Fabrice Bollon / Philharmonisches Orchester Freiburg

Magnard: Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2

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The four symphonies of Albéric Magnard are not well known outside France, and these two youthful works are less often played than the other two. Yet conductor Fabrice Bollon, leading the Philharmonisches Orchester Freiburg, makes a strong case for them. The Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 4, shows traces of Magnard's study with Vincent d'Indy in its cyclical form, but its mood is entirely individual, with an action-packed, restless quality interrupted only by a truly haunting chorale in the "Religioso" second movement. (The first movement is marked "Strepitoso," or noisy.) The Symphony No. 2 in E major, Op. 6, has a sort of low-key radiance that poses real problems for a conductor and musicians. Magnard trimmed the work after it received an unfavorable initial reception, but it would be interesting to hear the earlier version, if someone were to unearth it, in the hands of the Bollon and the Freiburgers. The outer movements have a flowing quality with a bit of quiet ecstasy that exemplifies what led people to call Magnard the French Bruckner, even though his music has a very different flavor. Keeping the long line going here is not easy to do, but Bollon excels, and he's aided by excellent sound from a Southwest German Radio studio in Baden-Baden (the Symphony No. 1 was recorded at the Freiburg Konzerthaus and is also quite satisfactory). This recording may make many listeners ask themselves how they could have been missing Magnard all these years.

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