Foerster: Symphonies Nos 1 & 2

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COMPOSERS: Foerster
LABELS: MDG
ALBUM TITLE: Foerster
WORKS: Symphonies Nos 1 & 2
PERFORMER: Osnabrück SO/Hermann Bäumer
CATALOGUE NO: 632 1491-2

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Foerster’s first two symphonies both commemorate family bereavements: the First his mother and the Second his sister, Marie. Composed in the late 1880s, the First Symphony is very remote in its musical language from that of Dvorák, the pre-eminent Czech symphonist. In fact, placing the musical accent is not at all easy, although there seems to be some Brucknerian influence. The first movement, initially sombre in tone, is full of big ideas and moves very convincingly to an imposing climax. The remaining movements pass pleasantly enough, although the Scherzo rather loses its way in a curious, archaic fugato. The Second Symphony is much stronger work with a brooding, elegiac slow movement. The memorable opening theme of the first movement bears a passing resemblance to the big tune in Sibelius’s Finlandia and generates a broad and impressive structure. Hermann Bäumer and the Osnabrück Symphony certainly have the measure of these, at times, elusive works. The occasionally awkward transitions are negotiated with care and the abundant wind solo lines are delivered with aplomb in a clear and resonant recording. Jan Smaczny