present Sterling release. Bo Hyttner’s Sterling label now allow us to hear, in superbly polished and exuberant performances, a cross-section of Richard’s orchestral works. To date it’s unique though there is certainly plenty of material for a second and even a third CD.
There’s no symphony or concerto here but the Olympian symphonic manner is alive in the opp. 21 and 31 works. The Symphonische Fantasie has the mien of the first movement of a symphony. It veers between the harp-decorated himmlische vision of Schubert’s Great C major and Brahms’ Fourth. It’s a much better than capable piece of work – and is only let down by a surrender to the obligatory Teutonic fugal episode at 6.32. The orchestra appear rapt and at the close the brass benches deliver a romping aureate roar which gladdens the heart.

There are two Serenades here. The one for violin is placidly Beethovenian in the manner of the two Romances. The cello one is again pacific in its humour and the solo line foreshadows the main melody in Korngold’s Cello Concerto. The four movement Suite is charming – toasty warm, in fact with its Griegian cool flute in the Präludium and a wheezy Magyar-inflected Marsch. The Liebesidyll - Amor und Psyche lives up to its name. It lacks the sensuality of César Franck’s Psyché but it is sweetly intoned with Bruch taking a handsome bow. The cello acts as a sort of ‘precentor’ at the start. The concert overture could hardly have a more romantic title but do not expect anything like Rachmaninov. Franck’s pantone admits of melody with undulant unjagged contours but the language is firmly locked between the poles of late Schubert and late Brahms. It’s all very pleasant, at times strikingly beautiful and not at all folksy.
There’s plenty more to record including a Symphony in D minor from 1905 (manuscript), three piano concertos (1880-1907), a Prelude to a romantic play (1926) and a 1906 Violin Concerto. All in due time!
There is just that undercurrent of complacency in this music which some might condemn as reactionary. It is there but is not at all damaging. Only once does the mask slip – and that is when the plaguey and irritating fugue in the Fantasie puts in an appearance. Otherwise serenely-shaped Germanic romance. Bring it on.
Rob Barnett
Reviews of Audite releases of Eduard Franck
20.025 Violin concerto, Symphony
20.032 String quartets
20.033 String quartet, piano quintet
20.034 Violin concerto, Symphony


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