Magnard: Symphony No. 1; Symphony No. 2; Symphony No. 3

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COMPOSERS: Magnard
LABELS: BIS
WORKS: Symphony No. 1; Symphony No. 2; Symphony No. 3
PERFORMER: Malmö SO/Thomas Sanderling
CATALOGUE NO: CD-927
How unfair the annals of music history can be. There’s little doubt that AlbÈric Magnard is still best remembered for his gruesome demise at the hands of marauding German soldiers whilst defending his house at the outbreak of the First World War. Yet he was also an extraordinarily original composer- a kind of French Bruckner whose musical development remained profoundly independent of most contemporary trends. The Austrian master is particularly invoked in Sanderling’s weighty and compelling performance of the First Symphony – a work composed under the tutelage of D’Indy, though already confidently individual in its melodic ideas.

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The Third Symphony is even more striking. Opening with an austere wind chorale of open fourths and fifths, the first movement contrasts distinctive material of demonic urgency with passages of tender lyricism, while the stomping rhythms of the ensuing Scherzo have an irresistible drive, reminiscent of the third movement of Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony. .

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Competition in this repertoire is unusually strong. The two French conductors, Michel Plasson (on EMI) and Jean-Yves Ossonce (on Hyperion) draw a greater wealth of colours from Magnard’s orchestration, but. Sanderling’s more expansive approach brings rewards in the outer movements which are delivered with considerable gravitas. Erik Levi