Martyn Brabbins / BBC Symphony Orchestra

Chagrin: Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2

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Chagrin: Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2 Review

by Blair Sanderson

Although Francis Chagrin was highly active in France and the U.K. as a film and television composer, today he is represented by only a handful of recordings and few performances of his concert works. This 2016 Naxos release by Martyn Brabbins and the BBC Symphony Orchestra presents world premiere recordings of the Symphony No. 1 (1946-1959, revised 1965) and the Symphony No. 2 (1965-1971), two serious essays by Chagrin that reflect British symphonic writing of the 1950s and '60s. The emphasis on straightforward dissonant counterpoint and somber orchestration gives the Symphony No. 1 an austere quality that is highlighted in this severe interpretation. Brabbins and the orchestra play with clarity and rhythmic sharpness, but the music allows little opportunity for warmth or color. The Symphony No. 2 is similarly angular and edgy, though it offers greater contrasts of moods and sonorities, and its orchestration, which is reminiscent of Chagrin's film music, is vivid and appealing. This CD may not spur a full revival of Chagrin's work, but it takes an important step in bringing this neglected composer into the repertoire.

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