Psyché, by César Franck, at the New York Philharmonic, Lincoln Center, New York.

Psyché, the last and most ambitious of César Franck’s poèmes-symphoniques, has had more than its share of bad luck. The piece was initially welcomed by critics when first performed in 1888, and was subsequently admired by biographers and commentators, but Psyché has never found a secure place in the repertoire.

Part of the problem lies in the genre. Unlike operas and symphonies, which more easily transcend their period, the symphonic poem is very much a phenomenon of the nineteenth century. It impresses most modern listeners as sprawling, sentimental, and without structure. Psyché has also had its own particular problems, the most prominent of which was the physical deterioration of the orchestral sheet music. Kurt Masur, laboring over the last...

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