ESSENTIAL RECORDINGS
FRANCIS CHAGRIN - Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2


FRANCIS CHAGRIN - Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2 - BBC Symphony Orchestra - Martyn Brabbins (Conductor) - 747313137176 - Released: February 2016 - Naxos 8.571371

Remembered mostly as a prolific film score composer (over 200 films, many commercials, television programs including an episode of Dr. Who in 1964) Francis Chagrin (1905-1972) - born Alexander Paucker - also composed a handful of non-commercial orchestral works, including the two symphonies presented here as world première recordings. Thumbs up to Naxos for once again extending the catalog by featuring neglected or overlooked works of importance like these.

In keeping with the year 1946 when Chagrin started working on his Symphony No. 1, its first movement is written in large, heavy thematic strokes as an aftershock of the war, while the rest of the symphony seems heavily influenced by what the Soviet composers were doing at the time. The autonomous bass line of the slow Largo movement is typical of what Shostakovich was admired for and bits of the final movement are full frontal Prokofiev. Jump ahead twenty years to the Symphony No. 2 and the cinematic style of writing in short episodic bursts becomes more apparent. The second movement in particular would have been perfectly suited as the backdrop to a thriller mystery. But then there are moments in the third movement that bring to mind 'Jupiter' from Gustav Holst's 'Planets' and, oddly enough, that's followed by a finale that very much resembles the heavy laden 'Saturn' from the same suite. Yet from start to finish, both symphonies bear Chagrin's individual stamp.

As noted above, these are world première recordings given a top notch initial outing by the BBC Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Martyn Brabbins. Definitely not second tier musicians. This is as good as it gets if you're looking for unheard music to add to your collection. And it's by supporting recordings like this one that we can expect to see more of the same in the future.

Jean-Yves Duperron - April 2016