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Franck: Les Eolides etc

Fabio Banegas (piano); Lviv National Philharmonic Orchestra of Ukraine/ Francisco Varela (Guild)

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

Franck
Les Éolides; Les Djinns; Redemption; Symphonic Variations; Le Chausseur Maudit
Fabio Banegas (piano); Lviv National Philharmonic Orchestra of Ukraine/
Francisco Varela
Guild GMCD 7830   71:50 mins

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This programme of Franck’s orchestral music is despatched with great energy and considerable technical finesse, qualities matched by pianist Fabio Banegas. In Les Éolides the daughters of the god of the winds scamper delightfully, enjoying themselves in both ppp and fff acrobatics, as do the equally superhuman Djinns, marred only by a few orchestral chords that lag slightly behind the piano.

In the Variations symphoniques I missed the two diminuendos in the piano’s opening phrases that speak of a fragility that should gradually be overcome in the course of the piece. Sadly, where conviction ought to be provided by the lower strings changing the mode from minor to major (a process Alfred Cortot rather unkindly dubbed the ‘bourgeoisification of the theme’) they are almost inaudible, and in general the piano is a touch too prominent.

I can’t whip up any enthusiasm for the symphonic movement from the oratorio Rédemption, and in any case the horns here continually swamp the upper strings. More happily, in Le Chasseur maudit, despite one ignored accelerando, the horns are in their element and we can thrill to Franck’s really quite advanced harmonies, reminding us that while some of his music may justify Peter Warlock’s reference to him, in his hilarious piano duet spoof of Franck’s Symphony, as ‘the old codger’, this demonic piece is very much not codger material.

Altogether this is respectable and intelligent playing, let down at times by poor recorded balance.

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Roger Nichols