WORKS: Symphony in D minor;Concerto in G minor for Organ, Strings and Timpani
PERFORMER: Simon Preston (organ), Everett Firth (timpani)Boston SO/Seiji Ozawa
CATALOGUE NO: 437 827-2 DDD
These are two of the most individual works in the whole orchestral repertoire. Franck’s contribution to the symphonic literature of France is a monument against which the limited competition looks desperately feeble; Poulenc’s Organ Concerto is not only a bulwark of 20th-century organ music, but massively popular to boot.
On this disc both pieces receive excellent performances. Franck was first and foremost an organist, and it is sometimes difficult to prevent this symphony from sounding like the instrument which he loved above all others, but Ozawa’s reading is triumphantly orchestral. In this live recording, he gives us a sweeping vision of terrific grandeur, while maintaining an unrelenting attention to detail. This, perhaps, is the reason behind the only flaw: one or two rather uncomfortable sounding patch edits. The brass, particularly at the very end of the symphony, are splendidly incisive.
The key to Poulenc’s Organ Concerto is bridging the gap between the muscular heroism and the wistful nonchalance that alternate throughout the work. Ozawa has succeeded, and the result is unified and satisfying, where this concerto can often sound hopelessly disjointed.
The balance between orchestra and organ is crucial, and the engineers seem to have got it right. Ozawa and the organist, Simon Preston, are also impressively together: the faster passages bob along with a joyful precision, without any smudging at the edges. A rewarding disc. Christopher Lambton