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César FRANCK (1822-1890)
Symphonie en Ré mineur [41:00]
Psyché – Poème Symphonique – extracts: Sommeil de Psyché. Lento [8:10]; Psyché et Eros. Allegretto modéré [8:13]
Heinrich Walther (organ)
rec. Wallfahrtsbasilika Vierzehnheiligen, Franken, Germany, December 2005. DDD
ORGANUM CLASSICS OGM 261098 [57:35]



Following on from his transcription of Mendelssohn’s Reformation Symphony, Heinrich Walther presents here two Franck works: the famous orchestral symphony of 1887-88, and two movements of the tone poem for orchestra and chorus entitled Psyché, and dating from the same time.
 
Once again, Walther, a former student of Xavier Darasse to whose memory the recording is dedicated, plays with a fabulous feeling for the music’s genre, and a telling stylistic awareness. Like his Mendelssohn recording Walther clearly sets out to create new organ literature here, rather than chasing the elusive goal of imitating every orchestral nuance. I deeply admire this approach, and the results speak for themselves. Perhaps, given Franck’s knowledge of the organ, this music transcribes to the medium without undue problem – Walther indeed highlights in his notes the compositional elements which the symphony has in common with the Trois Chorals - but the artist ensures through his playing that the point of the original composition is never blurred.
 
For the most part the registrations used recall the typical sound-world of the 19th century French literature, but listen to Walther’s clever solution for the Cor Anglais solo in the second movement, combining the Hautbois with the Gambe and Eolienne, Nazard and 4’ flûte – very clever indeed.
 
Given Walther’s marvellous employment of the historic Bucholz organ in Barth for his Mendelssohn recording, the choice here of a large modern Rieger instrument is, to say the least, deeply uninspired. As it is, I mind it less than I had expected; the plentiful acoustic, pair of swell boxes, and wealth of 8’ colour at least take the edge off the sterility. Walther’s use of the instrument is, perhaps most tellingly, brilliant. However, had the recording been made at St Ouen, Rouen - the organ is, after all contemporary with the works, as well as being the greatest of all symphonic organs -  this recording would have been even more special.
 
Chris Bragg 
 

 


 


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