Franck: Symphony in D minor; Psyché (excerpts)

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Franck
LABELS: Avie
WORKS: Symphony in D minor; Psyché (excerpts)
PERFORMER: Strasbourg PO/Jan Latham-Koenig
CATALOGUE NO: AV 0003 (distr. Independent Distribution)
The full Psyché, Franck’s erotic mind-and-body allegory, includes choral movements and is worth pursuing – as you can with Otaka on Chandos. But if the four main orchestral sections make an unfinished symphony they cover the most affecting parts, in Franck’s typical endless-melody-plus-whispering-scherzo vein and featuring ‘Psyché et Eros’, his very own Tristan duet (though this one evokes foreplay rather than interruptus).

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Melting woodwind solos over a string featherbed and fine-drawn high violin lines are languidly and affectionately shaped by Latham-Koenig. Brass eventually rise to finely balanced support, a role they continue in the Symphony, right from the momentous performance of the introduction where ample life is evident in the phrasing even at a near-static tempo. What follows is all of a piece, lyrical to a fault and relishing its wonderful moments such as the overlays of tunes in the not-quite-scherzo – which features a seamless cor anglais solo, surely using circular breathing – and the quiet remembrances of themes past.

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The downside is continuing slow speeds, which detract from rhythmic energy and dramatic excitement. It’s a beautifully prepared calling-card for the Strasbourg players and a British conductor under-exposed at home, though you may prefer Tortelier’s more vigorous presentation coupled with an outstanding Symphonic Variations. Robert Maycock