WORKS: Psyché; Le chasseur maudit
PERFORMER: BBC Welsh Chorus, BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Tadaaki Otaka
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9342 DDD
Like Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette, Psyché is something of a hybrid – part cantata, part symphonic poem. Franck himself must have harboured doubts about the work, having sanctioned two distinct versions, one for orchestra, the other for choir and orchestra. Hearing these two side by side is a quite illuminating experience, although I have no hesitation in preferring the longer choral version. Working on a larger canvas not only allows for a more convincing development of the musical ideas, but also makes greater sense of Franck’s narrative by including the haunting third section of the score in which Psyché’s union with Éros is ultimately sealed in heaven.
While Otaka’s commendably restrained account appears to support d’Indy’s somewhat dubious claim that the score is ‘entirely free of sensual passion’, there are sections such as ‘Psyché et Éros’ which surely demand greater ardour. Here, Kazandjiev proves far more urgent and sensitive to the music’s almost Scriabinesque sense of yearning. It’s a pity, however, that such innate understanding of Franck’s idiom doesn’t extend to the Symphony, which receives a rather uneven performance, lacking in clear architectural direction, especially in the first movement. Otaka’s offering of Le chasseur maudit is a more attractive proposition, even if he fails to register the same level of demonic energy as Munch (RCA). Erik Levi