Louise Farrenc was a major figure of French music. She was both a pianist and composer and served on the faculty of the Paris Conservatory for over 30 years. During her lifetime, and for a while afterward, her chamber music was regularly performed.
Not so her symphonies. Beyond their debuts, each had only one or two additional performances. They remained unpublished and mostly forgotten until recently.
Symphony No. 2 premiered in 1845 and is a brawny, full-bodied work. I could hear the influence of Beethoven, especially in the finale’s fugue. That’s not to say the symphony’s derivative. Far from it. Farrenc’s melodies are original and memorable, even if her treatment of them is somewhat conventional.
Her 1847 Symphony No. 3 begins quietly and slowly builds, carried mostly by the winds. Some passages reminded me of Wagner, a few of Beethoven. On the whole, it seemed a much more mature and sophisticated work compared to the second symphony.
Farrenc’s orchestration is much more varied (and sure-footed). I’m not sure why this wasn’t performed more often – either during her lifetime or now.
The Solistes Européens has a fine ensemble blend. Christoph König leads them in fiery, committed performances. I would love to hear them perform Farrenc’s first symphony. Actually, I’m looking forward to their next release – whatever the repertoire.
Symphonies Nos. 2 and 3
Solistes Européens, Luxembourg; Christoph König, conductor