4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 15 March 2010
For admirers of the byways of classical music around the turn of the 1900s this is a release for you. It's not always fair to compare a composer with others and it's certainly not fair to look for (more famous?) composers who could have motivated Eugene D'Albert to write good and sometimes great music. His opera Tiefland is, for me, a great verismo-like work, Die toten Augen a very interesting opera (CPO recorded that one too) and now you've the opportunity to hear his symphony and a very beautiful scena (orchestral song) for soprano and orchestra which rivals and complements Richard Strauss' songs in this genre. The symphony is a long work, 50 minutes, but I had no problem keeping concentrated. It takes it's time laying out all it's hidden tunes, it's not very tuneful on first hearing, be warned!, but you'll get rewarded playing this music 3 or 4 times in a week.
The other big surprise on this excellent disc is the playing of the Osnabruck Symphony orchestra. Is this the same orchestra which sounded so under rehearsed, thinnish and false (trumpets!) on recent disc of Foersters' symphonies on the MDG label I wondered. Yes it is! Here they play very very good, maybe they got more rehearsal time or they like the music much better, I don't know, chapeau for them. And the recording of this orchestra is very fine produced too, much much better than the MDG disc, timpanis are clear, violins nicely bloomed, I like it.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 28 July 2011
I usually only review discs which nobody else has reviewed but I thought I'd add my voice to that of the irrepressible and inimitable Mr Voogd because you really must not miss this release. Dating from 1884, D'Albert's symphony is an astonishingly assured work for a composer barely out of his teens. It is an enormous improvement on the unbearably prolix First Piano Concerto. Indeed, it is not a moment too long. Much of the music is heavily indebted to the symphonies of Brahms and it is hardly an exaggeration to say that it doesn't fall far short of its great models. The first movement is built on strong melodic material which after, as Mr Voogd says, a few hearings will imprint itself on your memory. It is, of course, a sonata structure. The opening theme is stated at once and the second subject arrives at 2 mins 7 secs. Various other themes are thrown into the melting pot including a strongly rhythmic idea for the strings and, at 4 mins 54 secs, a woodwind idea which would have made Brahms blush. There is also a short idea (first heard at 4 mins 5 secs) which reappears in the scherzo and which is to crown the symphony. I was going to say that this was an obvious crib from Cesar Franck's Symphony until I noticed that that piece wasn't premiered until 1889. The development section is substantial and splendidly argued. It really is most impressive. The recapitulation, beginning at 9 mins 30 secs, is regular. There is an eloquent coda.
The slow movement, which Richard Strauss found "enormously enjoyable", is also impressive. It proceeds in an unassuming Brahmsian manner employing a string of attractive ideas, the most important of which is heard on the clarinet at 4 mins 19 secs. However, D'Albert has a surprise in store. The music suddenly diverts from its expected course, building to a wonderfully dramatic and eloquent sequential climax. I'm sure it was this passage which impressed Strauss. If you know D'Albert's marvellous 1916 opera "Die Toten Augen" you will recognise the same composer here....and you won't be able to stay in your seat.
Don't bother to sit down again because the rhythms of the Scherzo will soon have you up once more. This movement is an absolute delight. Again the music is built on strong material, this time with a dash of unforced counterpoint. Brahms' influence is, for once, not apparent. The music is lithe and exciting. At 1 min 13 secs the Franckian idea from the first movement returns in an extended and syncopated form. Brahms reappears in the trio which makes a perfect foil to the energetic scherzo which duly returns unaltered.
Finales are often the weakest movement in late Romantic symphonies but that is not the case here. A lengthy introduction presages the allegro. Brahms is never far away, the second theme having a truly Brahmsian glow. There is a splendid contrapuntal development. The symphony builds excitingly to a final statement of the Franckian tune.
The disc also includes a setting of Andersen's poem "The Little Mermaid" for soprano and orchestra. The obvious influence this time is Richard Strauss. (As a young composer, d'Albert was open to many influences. His most popular orchestral work, the splendid Second Piano Concerto, could hardly be more Lisztian.) "Seejungfraulein" is an attractive piece but it can't match the symphony for melodic memorability.
Although not in the luxury class, the performances on this disc are very fine indeed and the recording is excellent. For the sake of the symphony this disc is an essential purchase.