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COMPOSERS: Franck/Roussel
LABELS: DG Masters
WORKS: Symphony in D minor; Symphony No. 3 in G minor
PERFORMER: French National Orchestra/ Leonard Bernstein
CATALOGUE NO: 445 512-2 DDD (1982/94)
Drawn from opposing poles of the French symphonic tradition, Franck’s great Symphony in D minor and Roussel’s neo-classically inclined Third complement each other awkwardly at the best of times. That polarisation of form and content is stridently exaggerated in Bernstein’s live performances with the French National Orchestra. His hard-driven account of the Franck dismisses its massively ordered logic in pursuit of superficial virtuosity which his French players can’t always deliver; the finale is particularly rough and ready. Things fare little better during the Roussel; Bernstein’s orgiastic quest for Stravinskian modernity and again, surface brilliance, exposes numerous weaknesses in the playing, though recording quality is quite acceptable. Perhaps this is one Bernstein disc to avoid. Michael Jameson