RICHARD FRANCK: Symphonic Fantasy Op. 31; Serenade for Violin and Orchestra in A minor Op. 25; Suite for Orchestra Op. 20; Liebesidyll – Amor und Psyche Op. 40; Wellen des Meeres und der Liebe – Concertoverture in E minor Op. 21 – Fabian Wettstein, violin /Tim Strüble, cello /Württembergische Philharmonic Orchestra/ Christopher Fifield – Sterling CDS1078; 69:09 *** [Distr. by Qualiton]:
Richard Franck (1858-1938) and his father Eduard Franck (1819-1893) wrote much music recently returned to the catalogue after years of neglect, and this CD supplements an ongoing series on Audite, currently standing at fourteen releases. The Francks were highly regarded in musical circles, Eduard’s reputation as Professor of Music and Royal Director of Music being widely known. The family counted the Mendelssohns and Reineckes as friends and colleagues, the latter one of Richard’s teachers. Richard worked for some time at the Allgemeine Musikschule in Basel where he became friendly with Hans Huber (1852-1921), the subject of another extensive and interesting series of recordings from Sterling.
The Suite for Orchestra is a well-crafted collection of four movements, the orchestration showing some adventure though the end result comes across as something of an academic exercise. Wellen des Meers und der Liebe (Waves of the Sea and of Love) is a concert overture first performed in Lucerne in 1895 under Willem Mengelberg, and is a romantic piece much of its time without being too adventurous in its writing. The two short serenades, one for violin the other for cello and orchestra are charming miniatures rather than virtuoso showpieces, and played here by competent soloists both leaders of the Württembergische Philharmonic. The “Symphonic Fantasy” which opens the programme on this CD is a strong piece showing some development in Franck’s writing.
The remaining work was written in Kassel, where he was very busy as Royal Prussian Director of Music, as well as a conductor and performer. Amor und Psyche is a worthy tone poem from the first decade of the twentieth century.
Recorded 25-27 March 2008, Studio WPR, Reutlingen, Germany, the sound quality is very good, with enough air around the music to complement its outdoor feeling. The Württembergische Philharmonic’s contribution sounds enthusiastic though not as if these pieces are firmly in their repertoire, leading me to wonder whether any received a public performance leading up to the recording sessions. Nonetheless, this issue from the ever-adventurous Bo Hyttner is an interesting byway of German music from the late nineteenth century, and readers interested in this period of composition will not be disappointed.
— Peter Joelson