Notes and Editorial Reviews
Symphony in d
(trans. Simon Johnson).
Cantabile. Pièce héroïque. Rédemption:
(trans. Daniel Roth)
Simon Johnson (org)
HYPERION 68046 (73:56)
Simon Johnson’s booklet essay echoes generations of writers on the Symphony in calling attention to its organ-like manner—“we hear the ghosts of registration changes, manual changes, and use of
the swell box in the orchestral original”—and quotes Norman Demuth, “‘Never was there such magnificent music so badly written.’ The present transcription may be seen as an authentic response to that paradox, particularly since modern advances in console control enable Franck’s orchestration to be used as the outline for a detailed registration plan.” But Johnson’s attempt to replicate,
Franck’s orchestration comes to grief on the particulars of the organ of St. Paul’s Cathedral, whose registrations tend to highlight accompanying parts while allowing them to eclipse the lighter stops carrying the melody. A particularly egregious instance is the peroration of the Symphony’s third movement, which becomes a rumbustious mêlée obscuring the triumphant syncopated melody of its beginning. The same reservations apply to Daniel Roth’s transcription of the
Interlude. Johnson’s shaping and pacing keep things moving with a masterly sureness recalling, in the Symphony, the venerable Monteux/CSO recording of a half-century ago. On another instrument, these transcriptions may prove compelling. Here, a wide dynamic range in the cavernous ambience of St. Paul’s prods one to crank the volume up to hear, for instance, the “Muss es sein” mutterings of the Symphony’s opening, only to be jolted by climactic moments. Johnson concludes a swaggering performance of the
with the unpublished coda of its 1878 premiere, whose most remarkable feature is its obviousness and the fact that Franck discarded it for a more concise rounding off. His
is redolent with soulful Franckian magic. Despite caveats, the album gives pleasure as Johnson’s essay stimulates interest. Recommended.
FANFARE: Adrian Corleonis
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