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Ernest CHAUSSON (1855-1899)
Symphony in B flat, Op.20 (1890) [29:39]
César FRANCK (1822-1890)
Psyché (1888) [16:35]
Le chasseur maudit (1883) [13:50]
Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Frederick Stock (Chausson), Désiré Defauw (Franck)
rec. 1941-46, Orchestra Hall, Chicago

In recent years the restoration of Frederick Stock’s Chicago recordings has shown him to have been a strong interpreter and a sympathetic accompanist – notably in the Tchaikovsky Concerto with Milstein. Biddulph’s twofer (review) contained his Tchaikovsky 5 and offers a conspectus of interesting things, including the original version of Walton’s Scapino.
Now Forgotten Records chips in with a significant recording of Chausson’s Symphony made in December 1941, a matter of months before Stock’s death. At the time it would have been heard as sonically superior to the earlier 78rpm set made by Piero Coppola, though not invariably interpretatively. The recording quality in Orchestra Hall, Chicago was, nevertheless, fine and RCA Victor did a good job; this transfer isn’t taken directly from 78s but from a subsequent LP transfer.

Stock’s opening movement is strongly hewn and shows the Chicago’s German bass-up sonority to maximum advantage. Rugged and passionate there is a convincing sweep to this reading as there is in the funereal ardour and expressive lyricism of the central panel. His finale is genuinely animated and progresses splendidly. There is, however, a real textual oddity because in the Franckian chorale-like section in this movement Stock substitutes an organ for the brass, which should play this passage. And there we were thinking Stock was a stickler for the letter of the law. It makes a change, anyway. Whatever the merits of this performance – and there are many – it was comprehensively blown out of the water when Paray’s Mercury reading from Detroit burst on the musical world in 1956.

The companion works by Franck are conducted by ex-fiddler Désiré Defauw whose stint with the Chicago orchestra was brief and not wholly successful. They recorded well together, though, as Pysché and Le Chausseur maudit both triumphantly demonstrate. Defauw really encourages the strings and horns in Psyché and is notably ardent in the zephyrs panel. Recorded in March 1945 what’s presented is the whole of part one - Le Sommeil de Psyché and Psyché enlevée par les zephyrs – and one section from part two, Psyché et Eros. The Chicago strings play with notable brightness in Le Chausseur and once again all the recordings were made in Orchestra Hall. The transfers were also taken from LPs not the 1945-46 78s.

This excellently programmed Franco-Belgian selection is securely stamped ‘made in Chicago’ and has presented the performances with admirable fidelity.

Jonathan Woolf

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