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Franck: Symphony, Psyché Excerpts / Latham-Koenig

Release Date: 06/04/2002 
Label:  Avie   Catalog #: 3   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  César Franck
Conductor:  Jan Latham-Koenig
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 7 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

There are Franck symphonies for every taste, including the Gallic elegance and clarity of the classic Monteux/Chicago, the razor sharp attack of Maazel/Cleveland, the hyper-expressive Bernstein/ONF, and the loony Stokowski/Hilversum Radio. Jan Latham-Koenig's approach sounds strikingly "German" in its somewhat measured tempos in the outer movements and bass-oriented orchestral sonorities--but that's only part of the story.

He begins with a very slow and mysterious introduction, allowing the allegro to erupt all the more effectively, the moderate initial tempo permitting an extra measure of rhythmic force. By the time the second subject sails in, Latham-Koenig has managed to work up an impressive head of
Read more steam. I particularly like the rich sonority he draws from the orchestra at the loud return of the introduction leading into the recapitulation. Everything sounds clearly, but he refuses to permit the lower brass to vulgarize the passage as they so easily can. The performance does lose a bit of focus in the soft-edged coda, however, and for the same reason: here a little healthy vulgarity is just the ticket.

Virtually the only way to ruin the beautiful middle movement is to play it too slowly, and Latham-Koenig avoids this trap, adopting just the right initial tempo and achieving impressively atmospheric results in the whispery central episode. The finale shares with the first movement a good, solid rhythmic foundation and the orchestra's bright trumpets and appealingly chubby trombones add an extra ounce of timbral appeal to the second subject. When it comes to this coda, Latham-Koenig isn't afraid to let his players go full out, but the impressively audible final riff from the cornets demonstrates that he hasn't traded clarity for sheer decibels. In all, this is a very satisfying performance.

If anything, the four orchestra extracts from Psyché are even more successful. This music deserves more frequent exposure in live concerts, for although on first hearing it may sound somewhat placid and directionless, a firm hand from the podium can reveal just how gorgeous the piece really is. Latham-Koenig supplies just what the music requires, offering the necessary contrasts in characterizing each movement. He builds Le jardin d'Éros to an incandescent climax and steers the final love music safely into port without a trace of dullness.

Sonically, the recording offers great warmth and rich textures but would have benefited from a touch more clarity at the bass end. It's also good to welcome back to disc the orchestra that Alain Lombard so carefully built up over the years, though the fact that he isn't even credited with a mention in the booklet notes about the orchestra (where, not surprisingly, Latham-Koenig's name figures quite prominently and immodestly), is a scandal. There's obviously some French politics at work here, though that shouldn't prevent anyone from enjoying these fine performances.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

Symphony in D minor, M 48 by César Franck
Conductor:  Jan Latham-Koenig
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1886-1888; France 
Date of Recording: 07/2001 
Venue:  Palace of Music and Congress, Strasbourg 
Length: 41 Minutes 23 Secs. 
Psyché, M 47 by César Franck
Conductor:  Jan Latham-Koenig
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra
Date of Recording: 07/2001 
Venue:  Palace of Music and Congress, Strasbourg 
Length: 25 Minutes 20 Secs. 

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