Chausson: Symphony in B flat; Poème; Poème de l’amour et de la mer

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COMPOSERS: Chausson
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Symphony in B flat; Poème; Poème de l’amour et de la mer
PERFORMER: Chantal Juillet (violin), François Le Roux (baritone); Montreal SO/Charles Dutoit
CATALOGUE NO: 458 010-2
Chausson’s Symphony in B flat, a work that characteristically combines Wagnerian harmonies with Franckian urgency, should be better known. Written in the wake of Franck’s own D minor Symphony, it is more voluptuously orchestrated and less formally rigid, yet shares the drive and emotional power of the earlier work.

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For all the beauty of the playing from the ‘best French orchestra in the world’, as the Montreal SO has been dubbed, it is that very inevitability in the Symphony’s forward momentum that at times seems subdued under Dutoit’s baton. Compare it with a performance by another orchestra that deserves the same sobriquet, the BBC Philharmonic, under Yan Pascal Tortelier on Chandos, and one can hear what is missing. The Chandos engineers also capture a more wholesome sound, which helps convey more of the impact of the music. But if it’s sleek articulation and colour in the more reflective passages you want, Montreal provides its own rewards.

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Chandos provides the more original set of couplings, a handful of little-known orchestral works, while Decca offers the substantial Poème for violin (a reissue from 1998) and the 25-minute song cycle Poème de l’amour et de la mer. A male singer for the latter is a rarity, but Le Roux has the emotional measure and lyrical command for the work. Matthew Rye