Honegger: Symphony No. 2; Symphony No. 3 (Liturgique); Pacific 231

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Honegger
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Symphony No. 2; Symphony No. 3 (Liturgique); Pacific 231
PERFORMER: Oslo PO/Mariss Jansons
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 5 55122 2 DDD
The Oslo Philharmonic is a world-class orchestra, and the playing in these two Honegger symphonies is superlative. Mariss Jansons conducts with real concentration and control; his attention to matters of detail and balance serves the longer-term expressive and symphonic concerns, while the recording allows the full range of the music to be experienced.

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Both these great symphonies date from the war years, the Second from the dark days when Honegger lived through the occupation of Paris, the Third from 1945. In his Second Symphony the string orchestra is joined in the closing bars by a single trumpet sounding a chorale of hope; and in Jansons’s performance this image emerges naturally from the resolution of the conflicts and the strenuous rhythmic activity which have come before.

The Liturgique Symphony also juxtaposes images of hope and despair, culminating in a long postlude in which the flute and piccolo sound symbolically ‘the song of the bird’. Again the performance is strong, though the fast tempo chosen for the finale creates excitement at the expense of power: in this movement Karajan (DG 423 242-2) remains without peer.

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Completed by a magnificent Pacific 231 with pounding rhythms and brazen brass, this EMI disc is strongly recommended. Terry Barfoot