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Magnard: Complete Symphonies / Sanderling, Malmo

Release Date: 08/05/2008 
Label:  Brilliant Classics   Catalog #: 93712   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Albéric Magnard
Conductor:  Thomas Sanderling
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Malmö Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 3 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 40 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

There's been a small flurry of recent interest in the music of Albéric Magnard, the finest French symphonist before Tournemire and Roussel. EMI reissued Plasson's pioneering recordings of all four symphonies (there was one earlier version of the Third conducted by Ansermet that is not available on CD in the U.S., though it may still exist in France), and Hyperion recorded the complete set concurrently with BIS's project. This means that fans of the composer already may have acquired the Hyperion recordings and therefore aren't interested in this more slowly progressing series, which would be a pity because Thomas Sanderling's recordings inarguably are the best ever in this music. His approach is serious, unremittingly intense, and Read more trenchant in a way that is markedly more "Germanic" than either Plasson or Ossance (Hyperion). But then again, these are very Germanic symphonies--being somewhat conservative in idiom, tightly written, and keenly balanced between passion and intellect--so Sanderling's approach is just what the music demands. His majestic tempos and firm control of rhythm in places such as the slow movement and finale of the Third Symphony really give this music a stature and command only hinted at in other performances. He also has by far the best orchestra and overwhelmingly the finest recorded sound, so even if you own any of the other versions, you simply have to hear Sanderling.

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com [reviewing Symphonies 1 & 3, originally on BIS 927]

This is without question a truly great orchestral recording. French composer Albéric Magnard's Fourth Symphony has long been regarded by connoisseurs as a neglected masterwork, but this is the first performance that proves it conclusively, beyond the shadow of a doubt. Comparing Thomas Sanderling's performance to the pallid Plasson on EMI, or the recent Hyperion recording featuring Jean-Yves Ossance and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra (a performance that I enthusiastically welcomed on initial release) is like comparing a color photo to a black and white of the same object. In Sanderling's hands, everything is more vivid, emphatic, and sharply contrasted. The very opening sounds far more dramatic as shaped by Sanderling, the deep brass richer, the piccolo (which announces the symphony's "motto" theme) brighter, and those arching string phrases infinitely more yearning and passionate. The same holds true for the Scherzo: Ossance is light and tripping, Sanderling's rougher accents and trenchant rhythms move the music into the orbit of Roussel and other French masters yet to come.

The heart of the symphony is its slow movement, one of the very greatest in the literature and a masterpiece of superbly sustained symphonic tension. Sanderling takes a little more time than Ossance, and it's all to the good, really letting the music breathe and building each paragraph inexorably to the recurring, climactic statements of the "motto" theme. But it's the finale that really sets the seal on this magnificent performance. Nowhere is Magnard's formal control so tight and so perfectly matched in expressive intensity. Ossance's swift, light approach sectionalizes the music, offering superficial excitement but little cumulative power. Sanderling's slower tempo actually sounds faster because he maintains a firm rhythmic basis over which he builds the music in large arcs of sound. Just listen to the way the strings phrase the central fugue, and notice the perfect clarity of its development! Ossance minces through the contrapuntal thicket as if he might break something, while Sanderling proves that Magnard's music is made of much sturdier stuff.

At the triumphant return of the symphony's "motto" theme in the movement's recapitulation, Sanderling and his band create a climax of unsurpassed radiance, the kind of thing found in such other transcendental works as Vaughan Williams' Fifth Symphony, or the finale of Mahler's Ninth. Magnard's music, we now discover to our delight, is in the same class. And once the music has ebbed away, the final appearance of the "motto" simply perfect in its quiet poetry, we realize that Sanderling, his world class Malmö players, and BIS' extraordinary team of sound engineers have achieved that all too rare phenomenon: a genuine classic recording. At two discs for the price of one, with the early, appealing, and by no means negligible Second Symphony tossed in as well (in a performance every bit as fine as that of the Fourth), this set belongs in the collection of, well, everyone.

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com [reviewing Symphonies 2 & 4, originally on BIS 928]
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 1 in C minor, Op. 4 by Albéric Magnard
Conductor:  Thomas Sanderling
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Malmö Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1890; France 
Length: 33 Minutes 19 Secs. 
Symphony no 3 in B flat minor, Op. 11 by Albéric Magnard
Conductor:  Thomas Sanderling
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Malmö Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1896; France 
Length: 44 Minutes 6 Secs. 
Symphony no 2 in E major, Op. 6 by Albéric Magnard
Conductor:  Thomas Sanderling
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Malmö Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1893; France 
Length: 42 Minutes 31 Secs. 
Symphony no 4 in C sharp minor, Op. 21 by Albéric Magnard
Conductor:  Thomas Sanderling
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Malmö Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1913; France 
Length: 40 Minutes 0 Secs. 

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