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Franck’s Ruth dates from early in his career (it was composed in 1843-45) and predates most of the obvious examples of Gounod, Berlioz or Mendelssohn. Its inspiration, therefore, is likely to come from the French composers of the late 18th or early 19th century – figures such as Méhul or Lesueur, whose music we hardly now know. The premiere of Ruth in 1846 (under Liszt) was not a success but, following a revision, and a revival in 1871, the piece was regarded as more successful. Nevertheless, it has never established itself in the repertoire, even in France. Based on the Bible’s book of Ruth, the oratorio is not without some attractive numbers and even occasional flashes of inspiration. Unfortunately, the work fails to make a more favourable impression as it here receives, in what is purported to be its first recording, a less than adequate performance, especially from the chorus, who suffer from a raw, often unblended tone and unacceptably poor intonation. The soloists and orchestra are serviceable, no more.

PHILIP REED Read the full review on Agora Classica

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