Farrenc: Symphony No.1, Symphony No. 2, Symphony No. 3

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LABELS: Pierre Verany
WORKS: Symphony No.1, Symphony No. 2, Symphony No. 3
PERFORMER: Orchestre de Bretagne/Stefan Sanderling
If you want to check a symphonist’s freshness and originality, go to a trio section. It always marks out the jobsworths. By that test Louise Farrenc well deserved her prominence as pianist, composer and teacher. All her symphonies date from the mid-1840s, when hardly anybody else in Paris wrote in the form, and though acclaimed they were never published. Yet they evolve purposefully from a Hummel-Mendelssohn style to something uncannily like Schubert, both in harmonic quirks and in the prominence of the woodwind.


She was well enough connected – Schumann reviewed her and she left an unfinished piano concerto that looks like Weber — but however could she have known Schubert’s early symphonies? She must have reached similar ideas independently. All three works are well worth the time of anybody who can respond, say, to her Swedish contemporary Franz Berwald, writer of symphonies with a similar level of interest and rather less vigour.


High points in addition to the scherzos include the Andante of No. 2, full of vitality in its detail with wind singing out over active strings, and the dramatic outer movements of No. 3, by the time of which her dutiful development sections had freed themselves up. Recorded live, the performances are robust, pacy and fluent. Robert Maycock