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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]

This recent release from Naxos collects the composer’s major orchestral works, which were recorded during several studio sessions in late 2014. In addition to the 1897 tone poem L’apprenti sorcier (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice) and the Fanfare from La péri (1912), the recording includes the entire ballet, along with Dukas’s earlier Symphony in C Major (composed 1895–96, published 1908). The conductor Jean-Luc Tingaud in the liner-notes avows his intention to represent the composer’s scores faithfully, and this is borne out in uniformly compelling performances of all the works on this CD.

As familiar as The Sorcerer’s Apprentice may be, the score merits rehearing because of Tingaud’s masterful treatment. Details emerge in various places, with the woodwind textures particularly clear, and the brass prominent without being domineering. The rich string sound that Tingaud achieves supports the textures throughout and demonstrates effective nuances in tempo and dynamics. It will be difficult to supplant the Stokowski recording that was used in Disney's Fantasia but this fine performance stands well against that reading and others. The Tingaud is compelling for its careful attention to detail, rather than the broad strokes applied by some conductors. The drama implicit in this score emerges vividly.

Equally familiar is the 1912 Fanfare that Dukas added for performance of his 1911 ballet La péri. This piece for brass ensemble is probably the best-known part of the ballet. In this recording, Tingaud’s spacious tempos allow the brass sonorities to resonate well. The phrasing suggests a strong orchestra, with the inner voice appropriately prominent. As demanding as the horn parts can be live, this recording does not betray the stress that sometimes occurs. Rather, the sense of pitch is reliable throughout and, more than that, the articulations are as precise as the careful bowings of the string sections apparent in the ballet and the Symphony. In this recording the Fanfare leads directly to the entire ballet, which Tingaud offers in a masterful reading. The recording benefits from fine sonics, with the subtle details of Dukas’s score rendered faithfully. As much as the music supports the scenario of La péri, this performance stands well on its own.

The greater part of the disc is devoted to Dukas’ forty-minute Symphony in C. A three movement work, the score shows some affinities with the three-movement Symphony in D by César Franck. This conductor makes the sonata structure of the first movement aurally tangible. This movement has greater weight than the other two, and is nicely balanced by the lyrical piece that follows. The tripartite form of the second movement is a good foil for the sonata structure, yet the concluding rondo remains relatively light. It stands well under Tingaud’s leadership and benefits from appropriate variations in tempo and phrasing.

All in all this is a fine addition to the estimable discography for Dukas, which includes recordings by Ansermet, Martinon and Boulez. The fine playing of the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra is supported well by admirable engineering. Those who are unfamiliar with Tingaud’s work will find an outstanding introduction to it in this disc: a major new conductor.

James L Zychowicz

Previous review: John Whitmore


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