This newest Naxos is a 2020 recording of Cesar Franck's orchestral music, conducted by Jean-Luc Tingaud. And it is a dandy, with one major caveat.
Tingaud has produced some very fine recordings for Naxos (Poulenc Les Biches, Duaks Symphony in C, Bizet Roma, etc.). However, those were all with the RTE National Symphony Orchestra. This new one is with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. This actually should be a positive change. However...
Beginning with Le Chasseur maudit, I became aware something was amiss almost immediately after the opening horn calls. The sound is 2-dimensional and hopelessly cramped. It simply fails to expand on climaxes, as if a dynamic range limiter has been applied. And what a pity! It is a very exciting performance and the Royal Scottish National plays brilliantly (as expected). But this airless, tubby sound simply stifles it. It actually almost sounds mono.
But then, magically, the acoustic opens up and rich orchestral colors emerge for Psyche. What a difference it makes. This is lovely, truly inspired music-making, showing Jean-Luc Tingaud at his very best. Fortunately, the final piece, Les Eolides, is similarly lovely.
Checking the booklet to try to explain what I'm hearing, I have the expected "ah-hah!" moment. Two different recording dates are listed, 18 months apart. Obviously Chasseur maudit was recorded at different sessions from the rest. What a pity Naxos didn't re-record it, as it is certainly the most well-known piece included here and is likely the big draw for many collectors.
One wonders why the change to a different orchestra and venue for this conductor. However, the majority of the disc is outstanding. Still, good modern recordings of Chasseur maudit are shockingly rare, making this Naxos blunder all the more frustrating and disheartening. I'll stick with the classic 1962 Munch/RCA, complete with its slightly rough recording quality, and Muti's incomparable 1983 Philadelphia/EMI, with its brash, early digital glare. They both sound better than this 2020 Naxos.
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