Beethoven and Franck/Faure CD reviews


BEETHOVEN NINE SYMPHONIES: Malmö Symphony Orchestra / Trevino (Ondine 5 SACDs ODE 1348-5Q) ★★★

Robert Trevino cites his Beethoven influences as Daniel Barenboim and David Zinman while favouring a mid-way position. Trevino studied under Zinman, and his fellow American's influence is obvious in the slimmed-down sonorities, near-the-metronome tempi and clipped phrasing. This approach works best in the first two Haydn-influenced symphonies which are full of zip, sparkle and all the vivacity one could want. After that, despite an impressive Eroica funeral march, doubts set in. There's little unsettling or mysterious about the fourth's crepuscular adagio opening, nor does the ensuing allegro blaze into life. I don't hear Barenboim's old-school grandeur, and Beethoven's deistic mysticism, in the Pastoral finale and while the ninth's finale, with excellent choral work and soloists, is rousing the sublime slow movement stays resolutely earthbound. The live SACD recordings are good but for both super-audio sound and playing quality, using a similar interpretative approach, Osmo Vänskä's Minnesota set (Bis) surpasses it.

Norman Stinchcombe

FAURE & FRANCK: Wihan Quartet / Shikimori (Nimbus Alliance LC5871) ★★★★

Pairing César Franck's Piano Quintet in F minor and Gabriel Fauré's Piano Quintet no.1 is D minor is such a good idea – full of stimulating contrasts of mood and music – one wonders why it hasn't been done before. Franck's Quintet was premiered in 1880, at the start of his most fruitful decade, and its Wagnerian harmonies and sensuality are wafted on a cloud of Catholic incense. The Wihan Quartet tear into the con fuoco finale like men possessed, while pianist Mami Shikimori shimmers and sighs in the slow movement's half-lights, fully emphasizing Franck's sentimento direction. From Franck to Faure's Quintet (1906) is to step from the steamy emotional hothouse into a cool and gentle breeze. The F-major finale started life as the theme for the Pie Jesu of his famous Requiem and Shikimori and the Czech quartet eloquently express its warm and clear-eyed joy. The recording quality is excellent too.

Norman Stinchcombe

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