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Monday, July 3, 2017

Guy Ropartz - Symphonies Nos. 2 & 5 (Sebastian Lang-Lessing)


Composer: Guy Ropartz
  1. Symphony No. 2 in F minor: 1. Adagio molto - Allegro
  2. Symphony No. 2 in F minor: 2. Molto vivace
  3. Symphony No. 2 in F minor: 3. Adagio
  4. Symphony No. 2 in F minor: 4. Allegro molto
  5. Symphony No. 5 in G major: 1. Allegro assai
  6. Symphony No. 5 in G major: 2. Presto
  7. Symphony No. 5 in G major: 3. Largo
  8. Symphony No. 5 in G major: 4. Allegro moderato

Orchestre symphonique et lyrique de Nancy
Sebastian Lang-Lessing, conductor

Date: 2004 (5-8), 2005 (1-4)
Label: Timpani



"... The Second Symphony straddles the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In the same year is from the turn of the century, the year after Ravel’s Pavane; the year of Debussy’s Nocturnes and the year before Sibelius’s Second Symphony. It is in Ropartz’s accustomed four movement format. The long first movement recalls Bruckner with excited yet quietly elysian writing for the strings rising to determined climactic four-square statements. It ends with a calming quiet passage. The Molto vivace is playful and broadly suggestive of the lightness of heart in Beethoven’s Pastoral with some thoughtful reflections to provide contrast. The Adagio takes us back into Bruckner-Wagner territory; serene and sustained singing lines are the order of the day. These sometimes quasi-Mahlerian touches are juxtaposed with lissom writing for woodwind. Then comes a sanguine and businesslike Allegro molto with a chivalric mood recalling the earlier symphonies of Miaskovsky and Stanford. In an ecstatic aside we also get a theme worthy of Rachmaninov at 3:55 but with touches of the dancing optimism of Franck’s symphony. This is the first time I have heard the work but the playing and interpretation here communicate with great vitality and freshness. It will be interesting to hear what Lang-Lessing makes of the Petite Symphonie of 1943 after a fairly ordinary earlier recording from Timpani.

The Fifth Symphony by Ropartz was written amid the Nazi Occupation during the composer’s retirement to his native Breton village of Lanloup. Its first and second movements comprise a lively Allegro assai which launches with a real crash and an exuberant Presto romp. We then get a Ropartz hallmark Largo - a piece of really touching writing which, while holding onto its dignity, has a melancholy elegiac loveliness. This, the longest movement is carried by the strings but there are some notable noble statements from solo horn and woodwind. A brief (5:14) Allegro moderato has the clean euphoric classical lines of Moeran’s Sinfonietta but with a Franckian-Breton accent. The epic-romantic Fourth with its crashing cinematic seascapes contrasts with the airy classical zest of the Fifth; both powerful works but differing in style and atmosphere. The ancient Jacques Pernoo conducted ORTF broadcast version had a more propulsively explosive approach especially in the first movement - it sounded positively Elgarian (In the South) in the first movement. Even so Lang-Lessing directs a vibrant performance that will not disappoint.

The Fifth Symphony was given its first performance at a UNESCO concert on 14 November 1946 alongside Honegger’s Third Symphony. The conductor was Charles Munch who has also presided over a festival of Ropartz works in Occupied France in 1943.

The recording quality in this case is truly excellent capitalising on the liveliness of the Salle Poirel acoustic without allowing its sonorous spaces to cloud the textures. ..."

-- Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International

More reviews:


Guy Ropartz (June 15, 1864 – November 22, 1955) was a French composer and conductor. His compositions included five symphonies, three violin sonatas, cello sonatas, six string quartets, a piano trio and string trio (both in A minor), stage works, a number of choral works and other music including a Prélude, Marine et Chansons for flute, harp and string trio, often alluding to his Breton heritage. He self-identified as a Celtic Breton. His musical style was influenced by Claude Debussy and César Franck. Ropartz was also a writer of literary works, notably poetry.


Among the most versatile and seasoned musicians of his generation, German conductor Sebastian Lang-Lessing is a sought-after guest at the most prestigious symphony halls and opera houses world wide. Now in his sixth season as Music Director of the San Antonio Symphony Orchestra, Mr. Lang-Lessing’s previous posts have included Resident Conductor at the Hamburg State Opera and Deutsche Oper Berlin, as well as Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the Opera National de Lorraine, the Orchestre symphonique et lyrique de Nancy, and the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra.


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