Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Thomas Sanderling, Malmo Symphony Orchestra|
Magnard: Symphonies No. 2 & 4 / Sanderling, Malmo SO
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K. Farrington | Missegre, France | 04/19/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The slightly eccentric figure of Alberic Magnard stands at the end of the days of the School of Cesar Franck. Magnard's horrific death at the hands of renegade German soldiers during the early days of WWI somehow symbolises a demise of his art which was already passe interms of its belle epoque ecstatic joy. There are no hints of war storm clouds here. This composer produced instead enormous rich orchestral structures that are unique in their sublimation of French folksong with the Wagnerian fireworks of D'Indy, Lalo and Dukas. The sweeping violin runs are contrapunctal with blazing brass chorales and gigantic tutti that are the descendent of Hector Berlioz in his 'Symphonie Funebre et Triomphale'. The woodwind are pure French in their gentle singing. Now, however, the harmonic gloves are off and we are treated to a tremendous romantic explosion that to my mind is the most complete French response to 'Tristan' in the style of the Franck School which had remained fixated by the Wagner work. I believe that Magnard took the Franck approach to the symphony to its fullest and most satisfactory conclusion. Magnard's mastery of the sheer dynamics of the modern symphonic ensemble, in terms of pace, color and form make him an intellectually pleasing composer in the sense that the French sense of delicacy is uppermost but his gift for melody and lyrical beauty make him the musical equivalent to my mind of those impressionistic paintings of the French countryside at the turn of the century. The music being unfamiliar territory to me, sounds as fresh as an Auvergne spring. The colors are varied but never dark and while the moods may change appreciably, they are never despondent. Magnard's particular orchestral style provides a kind of haze, a sheen that makes the tones glow with a nostalgic flavor of a long ago French provincial summer's day but the underlying exhilaration and mercurial invention prevent us becoming maudlin and self indulgent at this lost world. This is very accessible music that should appeal to a wide spectrum of listeners who will welcome a new voice in their collection. The symphonies take just over 40 minutes apiece and the manufacturers have placed them on two CDs which are priced for one full price: excellent value! Just play them through and enjoy!"
Absolutely Stunning Performances
Jeffrey Lipscomb | Sacramento, CA United States | 05/21/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"These neglected gems by Magnard receive here their GREATEST-EVER recorded performances. Thomas Sanderling (1942- ) and the Malmo Symphony are simply magnificent! Recorded 1998-99 in excellent sound, this BIS CD is perhaps the finest orchestral disc of the past decade. If you buy only ONE new CD this year, consider making it this one (actually it's two CD's for the price of one - an outstanding bargain).
I first discovered Magnard's music back in the 1970's in a London LP recording of the 3rd Symphony by Ernest Ansermet & his Suisse Romande Orchestra (it was briefly available on CD only outside of the U. S.). Why Magnard's superb symphonic output has gotten so little respect - he's surely the Rodney Dangerfield of French composers - is a complete mystery to me. Looking back at some of my old Schwann catalogues, there is not a single recording of his music in the 1962 editions, and my single catalog from 1978 contains just that solitary Ansermet recording. But now, at last, we have these brilliant orchestral masterpieces in performances of incomparable greatness.
Alberic Magnard (1865-1914) initially studied with Massenet (whose music has no resemblance to Magnard's), but he later switched to the tutelage of Vincent d'Indy and eventually became a Professor of Counterpoint at the latter's Schola Cantorum in Paris. D'Indy was a slavish devotee of Cesar Franck, and there is more than a little Franckian influence in Magnard's music (but with none of Franck's harmonic immobility). Like Chausson, Magnard came from a well-to-do background. And also like Chausson (1855-1899), who died when his bicycle collided with a brick wall, Magnard met his death before the age of 50. As the CD notes here relate, Magnard was one of two 20th Century composers shot to death while standing in his garden: marauding German soldiers killed Magnard when he took a shot at them in defense of his home, which the soldiers burned to the ground along with most of Magnard's manuscripts! The other composer to die in similar fashion was Anton Webern (1883-1945), who ignored the night-time curfew imposed by the victorious Allied forces and stepped into his garden at Mittersill to smoke a cigarette (he was shot dead by an American soldier).
Magnard's music is difficult to describe. His 4th Symphony (1913), to my mind, is one of the truly great masterpieces of the 20th Century, right up there with such works as Roussel's 3rd & 4th, the 5ths of Nielsen and Vaughan Williams, Schmidt's 4th, and the Shostakovich 10th. Alsatian by birth, Magnard fashioned music in a way that reflects both French and German influences. The 4th (especially in the 2nd mvt.) is very similar to Roussel's in style but it's not as astringent. If I were to assign a name tag to Magnard, it would be "the French Nielsen." There are many passages throughout his symphonies that strongly resemble the Danish composer's, and here and there I hear Bartok and even Bruckner (especially the majestic brass writing). And Magnard's way of recalling a beautiful chorale at the conclusion of the 4th's last mvt. reminds me very much of how Mahler evokes the opening of his 1st Symphony in the 4th mvt. of that work.
I listened to the 4h Symphony three times this morning before sitting down to write this review. What utterly gorgeous music this is! Unfortunately, I made the mistake of first buying the versions by Plasson (EMI) and Ossonce (Hyperion), both of which are now on their way to the used CD store. The Sanderling accounts are both better-played and better-recorded. To compare Sanderling's readings here with those weak and un-inflected alternatives is like contrasting Furtwangler's Beethoven with Ormandy's. It's not just a difference of degree but of KIND.
I seriously doubt that Sanderling's passionate interpretations here will ever be equalled. The Malmo Symphony is probably one of the world's half-dozen greatest ensembles (which they also proved in the BIS set of Berwald's Symphonies under Sixten Ehrling - see my review). After hearing his Magnard, I think Sanderling is a contender for the title of greatest living conductor (his Mahler 6th is also quite extraordinary). I wish BIS would record Sanderling in the complete symphonies of Bruckner and Nielsen - in my estimation, he's the only living conductor who might have a shot at delivering classic sets of those works.
Magnard's 2nd Symphony (completed in 1896) is a wonderful and highly original work, and Sanderling's performance of it is splendid. The solo oboe playing is fabulous here in the 1st mvt., and the tempo is slower than Plasson's and Ossonce's. The interpretation gains so much depth and expression thereby that the other versions sound utterly lightweight and superficial in comparison. The 2nd mvt. is a suite of four delightful dances, with some harmonic shifts that bring Chausson's Symphony to mind. After an exquisitely lyrical slow mvt. that's a song with three variations ("Chant varie"), the final mvt. ("Vif et gai") has many rhythmic devices that recall Nielsen. The Malmo's expressive string playing here is really something to hear. The 2nd is not the equal of the 4th, but it's superbly-crafted and well worth hearing.
I try to avoid excess superlatives in my reviews, but this CD set is so great I can barely contain myself. MAGNIFICENT!