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Maurice Clerc (organ) Metamorphose
transc. Henri Büsser
Marche Hongroise (Le Damnation de Faust) [5'35]
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912) transc. Harry Dexter
Meditation (Thais) [5'33]
Georges BIZET (1838-1875) transc. Maurice Clerc
Intermezzo (Arlésienne Suite) [3'14]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918) transc. Alexandre Guilmant
Andante (Quatuor) [7'27]
Petite Suite transc. Leon Roques; En bateau [3'46], Cortège [4'04] , Menuet [3'38], Ballet [3'58]
Paul DUKAS (1865-1935) transc. David Titterington
Fanfare (La Péri) [2'47]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937) transc. P.O. Ferroud
Trois Pieces (Ma Mère l'Oye): Pavane [1'34], Petit Poucet [3'16], Le jardin féërique [3'11]
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Extraits de Pelleas et Melisande; transc. Léonce de Saint-Martin: Prelude [4'55], transc. Bryan Hesford: Sicilienne [3'33]
Six Pieces (Dolly) transc. Maurice Clerc; Berceuse [2'52], Mi-a-ou [2'20], Le jardin de Dolly [2'37], Kitty-valse [2'47], Tendresse [3'58], Le Pas espagnol [2'37]
Maurice Clerc, organ
Rec. Cathedrale Saint-Benigne, Dijon, October 2003. DDD
FESTIVO 6961.952 [73'54]


First a note about the organ, because, apart from the specification, almost nothing is told about it in the booklet; why not? It was originally built in the 18th century by Riepp, (he of Ottobeuren fame...), and the other significant contributions in its history came from Ducroquet and Merklin, during the 19th century, and most recently, from Gerhard Schmid in 1996. The result is an organ of five manuals: Positif, Grand Orgue and Pedale with Grand Ravalement, the enclosed Recit, where most of the 19th century pipework is housed, behind the main case, and the short compass Recit and Echo. Of its 73 stops, no fewer than 33 still contain 18th century pipework. The tonal result is rather neutral, a little like those Kern reconstructions of the 1970s; Toulouse Cathedral springs to mind. Unfortunately, here it is captured with the microphone so close to the Positif de Dos that the balance between the divisions becomes quite distorted. This is especially true when stops of the enclosed Recit, behind the main case, are used to accompany Positif solo stops and vice versa. On several occasions the atmosphere is rudely interrupted, simply by the use of the Positif (for example the appearance of the Cromorne during Petit Poucet at 1'33). Additionally the slightly unstable tuning of the instrument begins to grate after a while.

The most successful pieces here are the more intimate tracks. Massenet comes off well, as does Ma Mère l'Oye for the most part. It is a pity that the playing of Maurice Clerc, titular organist in Dijon, and a former student of Rolande Falcinelli, Suzanne Chaisemartin and Gaston Litaize, suffers from sloppy rhythm, a general lack of poise and the lack of a really singing melodic line, essential in so much of this music. The lack of poise is immediately obvious in the opening Berlioz Marche, compare this with Olivier Latry's performance of the same transcription on his new CD for DG, "Midnight at Notre-Dame" (00289 474 8162) and the difference is obvious. Elsewhere the Pelléas and Mélisande transcriptions lack so much of the composure and subtle organ management of Louis Robilliard's stunningly insightful recording of the same pieces for Festivo (6961.942). I like very much the idea of playing Fauré's Dolly, and Debussy's Petite Suite on the organ, but here the quicker movements, (especially the Ballet of the Petite Suite) rather fall flat, and the simple charm of Mi-a-ou seems forced and heavy.

This was a good idea, a CD of transcriptions of French music by composers who themselves wrote no organ music. Unfortunately it is let down, by the poorly captured, and rather out of tune organ, and by the unsubtle playing of Clerc. Readers looking for a better CD of transcriptions should enjoy the Latry CD mentioned before, admittedly curiously programmed, or more especially David Briggs' "The World of Organ Transcription" recorded at Gloucester Cathedral for Priory (PRCD 794) and including his own breathtaking transcription of the 2nd orchestral suite from Daphnis et Chloe of Ravel.

Chris Bragg

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