DUKAS: La Péri (with Fanfare).
The Sorcerer's Apprentice.
The bold, incisive attacks and perfectly balanced chords of the Fanfare pour La Péri, showing off the Cincinnati brasses' full-bodied tone in vivid, capacious sound, get this program off to a rousing start -- a tribute to Telarc's engineers as much as it is to the players.
La Péri proper, too, begins promisingly. The clear, soft string attacks establish a properly mysterious air. Woodwind and horn soli are round and liquid; soft bell and harp highlights emerge with crystal clarity; the broad string melody is rich and glamorous. Through the opening, the playing has an appropriately balletic poise and point. Unfortunately conductor López-Cobos has a problem just getting the turbulent faster section to move; even after he gets it going, he doesn't shape it assertively enough, so all the activity sounds like mere note-spinning.
The Symphony is full of the brass-laden, Wagnerian sonorities beloved by the late French Romantics. César Franck's influence shows in the chromatic harmony, but Dukas' work maintains a basically bright mood even through the stormiest pages. López-Cobos doesn't match the impact and brilliance of Walter Weller's earlier recording (London CS 6995, a magnificently engineered LP), but does a fine job nonetheless. The central Andante espressivo movement is the highlight: the long, searching violin melody, spun out over liquid winds, blossoms and expands handsomely into a grand but not grandiose climax. The outer, more proclamatory movements are full-throated and exciting, though the rhythmic ostinatos too patently generate most of the Finale's energy.
I doubt that the ubiquitous L'apprenti sorcier will influence anyone's choice either way; this performance is as good as any other -- has there ever been a really bad one? -- with woodwinds and horns maintaining a round tone even in the staccatos.