Le Chasseur maudit; Psyché*; Les Éolides – Symphonic Poem
RCS Voices*; Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Jean-Luc Tingaud
Naxos 8.573955 69:19 mins
The four symphonic poems Franck wrote between 1875 and 1888, although all proclaiming their indebtedness to Liszt and probably to Saint-Saëns as well, fall into two quite distinct categories: gentle atmospheric (Les Éolides, Psyché) and dynamic virtuosic (Le Chasseur maudit, Les Djinns). I must admit to finding the former by far the less interesting. The, mostly well-behaved, women here described led Franck into an easy reliance on short phrases repeated somewhat obsessively, given some sort of life through changes of key but never really lifting off. In this recording delicate textures, though occasionally spoilt by obtrusive horns, are given their due, but for me Psyché becomes simply boring after a while, the harmonic changes too predictable in their placing; also the sopranos at full volume in the movement ‘Amour, source de toute vie’ present a vibrato that doesn’t really chime with the ethereal text.
Les Éolides again depends greatly on repetitions of short phrases, but a major feature of these is the dynamic hairpin soft-loud-soft, I presume intended to represent the gusts of wind summoned up by Aeolus’s daughters, and I would have liked these in general to have covered a wider dynamic range.
On every front Le Chasseur maudit is far more enjoyable, the story of the cursed huntsman who refuses to have any truck with mass clearly speaking to the conscience of Franck the devoted Roman Catholic. Conductor and orchestra respond.