Sebastian Lang-Lessing

Ropartz: Symphonies No. 1 & 4

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Thirty years after his death at the age of 91 in 1955, one of the six symphonies by Joseph Guy Ropartz was finally recorded and released on LP: his Third from 1906 for soloists, chorus, and orchestra with Michel Plasson leading the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse for French EMI. It was a magnificent performance of a grandly heroic, deeply expressive, and ardently striving work in the post-Franck symphonic tradition. But magnificent as it was, it failed to lead to a Ropartz revival. Fifty years after his death, a second disc of Ropartz's symphonies was recorded and released on CD featuring his First from 1895 and the Fourth from 1911 with Sebastian Lang-Lessing leading the Orchestre Symphonique et Lyrique de Nancy for the French label Timpani. In what was billed as the first volume of a complete cycle of Ropartz's symphonies, the disc contained performances that could fairly be described as definitive. The Orchestre Symphonique et Lyrique, the orchestra Ropartz himself led from 1894 through 1919, is obviously dedicated to the music, a quality that, when combined with their polished ensemble and consummate beauty of tone, results in performances that are wholly convincing. Lang-Lessing, a German conductor who had served as music director for the Orchestre for six years when this recording was made in 2005, brings a wonderful balance of lucidity and passion to the music, equally emphasizing both Ropartz' masterful technique and his spiritual inspiration. In Lang-Lessing and the OS&L de Nancy's performances, Ropartz's First, subtitled "On a Breton Choral," sounds like a more earthy sister to d'Indy's Symphony "On a French Mountain Air," and his Fourth sounds like a less idealized brother to Magnard's contemporaneous Fourth. Timpani's sound is warmly evocative and nicely detailed.

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