Notes and Editorial Reviews
Here's a Franck D-minor Symphony in the classic French tradition of Paray and Munch: fast and exciting. In fact, at less than nine minutes, Tortelier's finale may very well be the swiftest ever, and tempos in both of the other movements never look back. Still, there's no trace of stiffness or lack of rhythmic flexibility. Others may well call it the "slim fast" approach or "Franck-lite," and the lack of self-indulgence does rob the quieter moments of some of their inherent mystery. I'm thinking here particularly of the symphony's opening, or the calm interlude in the finale just before the coda, where the "motto theme" returns accompanied by rich harp arpeggios, but it's not a major issue. Tortelier also isn't afraid to let the enthusiastic brass swamp the strings now and again, as at the end of the first movement's second subject, but my word, how those trumpets do ride the climaxes! In short, I'm not tossing out my favorites (aside from those listed above, these include Monteux/Chicago and Bernstein's DG remake), but this is much more than just another run-of-the-mill version.
The couplings also go well. Les Eolides has just the right skittish charm, and the Symphonic Variations pack considerably more energy than usual, though Louis Lortie's capable pianism must yield to Artur Rubinstein (RCA) and Ivan Moravec (Supraphon). I am less the impressed with Chandos' sonics. As with their recent Glinka CD, the big, reverberant acoustic works against the thrust of the performances. Something drier and crisper, with a better focus on cellos, basses, and timpani would have complimented Tortelier's approach much more readily. Nevertheless, if you love Franck's symphony, you'll enjoy this.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com