Ernest CHAUSSON (1885-1899)
Symphony in B flat Op. 20 (1889-1890)[35:14]
Gabriel FAURE (1845-1924)
Pelléas et Mélisande
Orchestral Suite Op. 80 (1898) [16:41]
Arthur HONEGGER (1892-1955)
, mouvement symphonique no. 3 H67 (1928) [8:43]
Pacific 231, mouvement symphonique no. 1 H53 (1923) [6:30]
Pastorale d’Eté H31 (1920) [7:37]
Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra/Jean Fournet
rec. 1993. DDD
REGIS RRC1328 [75.00]
Jean Fournet (1913-2008) was born in Rouen and died in the Netherlands. He conducted in both France and Holland. His French period encompassed Rouen (1936-1940), Marseille (1940-1944), and Paris Opéra-Comique (1944-1957) although he did make a return. He was for many years - from the late 1950s - the conductor of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic and made his home in the Netherlands also conducting the Concertgebouw and the Rotterdam Philharmonic. He held director positions with the Orchestre National de l’Ile de France (1973-1982) and the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra (1983-1986). The Japanese connection accounts for this Denon-originated collection which is the source of the present disc.
His discography features a chapter of recordings made alongside Antonio Pedrotti and Serge Baudo with the Czech Philharmonic. These were issued by Supraphon and included Franck Psyché (complete) Czech Philharmonic Chorus, Prague Symphony Orchestra, a recital of Franck tone poems (Les Eolides, Les Djinns, Rédemption and Le Chasseur Maudit) as well as some de Falla (Tricorn) and Debussy. Those Prague recordings were collected in a Japanese Denon box 4-CD: COCQ-83704-07 (Jean Fournet in Prague). The Denon projects of the 1990s were to include the Dukas orchestral music with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic (reissued on Portrait PCL1016) and with the Tokyo Metropolitan some French Orchestral Favorites: Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, La Valse, Escales and L'Arlesienne Suites and another disc of French overtures (Boieldieu La Dame Blanche; Berlioz Le Carnaval Romain; Dukas Polyeucte; Gounod Mireille; Lalo Roi d'Ys; Massenet Phèdre; Pierné Ramuntcho). Further back in time he was the conductor for various French opera recordings: Bizet Les pêcheurs de perles (Lamoureux Concert Association Orchestra, Pierrette Alarie, Léopold Simoneau, René Bianco, Xavier Depraz), Boieldieu’s Dame Blanche (Melodram), with Philips, Louise and Pelléas et Mélisande and with DG Mignon by Ambroise Thomas. We should not forget that he also recorded such rarities as the Ingelbrecht Mass with ORTF forces and various Dutch works including the Orthel symphonies (Etcetera), the Mendelssohn violin concerto for Ricci (now on Eloquence) and the two Ravel concertos for Idil Biret. Not to overlook an Exton DVD of Berlioz’s Le Carnaval Romain; La Damnation De Faust: Menuet des Feux Follets, Danse Des Sylphes and Marche Hongroise and Symphonie Fantastique with Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony recorded live in Suntory Hall, Tokyo in 2003.
The present disc mixes various genres. There’s the rampant satin Wagnerian extravagances of the Chausson symphony with its Franckian moments completely assimilated into the whole. This is an earnestly late-romantic symphony to be counted alongside the symphonies of d’Indy and Magnard. The five Fauré movements are by contrast tender, cool, elegant; just as romantic as the Chausson but spun with a telling restraint. The famous Sicilienne is taken at just the right pace - thank heavens it is not rushed. After the accessible classicism of Fauré in Pelléas et Mélisande we are confronted with the ‘modernism’ of Honegger. These pieces were clearly recorded at a different venue or with a radically different sound set-up producing a wonderfully transparent audio image. The Fauré and Chausson are fully acceptable but the Honegger tracks sound brilliantly vivid. Rugby is a heroically rowdy rough-house of a piece, grumpy and muscular. No one would have been surprised if Pacific 231 had been attributed to Mossolov - rather like the Russian’s uber-clamorous Iron Foundry (once recorded by Argeo Quadri on a Westminster LP) this vivid portrait in sound of a might train could easily have been accepted as a further example of early 1930s Soviet poster-art. After two declamatory scores Pastorale d’Été comes as warm balm complete with birdsong and the scents of summer. It would go rather well with the pastoral works of Frank Bridge providing gentle Gallic contrast in much the same way as the gentler orchestral moments in Poulenc’s orchestral suites and the Canteloube orchestrations of the Auvergne songs.
A nicely judged collection of French music.  

Rob Barnett 
A nicely judged collection of French orchestral music.