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Magnard: The Four Symphonies / Ossonce, Bbc Scottish So


Release Date: 01/13/2009 
Label:  Hyperion Dyad Catalog #: 22068   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Albéric Magnard
Conductor:  Jean Yves Ossonce
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



MAGNARD Symphonies: No. 1 in c , Op. 4; No. 2 in E, Op. 6; No. 3 in b?, Op. 11; No. 4 in c?, Op. 21 Jean-Yves Ossonce, cond; BBC Scottish SO HYPERION 22068 (2 CDs: 140: 24)


Let me introduce you to the greatest French composer of whom you have not heard, Lucien Denis Gabriel Albéric Magnard Read more (1865–1914). He shares the year of his birth with the two giants of the North, Jean Sibelius, Carl Nielsen, and his countryman, Paul Dukas. Alberic Magnard was born to privilege; his father François was a prominent author and the managing editor of Le Figaro . The young Magnard’s mother died when her son was four and he was to develop a quiet personality that would follow him for the rest of his life, preventing him from seeking fame or even encouraging performances of his music. His four symphonies were unsurpassed by any French composer of the day. They are substantial in length (each exceeds half an hour), cyclic in character (a trait found in the better-known Franck Symphony in D Minor), staid, attractively scored, slightly melancholic, and most important, well worth getting to know.


The young Magnard passed his baccalaureate in 1882. This was followed by six months in England, which was followed by military service and then law school, from which the young Magnard graduated in 1887. To this point, he had exhibited relatively little musical ability, and despite the ready-made route to success via Le Figaro , he turned his back on what annotator Francis Pott termed “the comfortable options.” There are conflicting reports as to when Magnard entered the Paris Conservatoire, but it was either 1886 or 1887. He heard a performance of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde at Bayreuth in 1886 and developed a passion for Wagner’s music.


At the Conservatoire he found himself under the influence of Franck and Chausson; this proved far preferable to the academicism of the Conservatoire, and Magnard soon embarked on private study of fugue and orchestration with d’Indy.


The first two of Magnard’s four symphonies were written under the watchful eye of d’Indy, and the First Symphony is dedicated to him. The Third Symphony dates from 1896, the year of Magnard’s marriage to Julia Creton, and the Fourth was completed in 1913, the year before Magnard’s tragic death. He had settled with his family at the Manoir des Fontaines in Baron in 1904. After the outbreak of World War I, he sent his wife and daughters to safety and awaited the German advance alone. When enemy soldiers entered the grounds one was killed by a single shot, apparently fired by Magnard, and the Germans set fire to the house. Magnard apparently died in the blaze, but although the body found in the ruins could not be identified as his, there was no doubt as to its identity; the blaze also destroyed many of his manuscripts.


Magnard’s symphonies are colorfully orchestrated and offer the listener a wonderful play of light and shade and a varied orchestral palette. They are unrelentingly serious in tone, clear in structure, rhythmically dynamic, and passionate in expression. Magnard turns his back on the three-movement form favored by Franck and opts for the traditional four movements. All of his symphonies contain scherzos that recall rustic dances and they are sometimes in unusual time signatures (e.g., the 5/4 passages in Symphony No. 3, inspired by a visit to the Auvergne).


Originally released as two single compact discs, these recordings have meet with consistent critical acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic. The Independent called this “An absorbing musical encounter that should spawn its fair share of Magnard converts,” and the 2009 re-release of the symphonies drew this comment from Ian Lace, one of my Fanfare colleagues: “These albums compel the highest recommendation.” To those comments let me append the following: This is another of those recordings that makes me wonder where this music has been all these years! The performances by Jean-Yves Ossonce and his excellent band defy description. The musicians play with energy, commitment, balance, and poise, going toe-to-toe with the difficulties found in Magnard’s complex musical canvases and presenting them in eloquent and elegant readings. These are passionate and sympathetic accounts that bring belated credit to these rarely heard works. I heartily commend them to the adventurous listener and the devout Francophile alike. C’est magnifique!


FANFARE: Michael Carter
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Works on This Recording

1.
Symphony no 1 in C minor, Op. 4 by Albéric Magnard
Conductor:  Jean Yves Ossonce
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1890; France 
2.
Symphony no 2 in E major, Op. 6 by Albéric Magnard
Conductor:  Jean Yves Ossonce
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1893; France 
3.
Symphony no 3 in B flat minor, Op. 11 by Albéric Magnard
Conductor:  Jean Yves Ossonce
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1896; France 
4.
Symphony no 4 in C sharp minor, Op. 21 by Albéric Magnard
Conductor:  Jean Yves Ossonce
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1913; France 

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