Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Len Mullenger:

MAGNARD Symphonies 2 & 4     Malmo Symphony Orchestra/Sanderling   BIS CD 500928 83'21"

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A valuable coupling of symphonies completed in 1896 and 1913 respectively; Alberic Magnard (1865-1914) was shot dead in his garden by German soldiers the following year, and they went on to burn down his house with many manuscripts. An important Franckian and d'Indy pupil, he was an individualist and, in personal life, a noted misanthrope.

Each of these symphonies is in four movements lasting about 40 minutes. The second symphony is the only one of his to begin in the major. The second movement is a suite of dances, the third a very beautiful chant varié.

The fourth, composed in a state of 'utter depression' achieved initial success at its 1914 premiere, but soon after his death near the beginning of the War his music fell into oblivion. It is more sombre, but not unrelievedly so, and the orchestration is richer, sumptuous sometimes, yet not overloaded. Both symphonies are continuously absorbing and well worth exploring if any readers haven't yet come across them. There is a welcome revival of interest in Magnard, with several competing versions of the symphonies now available, though not necessarily in your local record shop!

The performances under Thomas Sanderling seem to me excellent (I do not have access to scores). The recording is up to BIS's reliable standards, with an honest, well balanced sound. Nos. 1 & 3 are on BIS 500927 and the continental Keller catalogue (available on CD-ROM) also has EMI Classics versions by Plasson & Toulouse Capitol Orchestra. There are recent recordings by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Ossonce (which I have not heard) of all four Magnard symphonies (Hyperion CDA67030 & 67040). These have been enthusiastically reviewed by Rob Barnett for CMotW, and I have had repeated satisfaction from dipping into the boxed set of 5 Accord CDs comprising Magnard's complete chamber music (some of them individually available), with comprehensive notes by Harry Halbreich on this important, but still all too little known composer (Accord 200752 MU 756 ). Alberic Magnard warrants a major comprehensive review of his music and of all the CDs.


Peter Grahame Woolf



Peter Grahame Woolf

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