Chausson: Symphony in B flat; Viviane; Soir de fête; La tempête

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LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Symphony in B flat; Viviane; Soir de fête; La tempête
PERFORMER: BBC Philharmonic/Yan Pascal Tortelier
One cannot help wondering how Ernest Chausson’s music might have developed had he not died in a cycling accident at the age of only 44. He was independently wealthy and could afford to take infinite pains with his compositions, frequently recalling those which displeased him. The small body of work that survives is like a snapshot of the composer’s artistic personality at the time of his death. The Symphony, for example, shows clear external influences: from his teacher César Franck comes the clear, energetic treatment of robust thematic material, while the intensely chromatic harmony in the slower sections reveals Chausson’s admiration for Wagner, fuelled by his own melancholic disposition. But the two styles remain apart; Chausson had yet to find a way of resolving the components of his music into one unique voice. Soir de fête, his last orchestral work, gives an indication how this might have happened, with fleeting harmonic twists and a sense of nervous ambiguity in the melodies – in fact a glimpse of the musical impressionism that was to find full expression in the music of his friend and confidante Debussy. For all the unanswered questions, the music on this disc is of a standard that deserves equally high standards of performance, something which Tortelier and the BBC Philharmonic supply without apparent effort. Christopher Lambton