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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine performance of a splendid symphony and a feather in the cap of all concerned., 7 Feb. 2013
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This review is from: D'Albert: Overtre To Tiefland (D'Albert: Symphony In F) (Jun Märkl, MDR Symphony Orchestra, Leipzig) (Naxos: 8572805) (Audio CD)
I hope you don't mind if I quote from my review of the CPO recording of this symphony. I have changed the timings, of course:

"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 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 4 secs. Various other themes are thrown into the melting pot including a strongly rhythmic idea for the strings and, at 4 mins 52 secs, a woodwind idea which would have made Brahms blush. There is also a short idea (first heard at 4 mins 1 sec) 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 31 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 35 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."

There is not a great deal to choose between the Naxos and CPO discs. Interpretatively, I liked Markl's more dynamic approach to the development section of the first movement and the 'cellos of the Leipzig orchestra make more of the return of the slow movement's opening melody (at 6 mins 51 secs) than do their colleagues in Osnabruck, thus more effectively paving the way for the climax. In the finale Markl shows himself to be a slightly more exciting and volatile conductor than Baumer. The Naxos recording is a little closer, clearer and more vivid though you may prefer the more atmospheric sound of the CPO disc. My vote, by a small margin then, goes to Naxos.

The Naxos disc's filler is the "Symphonic Prologue" to the opera "Tiefland". This is an inspired piece and it is splendidly done here, Markl's sensitive conducting and the beautifully balanced recording revealing all the subtleties of d'Albert's scoring.

This is a first-rate disc which you must not miss.
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