add to wish list | library

22 of 25 recommend this,
would you recommend it?

yes | no

Support this site by purchasing from these vendors using the paid links below. As an Amazon Associate earns from qualifying purchases.
  PentaTone Classics -
  PTC 5186 078
  Franck: Symphony in D minor, Chausson: Symphony in B flat - Janowski
  Franck: Symphony in D minor, Chausson: Symphony in B flat Op. 20

Orchestre de la Suisse Romande
Marek Janowski (conductor)
Track listing:
  Classical - Orchestral
Recording type:
Recording info:

read discussion | delete from library | delete recommendation | report errors
Related titles: 1

Reviews: 5 show all

Site review by Polly Nomial December 29, 2006
Performance:   Sonics:  
The text for this review has been moved to the new site. You can read it here:

Review by drdanfee November 23, 2006 (9 of 9 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
Janowski, OSR, Franck, Chausson: Improvisatory Delight & Fervor

This disc caught my attention in three ways. First, it offers me the great symphony by Cesar Franck in the latest high resolution superaudio surround sound. Second, it represents the peripatetic and welcome return of the Ochestre de la Suisse Romande to recordings. (Those who are old enough to recall the OSR under Ernest Ansermet will remember what a mainstay of the old stereo Decca/London classical LP catalogue this orchestra was. Some of those performances were steady and durable, and some were outstanding, with revelatory musical value.) Third, this disc gives me yet another chance to have a try at the Chausson symphony, and for some reason I still need that exposure. Anybody who has collected the top five hundred list in western classical music literature will probably know Chausson’s famous Poeme for violin and orchestra. I also treasure that oddity of a Chausson song cycle, Poeme de l’amour et de la mer. But I haven’t finished getting the point of the symphony yet.

The superaudio competition includes that legendary stereo recording of the Franck symphony, made under Pierre Monteux with the fabulous Reiner-era Chicago symphony. Now BMG/Sony/RCA has refurbished those master tapes in superaudio high resolution, and that milestone of performance art shows a new lease on life. In regular red book CD editions, I have also collected the Carlo Maria Giulini/Philharmonia/EMI, the Andrew Davis/Philharmonia/CBS Sony, the Dutoit/Montreal/Decca/London, the Pierre Bartholomee/Liege/Ricercar, and the re-release of the Stokowski/Hilversum Radio Orchestra on Cala (hats off to the Stokowski Society).

So what have we here?

I say, five stars. But this is not a performance exclusively cast in the most traditional and familiar organ loft sonorities mould. One of the blessed qualities of keepers like the Monteux/Chicago is its evocation of how masterfully the composer could use the orchestra as if it were, indeed, a collective incarnation of the western pipe organ, the King of Instruments. Glowing, organ loft sonorities mass and swell, whisper and linger and float. The pace is lively but deliberate, nothing rushed. Hale fellow, Franck, then.

The Stokowski performance is different, not stinting on the brilliant burnish of all the orchestral sounds Franck could draw out from his genius; but catching a more quicksilvery, will’o the wisp sense of flowing tempo and rubato and phrasing – as if Stokowski had taken some inspiration from Franck’s tone poem, Les Eolides, as a clue to interpreting the symphony.

Temporarily banished to using the backup system by a neighborhood gathering at home, I started off listening to this disc in regular stereo, and then later got my chance to take it for a spin on the big rig in the main room. Needless to say, while the standard CD stereo layer is perfectly good; the SACD multichannel layer is that much better. You get the customary increase in air around the notes, along with that subtle but vivid intensification of all the tonal colors, along with – just love it – the location of everyone playing in the recorded venue.

In regular red book CD, the Franck and Chausson sound just a tad hyper and volatile. In SACD, however, both symphonies open out nicely into more of a worthy balance between that traditional organ loft sonority, and the Stokowski-Les Eolides style.

I am still learning the Chausson, but this performance seems like a vivid take on it, and I can easily look forward to hearing it better, and more often in this approach. I especially like the combination of vigor and refinement that Janowski/OSR bring to it. Dare we hope that these same forces, plus, might eventually offer us equally fine versions of the Chausson poemes – one for violin – (Kurt Nikkanen? James Ehnes?), one for voice – (Ewa Podles?) ?

All told, the Franck is a keeper, too, even if we are offered a different view of that symphony. I recall that Franck the master organist of Sainte Clothilde in Paris was renowned as an improviser. His students bore witness to their experience that Franck could instantly hear all the different harmonic directions a single chord might take. So the interpretive path pursued by Janowski/OSR revives that spirit of improvisation while keeping the more traditional organ loft sonorities intact, too.

If you are getting a first version of the Franck, probably the legendary Monteux/Chicago performance remasted in SACD on BMG/Sony/RCA is a better choice. If you are unconvinced by the more traditional and entirely solemn-meditative approach to the symphony, this version will probably arrive as a breeze of fresh air, indeed. Welcome. Sit back a spell and breathe.

Was this review helpful to you?  yes | no

Review by fafnir November 16, 2006 (4 of 4 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
These are, of course, two of the finest late romantic French symphonies. Although the Franck is the better-known, I prefer the Chausson; I find it generally much more interesting. The Franck has been well-represented on disc - the Monteux/CSO (a recognized classic of the phonograph), the Cantelli/NBC, and the Dutoit/Montreal are all fine performances. The Chausson has had fewer recordings with the Munch/BSO long being a favorite of mine.

Prior to writing the review, I played the Janowski several times and compared it to my favorite recordings. IMO the Janowski Franck is not in the same ballpark or even in the same league as the Monteux and the others. It is the fastest performance of the score I have ever encountered - a full four minutes (EDIT - should obviously have written:shorter) than the Monteux - and sounds rushed, particularly in the first movement. The other two movements are not as bad in terms of tempo (timings equal to the Cantelli) but still sound unidiomatic to me.

In contrast, the Chausson is quite good. This is a truly competitive performance of a score that should be much better known. However, the OSR does not appear to be an orchestra of the first rank in either work. The violins for example sound undernourished, particularly compared to great playing of the CSO.

For performance, the Franck get 3 stars and the Chausson 4, which I have averaged to 3.5.

In terms of sound, it is OK, but not, I think, typical of Pentatone's finest efforts. Although it has a wide dynamic range, solid bass and high frequencies, and no evidence of any distortion, it is really lacking in sufficient clarity. Perhaps it is a characteristic of the recording venue; this is definitely not a problem with other Pentatone releases.

Recommended then for the Chausson with the reservations mentioned above.

Was this review helpful to you?  yes | no

Works: 2  

Ernest Chausson - Symphony in B flat, Op. 20
César Franck - Symphony in D minor, FWV 48