Franck: Rédemption

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Franck
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Rédemption
PERFORMER: Lambert Wilson (narrator), Béatrice Uria-Monzon (mezzo-soprano)Orféon Donostiarra; Toulouse Capitole Orchestra/Michel Plasson
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 5 55056 2 DDD
The composition of most of César Franck’s best-known works was crammed into the last decade of his life, the 1880s. All the more fascinating, then, to find out what he was up to in the preceding decades, when he concentrated on music for the organ and the church, none of which is heard that often today. His oratorio, or properly ‘poéme-symphonie’, Rédemption, begun in 1871, has had a chequered history: an undisciplined choir wrecked its premiere in 1873 and it has only ever found a limited place in the repertoire since Franck’s death.

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The music may lack the distinctiveness of harmony and melody found in his later works, but there is plenty to enjoy, particularly the intriguing anticipation of the sound-world, if not the musical ideas, of Wagner’s Parsifal.

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This is the only complete version available; the lush ‘Morceau symphonique’, the prelude to the second part, is relatively common on disc, but this new account vindicates EMI’s faith in the whole work, which glows in Plasson’s hands. The choral singing in particular is superb, the orchestral playing is lithe and colourful and there are memorable contributions from Wilson and Uria-Monzon. Matthew Rye