Franck ¥ Chausson

COMPOSERS: Chausson,Franck
LABELS: PentaTone
ALBUM TITLE: Franck , Chausson
WORKS: Frank: Symphony in D minor; Chausson: Symphony in B flat, Op. 20
PERFORMER: Orchestre de la Suisse Romande/Marek Janowski
CATALOGUE NO: 5186 078 (hybrid CD/SACD)
In the wrong hands both the Franck Symphony and its younger brother by Chausson can sound stiff-jointed – the Chausson Symphony can even come over as a geek, worthy but fatally self-absorbed. Not here. Marek Janowski draws on all his operatic experience to make the melodic lines live and sing. Everything has a shape and a colour (I have never before heard so vividly the debt the opening of the slow central movement of the Chausson owes to the last act of Tristan), but these frequent dark undertows are never allowed to wallow in sentimentally. Best of all for me is the way Janowski responds to the variety of harmonic tension in both works: the more chromatic a chord, the more space he tends to give it without ever obstructing the flow.

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In the past the strings of the Suisse Romande have sometimes lacked weight. Here they make a tremendous impact when required, balanced by warm-toned pianissimos. A special tribute must be paid to the cor anglais player in the Allegretto of the Franck whose long line, I suspect with benefit of circular breathing, lends extra distinction and dignity to this wonderful movement. I have no doubt that the power and refinement of this splendid recording – available in excellent SACD – should bring it a wide audience. Roger Nichols