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Paul DUKAS (1865-1935)
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice [10:52]
La péri - Fanfare and Poème Dansé [20:03]
Symphony in C Major [40:51]
RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra/Jean-Luc Tingaud
rec. National Concert Hall, Dublin, 7-10 October 2013
NAXOS 8.573296 [71:46]

It must be said at the outset that the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra is in fine form in all three works. It’s also very obvious that a meticulous level of orchestral preparation has gone into the making of this recording. The sound quality is pleasant and bright without being anything extra-special. There is also exemplary attention to the finer details of each score.

Strangely enough it’s this attention to detail that lets down the performance of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. It’s all very neat and precise with fine woodwind solos and great drive and clarity but it just lacks that natural manic quality in the climaxes that make the piece truly come alive. It’s performed with careful articulation but for me it doesn’t have the necessary feeling of riotous abandon. The focus on detail almost bogs things down and the music cries out for a bit more roughness. The cataclysmic section when the piece threatens to collapse doesn’t quite deliver the intended level of chaos. This is good but must be classed as a near-miss.

The good news is that this very decent performance of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice — most collectors will have other versions anyway — is followed by some exceptional music-making in La péri and in the Symphony. La péri is a masterpiece. The well-known Fanfare is played very well indeed with the horns catching the ear. Maybe the lower brass, especially the tuba, could do with a bit more oomph but that’s a minor quibble. The Poème Dansé contains some of the most beautiful music imaginable. Lovers of Debussy and Ravel will adore this piece. I first came across it purely by chance on an old CBS LP that I bought for its coupling (Roussel’s Third Symphony) and wondered where this wonderful music had been hiding (It's CD39 in the 67 disc Pierre Boulez Complete Columbia Album Collection: Sony Classical 88843013332). There are sumptuous passages of great beauty - sun-drenched and languid sounds with stunning orchestration. However, there’s more to it than that. There are also plenty of rhythmic passages that move the music forward and the structure is most satisfying. Tingaud and his orchestra really produce the goods and the interpretation of the score is wholly successful.

The Symphony in C can sound a bit overblown in the wrong hands. There’s some tuneful, energetic music to be heard, some of it very memorable, but at forty minutes it does sometimes test the patience. Fortunately that isn’t the case here. Tingaud’s performance is of the highest quality and he keeps the music taut and exciting throughout. This symphony is cut from the same cloth as the César Franck Symphony and they also share the unusual structure of three movements instead of the usual four. The vigorous, romantic outer movements are balanced with a marvellous slow movement of vivid beauty. This is most movingly presented with a true cantabile tone and a real sense of longing. Listeners who enjoy rich, harmonic romantic scoring will be at home here. The finale is heroic in nature and Tingaud delivers it with control and good taste, bringing the symphony to a triumphant conclusion.

This CD gives us first rate performances of La péri and the Symphony. The performance of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is good, despite my reservations, so overall this is a fine addition to the Dukas discography.

John Whitmore



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