A wonderful pairing. Don’t know if it’s been done before but it’s very appropriate since Chausson clearly follows Franck’s cyclical techniques in his symphony. The Symphony in d seems to be one of the most accessible abstract symphonies for the uninitiated new classical listener. Nevertheless it has a number of innovations in form and design. The rich melodies and their transformations capture the ear immediately. The classic version of the Franck is Monteux’s with the Chicago Symphony on one of the Living Stereo three-channel SACDs. Monteux’s 1961 recording has a bit more verve and snap. Though tempi appear somewhat faster it runs three minutes longer than the Suisse Romande discing – probably due to repeats. However, the more laid-back Janowski treatment has more transparent sonics and true surround instead of just the frontal soundstage – after all, 45 years have passed since the first recording.
Though Chausson began with a strong Wagnerian influence in addition to his immersion in the mystical teachings of Franck, by the time of his composing the Symphony in B-flat he was actively working toward “the necessary de-Wagnerisation of French music,” as he put it. The work uses the same three-part form as Franck’s Symphony, with all preceding themes revisited in the final movement. However, it is interesting that the center slow movement shows strong Wagnerian qualities – almost like the spiritual fervor of Parsifal or Tannhauser. Janowski is the new conductor of Ernest Ansermet’s former orchestra, and this is the first co-production undertaken by the orchestra together with PentaTone and a collaboration of the Swiss radio stations of Geneva and Lausanne.
– John Sunier