WORKS: Le chasseur maudit; Les djinns; Les éolides; Variations symphoniques
PERFORMER: Cédric Tiberghien (piano); Orchestre Philharmonique Royal de Liège/ François-Xavier Roth
CATALOGUE NO: Cyprès CYP 7612
The portrait of Franck as the ‘pater seraphicus’, floating around Paris in a haze of spirituality, has come to seem increasingly partial. The orchestral works recorded here, two with piano, show a broader picture of a composer drawn to extremes of expression, whether of menacing brass fanfares or a string section divided into 12 parts to conjure up a haze of decidedly secular orientation.
Le chasseur maudit might be termed Franck’s tribute to Berlioz. Although the later master’s orchestration is less flamboyant, the story of the aristocrat who goes out hunting when he should be at Mass, and pays the price, gives Franck a chance to show us what he thinks hell might be like. In Roth’s hands, it is certainly noisy, with much vigorous drumming. If Les djinns is less malevolent in tone, the concertante piano part adds a peculiar lustre to the magic spirits of Hugo’s poem, as do some of the surprisingly advanced harmonies.
In Les éolides, Franck demonstrates his delicate side, possibly in emulation of Saint-Saëns’s recent Le rouet d’Omphale. The playing at both ends of the spectrum, and in between, is faultless. In the Variations symphoniques, Tiberghien plays down the contrast at the start in favour of integration – a possible view, though not my choice – but his playing throughout is clean, with subtle pedalling and a warm way with Franck’s tunes. Roger Nichols