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Benjamin GODARD (1849-1895)
Symphonie No. 2 Op. 57 (1879) [29:09]
Trois Morceaux.op. 51 (1874?) [19:56]
Symphonie Gothique Op. 23 (1890) [19:38]
Munchner Rundfunkorchester/David Reiland
rec. Studio 1, Bayerisches Rundfunk, Munchen, 17-19, 28-29 Sept 2015.
CPO 555 044-2 [69:11]

Not exactly a full-blown resurgence but there are now quite a few orchestral Godard entries in the catalogue. The prime contributors are Dutton Epoch, Hyperion, Naxos and now CPO. If we look to his mélodies and violin sonatas Aparte have recently swelled the ranks with AP123 and AP124 and Timpani have added his string quartets.

Godard proves to have had an ingenious and fertile imagination. The four-movement Second Symphony is a lively affair drawing cogently enough on the fantasy elements of Mendelssohn, Schumann and Weber. The first and third movements are quite Tchaikovskian in the Russian composer's fairy-tale mode; perhaps the lighter moments in the Manfred symphony. We are back to Schumann as a reference point for the two flanking movements. It's all very engaging, even when Godard aims at being stirring.

The Trois Morceaux range from cloudily earnest reflection to eldritch skittishness to what seems to be an evocation of a sultry Spanish evening. The three pieces end with a crashing Massenet-style climax.

Godard loved his exotic pictorial titles. His symphonies include a Symphonie Orientale and a Symphonie Légendaire. The shorter Symphonie Gothique starts darkly. It proceeds among solemn Brahmsian groves but soon finds an equally Brahmsian levity. The whole work has the air of something veering between Brahms' Haydn Variations and Second Symphony. It has the air of a suite rather than a brow-knitted symphony.

We are not told who wrote the liner essay but it is a good example of its kind: approachable and logically laid out section by section. It's difficult to tell without a performing tradition but the performances feel convinced and convincing. As for the recording quality this is sturdy but with room for detail in a warm acoustic. I trust that we will hear more from Reiland and the Munich Radio orchestra.

Rob Barnett



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