This is another inexpensive Naxos CD that allows the listener to hear work by an unfamiliar composer without unduly compromising on musical and recording quality. Ernest Chausson, 1855-1899, studied with Massenet and César Franck, and linked the Romanticism of the latter to the Impressionism of Debussy. His output was limited to less than forty works as he had a short life, dying tragically after riding his bicycle into a brick wall.
The main work is the Symphony in B flat minor, written in 1888-89, which is coupled with the Poème for Violin and Orchestra, dedicated to Ysaÿe who gave the first performance in 1896 [in the same concert hall in Nancy as was used for this recording exactly a century later], and Viviane, Symphonic Poem on a Legend of the Round Table, the composer’s first orchestral work, written in 1882 and revised five years later.
The Orchestre symphonique et lyrique de Nancy is conducted by Jérôme Kaltenbach, its Musical Director between 1979-98, and the soloist is Laurent Korcia, b. 1964. The recordings were made in 1996.
The Poème" is by far the composer's most familiar piece, and here it is played with great verve and vigour, the dappled nuances of the orchestral score blending beautifully with the elegiac grace of Korcia’s tone. The tone poem is based on the Arthurian Legend of the Round Table that was also the subject of his only opera, Le roi Arthus, written between 1886-95 but not performed until 1903. There is an obvious debt to Liszt.
Comparisons between Chausson’s Symphony and that of César Franck, although they share a common cyclical structure, are misplaced and this is even more so with Saint-Saens’ Organ Symphony. Partly this comes from Chausson’s failure to address dramatic development and partly from a greater focus on lyricism. The opening is slow and, on repeated listening, rather haunting with references to Wagner’s Ring, whilst the third movement also reveals the composer’s debt to Wagner with a brass chorale and earlier themes being quoted. The orchestral playing is finely nuanced and truly impressionistic, although the tempo of the second movement appears unduly lax and hinders its lyrical, song-like inventiveness. There is a mono recording of this work by Monteux and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, from 1950, which is the most compelling that I have heard but this is a very good performance with Kaltenbach creating very assured modulation.
The sound quality is very good and allows Chausson’s tonal colour and dynamic variation to be clearly heard. The balance between the soloist and orchestra is also satisfactory.
The brochure text is by Isabelle Battioni, translated by Keith Anderson, and describes the composer’s life and influences, and offers musical insights into the three works on this disc. There is also biographical information on the conductor and soloist, and about the orchestra, that was founded in 1884.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 18 March 2009
The instrumental composition "Poeme" is one of my favorites, it is soft, melodious and poetic. The other selections on this disc are well chosen, the mood is sustained throughout, no wake up calls... Sound quality not impressive though, the CD made some time ago (If soundquality was up to todays standards my rating would be 4, or 5) But I recommend it, there are not many recordings available and this is a good one.
I you like it, I recommend Cesar Frank, for example sonata for violin and piano - as Chaussons "Poeme" almost "too beautiful" but if you like romantic music in this non-Wagner vein, just listen in.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 22 November 2013
I suspect like me, many people will have heard Chaussons Poeme, and wondered who the composer could be. My interest was piqued after hearing it played on Radio 3, to the extent that I bought this CD to hear more of this composers work. It is all very pleasant and tuneful and carefully crafted but it does not stay in the memory. However that being said I am glad I bought the disc as it is charming music beautifully played and well produced.