Beethoven
Symphony No.3 in E flat, Op.55 (Eroica)

Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra conducted by Jean Fournet

FONTEC FOCD9151

[53’27”]
Bizet
Symphony in C
Brahms
Symphony No.3 in F, Op.90

Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra conducted by Jean Fournet

FONTEC FOCD9157

[66’10”]
CD No: FONTEC FOCD9151 & FONTEC FOCD9157
Duration:
Reviewed: March 2002
If Otto Klemperer had been French, his Eroica might have sounded like this. The recent ’Q Disc’ box devoted to Jean Fournet proved timely, a reminder of his art and wide repertoire, so it’s good to find him still active; one wondered if he had retired. Born in 1913, Fournet, close to 90, is suggested on the booklets’ photographs as being alert and indomitable, which is borne out by these live performances: 13 May 2000 – Bizet; 23 May 2000 – Beethoven; 20 June 2001 – Brahms.
Spacious tempi, lyrical phrasing and punctilious attention to rhythm and balance inform Fournet’s conceptions. He’s not an interventionist; rather he focuses on structure – the grand design. In this, Klemperer is recalled. He though was more generous with exposition repeats; Fournet observes none.
Fournet’s nationality is evident by elegance and sweetness of expression; add subtle dynamics and refined colours for illumination and satisfaction. He can also be robust, moving to and from pivotal points to ultimate resolution with unerring judgement; the Eroica’s development section is trenchant. In the measured speeds adopted, Fournet relates to ’grand maestros’ of the past; having reached a distinguished age, he may be thought one himself.
The Bizet is crisp and buoyant, light-years away from Georges Pretre’s irrepressible energy and charm (Hanssler), Fournet taking his time to relish articulation and detail without diminishing Bizet’s vernal melodies and ease of declaration. I imagine Celibidache would have brought such perceptions to this piquant creation – Bizet’s textures intrinsically blended from within, and secured on a firm yet unforced bass foundation. Fournet’s is a beguiling rendition – and what a marvellous piece Bizet’s symphony is.
In more ’heavyweight’ writing, Fournet similarly inclines to poetic import. The Brahms is impassioned at its opening, a spurious crescendo reminds of Furtwangler and Jochum, Fournet astutely achieving equilibrium between resolve and autumnal glow. The ’Andante’ and ’Poco allegretto’ are most affectingly shaped, the former introspective, the latter deeply nostalgic. The finale’s shadows, determination and closing quiet fulfilment is boldly charted; trumpets from 3’36”-4’09” are a tad stentorian – a reminder that this (otherwise excellent) orchestra doesn’t have the most integrated brass.
The Eroica’s funeral march, 17 minutes, is unrelieved in its grieving, a burden of humanity established at the very outset, emotion spilling over in the great central outbursts, lower strings from 10’34” insistent to a point of collapse. The finale’s variation-episodes are playful, witty and vividly characterised, capped by a coda that is massive and egalitarian, in keeping with the depth of purpose displayed throughout – enthusiastically received by the Tokyo public.
These grand and sensitive interpretations – cleanly and naturally recorded with few audience intrusions – more than warrant Fournet a wider profile. A contemporary of the now-retired Kurt Sanderling and the late Gunter Wand, there is every requirement to think Jean Fournet of equal stature. How important recordings are.

  • These CDs are not available in the UK or Europe (and probably not the States either!). Please contact Fontec direct for details about importing its titles Web: www.fontec.co.jp E-mail: [email protected]

 

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