Music and Vision homepage


<<  -- 2 --  Robert Anderson    UNEASY AGITATION


Les djinns is almost fifty years younger than the concerto. It is based on a 'lozenge' poem of Victor Hugo, so called because the lines gradually lengthen before shortening equally steadily. The djinns are winged demons that dwell among sepulchres and arise shrieking to perform their baleful tasks. Originally sinister opponents of Islam, Hugo puts them in a vaguely Christian context as generalised agents of evil. If there is any stained glass influence on this work, it is that the orchestra represents the devils for the most part, whereas the piano is on the side of the angels. Despite much whirling of sinister influences, sound faith prevails. Here the pianist is François-Joël Thiollier, faced with a subtler task than his concerto companion. He acquits himself well, obeying a characteristic Franck instruction to the player: 'In the mood of a prayer, but with a certain uneasy agitation'. He has a committed Arnhem Philharmonic Orchestra under Roberto Benzi to contend against, and the drama is effectively captured [listen -- track 2, 1:25-2:30]. Franck's full-stop to the Hugo poem is one of his happiest touches.

The Symphonic Variations were written for Louis Diemer, who had given the first performance of Les djinns. They proved the happiest of rewards. The work is put together with utmost cunning, and it is only the central part that proves to be a set of six variations on a theme hinted at long before in the initial exchange between keyboard and orchestra. Thiollier is capable of the loveliest sonorities from the outset, and for the most part the orchestral response is equally well judged. I would disapprove only of the needlessly dry string pizzicatos at the first suggestion of the variations' sicilienne-like theme. To savour the ensemble at its most magical it is necessary to sample only the sixth variation with cellos in the major [listen -- track 1, 7:28-8:25]. The finale is a joyous fantasia on much of the music deployed earlier with such skill and evident delight [listen -- track 1, 11:22-12:27].

Copyright © 11 September 2002 Robert Anderson, London, UK


César Franck: Symphonic Variations

8.553472 DDD Stereo NEW RELEASE 58'58" 2002 HNH International Ltd

François-Joël Thiollier, piano; Martijn van den Hoek, piano; Arnhem Philharmonic Orchestra / Roberto Benzi

Symphonic Variations; Les Djinns; Piano Concerto No 2 in B minor Op 11



 << Music & Vision home      Recent CD reviews       Herbert Howells >>

Download a free realplayer 

For help listening to the sound extracts here,
please refer to our questions & answers page.