Albéric Magnard

Symphony No. 3 in B flat minor, Op. 11

    Description by Adrian Corleonis

    In 1969 London/Decca issued Ernest Ansermet's last recording -- Albéric Magnard's Third Symphony. Magnard had hardly been known or performed outside France since his death in 1914 and little of his music was heard in his native land as the living memory of him faded. To a number of critics and musicians the Ansermet disc was a revelation, but it was short-lived, pointing up the fact that he is "caviar to the general." He was so in his time -- a concert of his works in Paris, including the Third Symphony's premiere, at his own expense and conducted by himself on May 14, 1899, won him only a small, avid following and no lasting fame. But his elite audience included some of the most astute musicians of the era. His mentor, d'Indy, exclaimed to Ropartz, "It's a terrific thing, I'm absolutely mad about it. The last movement in particular is superb in its themes and form." Busoni brought Magnard to Berlin to conduct it on January 12, 1905 -- in the same program with Sibelius' Second Symphony. Magnard's sheer voltage, tremendous drive, and notorious brusquerie are less unsettling than his saturnine personality and sardonic mien, palpable in every bar, his manner of seizing upon joy as if he would suffocate it, the bizarrerie lacing his utterance from the most earthily unbuttoned to the most austerely intense, impassioned, or ecstatic -- all at full strength in the Third Symphony. By the time of its composition, over 1895-1896, Magnard had married, suffered the loss of his father (the psychological tremors would play out to the end of the century), and, as he entered his thirties, settled into an outwardly uneventful life allowing him to shape his inner turbulence. The mystic aura of the symphony's opening chorale suggests the hand of God enacting the mysteries of creation, succeeded by a tumultuous leap into the Ouverture -- that is, the first movement proper (for which we recognize the Ouverture, Op. 10, as a preliminary study) -- through which fugato tumult wrestles with a preternatural serenity eventually crowning the movement in sublime benediction. "Danses," the scintillantly cascading scherzo, was inspired by a peasant Magnard met on one of his country rambles, singing and dancing by himself in the road -- the suggestions of rustic fiddling are authentic. "Pastorale," nominally the slow movement, though beset by stormy moments, seems to gaze into unfathomable vistas. The great boiling Final, in good cyclic fashion, brings back the chorale on blazing brass with the force of revelation.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Introduction et Ouverture. Modére - Vif
    2. Danses. Très vif
    3. Pastorale. Modéré
    4. Final. Vif

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2010 Cascavelle 3128
    2010 EMI Classics / EMI Classics / Warner Classics 50999906820
    2009 Hyperion 22068
    2008 Brilliant Classics 93712
    2005 Angel Records / EMI Classics 72364
    1999 BIS 927
    1998 Hyperion 67040
    EMI Music Distribution 54015