Christoph König / Solistes Europeens Luxembourg

Louise Farrenc: Symphonies Nos. 2 and 3

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Although she held the prestigious job of professor of piano at the Paris Conservatory and was admired by both Berlioz and Schumann, the music of Louise Farrenc was ignored until performers began to explore the music of women composers at the end of the 20th century. Even now, she is known mostly for her piano music, which she wrote for herself, and for chamber music that often involved her flutist husband; the list of performances of the two symphonies heard here is short indeed. So this outing from the Solistes Européens under conductor Christoph König is especially welcome. Symphonies by French composers, gender aside, were not common at this point, yet these are both accomplished works. The Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 35, is more Mozartian; the Symphony No. 3 in G minor, Op. 36, written in 1847 and two years younger than the D major work, leans toward Mendelssohn. They are far from being academic exercises, and each work has digested Beethoven in small doses rather than imitating him in big gestures. Sample the Scherzo of the D major symphony with its imposing tone and its tough switch to duple meter in the Trio for an idea. The wind writing is skillful, and König varies the mix to produce an attractive wash at times. In all, this is a must for collections of music by women, and really for anyone looking to expand the repertory of symphonies from the mid-19th century.

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