Dennis Russell Davies / Sinfonieorchester Basel

Arthur Honegger: Symphony No. 2; Symphony No. 4 "Deliciae Basiliensis"

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Even though he was a member of Les Six, Arthur Honegger was not especially sympathetic to the light, urbane music favored by the other composers in the group. Instead, Honegger was driven to write serious works on the large scale, of which his five symphonies are representative statements. This 2014 release by Dennis Russell Davies and Sinfonieorchester Basel presents the earnest Symphony No. 2, for string orchestra and trumpet obbligato (1941) and the somewhat lighter Symphony No. 4, "Deliciae Basiliensis" ("Delights of Basel," 1946), which are vigorous and energetic pieces that employ dissonant counterpoint and muscular rhythms that build to forceful climaxes. While these symphonies are tonal and straightforward in form, and show some of the influence of Stravinsky's neo-classicism, they are much more direct and austere, though never so severe as to be off-putting. Davies has a solid grasp of the scores, and his interpretations have the intellectual clarity and confidence they need to communicate. The string orchestra's brusque playing in the Symphony No. 2 adequately conveys its fairly dry content, though the music is substantially more engaging and tuneful in the Symphony No. 4, which also benefits from having the tone colors of a full orchestra. The reproduction is clean and detailed, so everything is crisp and perfectly audible.

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