Notes and Editorial Reviews
A unique collection which conveys the gaunt and tragic alongside less exalted values.
This disc is themed around the French Revolution (1789-1799) and has Berlioz’s fourth and final symphony as its headline.
Berlioz was the least symphonic of composers and the feral phantasmagoria that is the
Symphonie Fantastique is more properly known as
An Episode in the Life of an Artist – too much of a mouthful these days. The
Grande Symphonie Funèbre et Triomphale is laid out for wind-band. At the first performance in Paris on 28 July 1840 there were 200 players; there’s a smaller number here but still pretty imposing. He revised it in 1842 when strings were added. No strings in this version but the chorus appears in the finale. The first movement has momentous pomp and some romantic interludes. The middle movement has the trombone playing
bel canto before we swing back into strutting vitality and brisk grandeur. Touches familiar from the
Fantastique are in evidence in the outer movements but this is a more extrovert piece with little or nothing of the psychological impulse of the 1830 work.
Gossec’s two movement
Symphonie Militaire belies its title with the centred demeanour of a Mozartean wind serenade. Jadin’s
Overture is in similar vein with perhaps a touch of Turkish paprika. Gossec’s
Marche Lugubre celebrates in gaunt, ominous and tragic numbers and does indeed seem to articulate dreadful events – very impressive in a Beethovenian way. The Cherubini is sung with apt fervour and helps offset lashings of bombast. Lefèbvre’s
Hymne is a more roundedly romantic work. The Rouget de Lisle
Hymne is treated to a bouncy outing. It is heated but the singing would have benefited from a massed choir of French singers to catch all the blaze and fervour.
John Humphries’ liner-note sets the scene well. Pity that first names and dates are not given for all the composers. This is a unique collection which conveys the gaunt and tragic aspects of the Revolution alongside less exalted values.
The recording is clear despite the church acoustic and has plenty of impact.
-- Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International