"And Mei-Ann Chen made a welcome return five years after conducting one of the most satisfying oddities in CSO history: A pipa concerto by Zhao Jiping so rare it has never been recorded. ... More than anyone I know, including French masters Charles Munch and Pierre Monteux, she almost convinced me Franck’s lone symphony wasn’t waaaayyyy too long.
She did that, fascinatingly, by embracing its excesses, rather than trying to hide them. The first movement, which grinds a pleasantly melodic theme into the ground through countless variations, acquired grandeur. It began to sound like Wagner’s “Tristan und Isolde,” piling climax upon climax and reaching a kind of luxuriant ecstasy. (Perhaps Franck had read Wagner’s score, as the opera hadn’t yet come to Paris by 1888.)
Chen broadened tempos in the first two movements instead of rushing them, justly confident that the musicians’ big sound and her own passion would carry the day. Then, as Franck continued to chew his slender musical cud in the third movement, her fire and intensity prevented any feeling of lassitude."