Magnard: Symphony No. 1; Symphony No. 2

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Magnard
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Symphony No. 1; Symphony No. 2
PERFORMER: BBC Scottish SO/Jean-Yves Ossonce
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67030
Hyperion has produced an outstanding complete edition of Albéric Magnard’s symphonies on these two discs. The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra is currently on top form, and both discs confirm the international stature of the BBC’s most northerly orchestra, whose pioneering Hyperion series of Romantic piano concertos has already enhanced its standing and confidence.

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Jean-Yves Ossonce, whose track record includes a vibrant revival of Chabrier’s L’étoile for Opera North, inspires playing from strings, wind and brass that is articulate, precise, idiomatic, sensitive, wide-ranging, well-balanced, imaginatively coloured and never – as performances of symphonies of the schools of Franck and d’Indy (Magnard’s teacher) can all too easily become – blaring or bland.

Whereas Franck and Chausson produced only one symphony each, Magnard, like Roussel, managed to produce four. The Third (1896) and Fourth (1913) are among the finest achievements of this talented French composer (1865-1914) who perished during the First World War’s opening onslaught (when his large country house at Baron was burnt down by German cavalry soldiers on whom he had opened fire). But Ossonce also makes a case for the first two, bringing cogency and variety to the massive fugal build-ups, intricately decorated chorales and sombre funeral marches which Magnard and d’Indy derived as much from Cherubini and Gounod as from their musical godfather, Wagner.

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The booklet notes are valuably informative (though dubious in their comparisons), and Hyperion’s engineering is typically first-rate.