Author Topic: Alberic Magnard(1865-1914)  (Read 16838 times)

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Offline Dundonnell

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Alberic Magnard(1865-1914)
« on: October 19, 2008, 02:23:26 PM »
I was astonished that this fine French composer whose music has been much praised by Jezetha and others on this site has not had his own thread!

Jezetha(Johan) has been repeatedly extolling the merit of the Chant funebre on the 'What are you listening to' thread in General Music Discussion and this inspired me to go back and listen again to that fine elegy written in memory of the composer's father in 1895.
(That is what is so great about this forum-reminding one of so much good music one hasn't listened to for some time :))

Magnard was very much a pupil of d'Indy and a product of d'Indy's school which is also represented by composers like Joseph Guy Ropartz and Charles Tournemire. There is a nobility in Magnard's music, a quiet dignity which I find intensely moving. It is the antithesis of what has been called elsewhere the "chi-chi" or "frou frou" in French music :) It is quite amazing that Magnard's music does not get a mention in several authoritative texts. The Third and Fourth Symphonies certainly qualify as two of the very finest symphonies written in France between the Franck in 1888 and the Roussel 3rd and 4th in the 1930s. They outclass-in my opinion the symphonies of Chausson, Dukas and Lalo-and only d'Indy's 2nd is a comparable masterpiece. The chorale which opens the 3rd symphony and returns in the finale is one of my favourite openings in all symphonic music!

There are excellent recordings of the symphonies by Plasson on EMI, Ossone on Hyperion and Thomas Sanderling on BIS.

Magnard's own difficult personality did not particularly help the popularity of his music and he lived as an almost total recluse on his estate near Paris until his tragic death(killed while attempting to defend his country house at Baron-sur-Oise against the invading German army in 1914).

Over to you, Johan...
« Last Edit: October 19, 2008, 02:46:09 PM by Dundonnell »

scarpia

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Re: Alberic Magnard(1865-1914)
« Reply #1 on: October 19, 2008, 08:07:03 PM »
It can be interesting to listen to different performances of a symphony that has no performance tradition, as is the case with all of Magnard's symphonies.  The conductors have to look at the score and see what they make of it, without being guided by numerous performances they have heard live or on record.  Plasson and Sanderling are particularly striking in their contrasting approach.  Many places where Plasson seems intent on bringing out a supercharges romanticism, Sanderling finds an elegant neo-classical grace.  Generally I prefer Sanderling, but both are interesting.

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Alberic Magnard(1865-1914)
« Reply #2 on: October 20, 2008, 02:30:53 AM »
It can be interesting to listen to different performances of a symphony that has no performance tradition, as is the case with all of Magnard's symphonies.  The conductors have to look at the score and see what they make of it, without being guided by numerous performances they have heard live or on record.  Plasson and Sanderling are particularly striking in their contrasting approach.  Many places where Plasson seems intent on bringing out a supercharges romanticism, Sanderling finds an elegant neo-classical grace.  Generally I prefer Sanderling, but both are interesting.


The Ossonce performances on Hyperion are very highly quoted.
http://www.musicweb-international.com/classRev/july99/magnard.htm

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Alberic Magnard(1865-1914)
« Reply #3 on: October 20, 2008, 02:42:32 AM »
I like Magnard very much, especially Symphony No 4 and Chant Funebre (very moving). I have the French EMI Plasson box and a couple of the Hyperions.

Jeffrey (in haste from work)
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

Hector

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Re: Alberic Magnard(1865-1914)
« Reply #4 on: October 20, 2008, 05:51:32 AM »
By coincidence I have just finished listening to the excellent Timpani CD of the orchestral music which contains the 'Chant funebre' a very striking piece along with the 'Hymne a la Justice,' performed in the open air in Paris after the War (its last public performance?) and the 'Hymne a Venus.'

His bent is towards the German school as advocated by those such as D' Indy. It might explain why they are neglected in comparison to the more "French" composers such as Debussy and Ravel.

The symphonies pre-echo Mahler on occasion.

This German influence is recognised by Thomas Sanderling in his recordings of the symphonies but Ossonce offers a viable alternative with a marginally better orchestra.

Since you are unlikely to hear any of this in concert I would get both Ossonce and Sanderling and Mark Stringer's Timpani disc.

In fact, I did and have not been disappointed!


Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Alberic Magnard(1865-1914)
« Reply #5 on: October 20, 2008, 06:58:58 AM »
The Chant funebre and Hymne a la Justice are also in the Plasson collection on EMI but the Hymne a Venus and the Suite dans le syle ancien on the Timpani disc are not.

Are these two pieces worth the price of the disc? Sorry, nasty question, i know!

Kuhlau

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Re: Alberic Magnard(1865-1914)
« Reply #6 on: October 20, 2008, 11:54:04 AM »
Nice to see Magnard being praised here. :)

I know only his four symphonies, having downloaded them earlier this year when eClassical had an offer on the BIS Sanderling set. What struck me was how much they sounded at once like Bruckner and Strauss, with shades of Mahler and perhaps even a little dash of Saint-Saens. That might sound to some like a heady cocktail (and may also be refuted by others), but I enjoyed these works immensely, and I wouldn't mind a few recommendations for works not yet mentioned in this thread.

FK

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Alberic Magnard(1865-1914)
« Reply #7 on: October 20, 2008, 03:17:12 PM »
Nice to see Magnard being praised here. :)

I know only his four symphonies, having downloaded them earlier this year when eClassical had an offer on the BIS Sanderling set. What struck me was how much they sounded at once like Bruckner and Strauss, with shades of Mahler and perhaps even a little dash of Saint-Saens. That might sound to some like a heady cocktail (and may also be refuted by others), but I enjoyed these works immensely, and I wouldn't mind a few recommendations for works not yet mentioned in this thread.

FK

Yes, I can see where you are coming from with your reference to Bruckner! There is a Brucknerian feel, for example, to the noble chorale which opens the 3rd Symphony.

Unfortunately, Magnard was extremely self-critical and wrote very little :( There are only 22 works with opus numbers! So the four symphonies(op. 4, op.6, op.11 and op.21), the Suite dans le style ancien, op.2, the Chant funebre, op.9, the Ouverture, op.10, the Hymne a la Justice, op.14 and the Hymne a Venus, op.17 account for 9 of those! The remaining pieces are chamber or instrumental works on which I am not qualified to express an opinion.
The string quartet, op. 16 has however been praised by critics.

Offline SonicMan46

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Re: Alberic Magnard(1865-1914)
« Reply #8 on: October 20, 2008, 05:29:33 PM »
Just would like to be part of this thread for future updates!  :D

Currently, I own the four Symphonies on BIS w/ Sanderling; these are excellent performances and have been well recommended by David Hurwitz on ClassicsToday (Nos. 1 & 3 and Nos. 2 & 4, both rated 10/10 for recording/performance); note that Brilliant Classics have brought these 3-CDs together into a $12 offering - this is difficult to beat, if you want into these orchestral works!

In addition to the above, the only other Magnard that I own currently is a disc of Woodwind Quintets, one each of Andre Caplet & Alberic Magnard, both tragic deaths related to WWI (the Magnard already stated previously; Caplet suffered from gas poisoning in the war and died an early death in 1925); these 'woodwind chamber' works were composed in the 1890s, and are delightful - the disc that I own have performaces by the Aura Ensemble (below, bottom right) on a fairly obscure label for me -  :)

 

 

Kuhlau

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Re: Alberic Magnard(1865-1914)
« Reply #9 on: October 20, 2008, 11:49:12 PM »
Thank you for the enthusiastic recommendations. :)

FK

Offline J.Z. Herrenberg

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Re: Alberic Magnard(1865-1914)
« Reply #10 on: October 21, 2008, 05:34:03 AM »
Colin, you have been busy!! I have been busy, too - with other things, and I still am. But I certainly have something to say about Magnard. Later.

Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. -- Plato

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Alberic Magnard(1865-1914)
« Reply #11 on: October 21, 2008, 06:55:17 AM »
Colin, you have been busy!! I have been busy, too - with other things, and I still am. But I certainly have something to say about Magnard. Later.



Perhaps it's just my juvenile desire to reach the magic number of 1000 posts ;D
« Last Edit: October 21, 2008, 07:39:24 AM by Dundonnell »

Offline J.Z. Herrenberg

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Re: Alberic Magnard(1865-1914)
« Reply #12 on: October 21, 2008, 07:34:51 AM »
Then I'll help you, Colin...

The first thing by Magnard I ever heard was his Third Symphony, under Ansermet, which I downloaded from Usenet two years ago. The wonderful opening, with its archaic brass chorale, impressed me immediately. Also the wonderfully tender lyricism. Magnard has something of Nielsen's innocence and light. He is austere and sensuous at the same time. There is also a seriousness to him which I admire. His music is always heading somewhere. Rob Barnett, from Musicweb fame, thinks the slow movement of the Third meanders - I don't think so. When tempo and intensity are correct (as in Ansermet and Sanderling), the piece is extraordinarily moving, a melancholy meditation with some rustic scenes interposed.

What have I heard so far? All the symphonies (Sanderling and Ossonce, and Ansermet in the Third), and the Ouverture, Chant funèbre and Hymne à la Justice (Plasson, thanks to Colin). I still have to listen to the Hymne à Vénus, his chamber music and his 3 operas (only Guercoeur, afaik, has been recorded, 20 years ago...) I know I want to hear everything.

I rate the Fourth Symphony and the Chant funèbre highest, closely followed by the Third and the Hymne à la Justice. The Ouverture is a work Magnard didn't like himself, but it still has many beauties. The first two symphonies are pre-Magnard, they don't speak with that very individual voice he found from his op. 9 (Chant funèbre) onwards. But I intend to listen to them more often. Magnard wrote so little...

This ends the first post.

Two interesting links:



http://www.musikmph.de/musical_scores/prefaces/M-R/magnard_sym3.html

http://www.musikmph.de/musical_scores/prefaces/M-R/magnard_hymne.html
« Last Edit: October 21, 2008, 08:01:22 AM by Jezetha »
Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. -- Plato

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Alberic Magnard(1865-1914)
« Reply #13 on: October 21, 2008, 07:49:02 AM »
Thanks for your excellent contribution to the thread, Johan! I do so agree with you about the 3rd Symphony. The comparison with Nielsen had not occurred to me before-strange since I love Nielsen's music and once esteemed it more highly than that of Sibelius although I would eschew such a 'rating' today :) But yes the obvious love of nature and the sounds of nature in the music do suggest such a link.

I am tempted now to buy the Timpani disc just in order to have the Hymne a Venus and the Suite dans le style ancien :)

(Now...thinks of something for 1,000th post ;D ;D)

Offline J.Z. Herrenberg

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Re: Alberic Magnard(1865-1914)
« Reply #14 on: October 21, 2008, 07:57:53 AM »
Thanks for your excellent contribution to the thread, Johan! I do so agree with you about the 3rd Symphony. The comparison with Nielsen had not occurred to me before-strange since I love Nielsen's music and once esteemed it more highly than that of Sibelius although I would eschew such a 'rating' today :) But yes the obvious love of nature and the sounds of nature in the music do suggest such a link.

I am tempted now to buy the Timpani disc just in order to have the Hymne a Venus and the Suite dans le style ancien :)

(Now...thinks of something for 1,000th post ;D ;D)

I'll help you again - Magnard and Nielsen were born on the same day... And even more amazing - there are passages in Magnard that really sound like Nielsen: at the end of the first movement of his Third, in the coda, there are a few bars that are echt Nielsen. And last week, when I was humming a passage from the Hymne à la Justice (iirc) I suddenly found myself in the slow movement of Nielsen's Third! Also his use of grace notes remind me of Nielsen.

Okay - post no. 1000...

A few goodies are here:

http://www.mediafire.com/?sharekey=191b3b8d4da3c14fab1eab3e9fa335ca6ef784b491c50175
« Last Edit: October 21, 2008, 08:19:31 AM by Jezetha »
Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. -- Plato

Offline J.Z. Herrenberg

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Re: Alberic Magnard(1865-1914)
« Reply #15 on: October 21, 2008, 08:41:39 AM »
A few thoughts about the Hymne à la Justice.

This is an orchestral piece in the Beethovenian mould (think Egmont or Coriolan). It starts with tremendous energy, with a jagged motif that permeates everything. Even when the music quietens down you feel the tension below the surface. It is written in (a rather free? I don't have a score) sonata style. There is one very striking passage, which made me smile, though it is very thrilling indeed, where Bruckner meets Wagner's Valkyries. It comes in two grand waves, built on the famous Valkyrie rhythm, and when the second wave starts you are reminded of... Scriabin, the Scriabin of the Third Symphony and the Poème de l'extase.

It's a great piece. But I think even more highly of the Chant funèbre, because it has a flow and an inexorability that make it unforgettable. I have been playing it almost non-stop for two whole weeks now... I even bought a score.

Later addition: the climax of Justice ia rather Wagnerian - swirling string figuration around the main theme. A bit like Tannhäuser.
« Last Edit: October 21, 2008, 11:18:27 AM by Jezetha »
Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. -- Plato

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Alberic Magnard(1865-1914)
« Reply #16 on: October 22, 2008, 05:02:55 AM »
Rushes off to replay the Hymne a la Justice :)

Hector

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Re: Alberic Magnard(1865-1914)
« Reply #17 on: October 23, 2008, 05:34:11 AM »
The Chant funebre and Hymne a la Justice are also in the Plasson collection on EMI but the Hymne a Venus and the Suite dans le syle ancien on the Timpani disc are not.

Are these two pieces worth the price of the disc? Sorry, nasty question, i know!

The Hymne a Venus concludes the Timpani disc very cleverly so that you go away with its themes echoing in your head.

The Suite is more of a student exercise.

I am not convinced by Plasson in this music so, the answer is 'yes' and is Timpani not on Special Offer at MDT?

Offline J.Z. Herrenberg

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Re: Alberic Magnard(1865-1914)
« Reply #18 on: October 23, 2008, 05:57:41 AM »
The Hymne a Venus concludes the Timpani disc very cleverly so that you go away with its themes echoing in your head.

The Suite is more of a student exercise.

I am not convinced by Plasson in this music so, the answer is 'yes' and is Timpani not on Special Offer at MDT?

Why? I have been listening to his readings of the Ouverture, Justice and Chant a lot the last few weeks, and they have convinced me. How does his approach differ from Stringer's, that you prefer the latter's interpretations?

Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. -- Plato

Hector

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Re: Alberic Magnard(1865-1914)
« Reply #19 on: October 24, 2008, 05:56:50 AM »
Why? I have been listening to his readings of the Ouverture, Justice and Chant a lot the last few weeks, and they have convinced me. How does his approach differ from Stringer's, that you prefer the latter's interpretations?



I think Stringer lets the music speak for itself while Plasson sounds extraordinarily heavy.

If Stringer, Ossonce and Sanderling had not come along I am sure that I would be happy with Plasson but they did and I have come to prefer them.