Sauguet Symphony No 2
This work, written in 1949 for the Prix Italia, in conformity with that organization’s encouragement of new forms and resources, included sounds of nature; but two years later Sauguet, a prolific disciple of Satie, revised the scoring for conventional forces. Subtitled The seasons, it is in five movements, each prefaced by a section for close-textured unaccompanied chorus, suggesting the cycle of the year from winter to its return. Correspondingly, there is some cyclic treatment of the thematic material, though the general approach is atmospheric – most successful in the depiction of “Slumbering earth” – rather than symphonically developed; and at several points Sauguet seems to be marking time without going anywhere in particular. During this anodyne work – which lasts nearly one-and-a-half hours – I wondered what had drawn the late Antonio de Almeida to it (I gather that he also recorded Sauguet’s First Symphony): it reminds me, I’m afraid, of many French speech-makers who maintain remarkable facility over long periods of time without saying anything very much. The technical skill of its writing is undeniable, and there is beauty in the “Return of winter” section, but the chief defects are a lack of really memorable ideas and of sufficient variety of pace and texture. The chorus are firm-voiced and for the most part fairly assured, though except in the section titled “Les vendangeuses” I found their words totally incomprehensible even with the text in front of me. The high soprano Genevieve Ruscica makes a brief appearance as a nightingale in the late spring; chief honours in the performance, despite an occasional fluff, go to the orchestra.'