This review gives me
the opportunity to express my gratitude
to François Carbou for his continuing
work to bring to a wider public the
art of Pierre Cochereau.
Cochereau was one of
the greatest enigmas of 20th
century organ culture for so many reasons.
The most important of these relates
to his legacy of recorded improvisations,
for the most part preserved by the microphones
of Carbou. Here, however Carbouís record
label Solstice, originally created to
record Cochereau on home soil at Notre
Dame, presents earlier recordings made
when Cochereau was still contracted
to Philips. The Symphonie contains
all the hallmarks of the genius; not
for nothing did his teacher Dupré
describe him as a "phenomenon without
equal in the history of the contemporary
organ". Add to this the colossal
structures, the quicksilver scherzo,
the Mahlerian ĎLentí, the ever-changing
tonal centre, the spellbinding sense
of rhythm, and above all, Cochereauís
intoxicating and utterly unique harmonic
language. The Verset improvisations
show his qualities as a liturgical improviser,
not recorded in the Mass of course.
It remains an invaluable complement
to the wonderful "Cochereau Ė LíOrganiste
Liturgique" release from Solstice
(SOCD 226) featuring live recordings
from masses in Notre Dame in the 1970s.
was later reconstructed by Cochereauís
son, the conductor Jean-Marc, unless
Iím mistaken the first reconstruction
of a Cochereau improvisation, now a
genre in itself. It was later recorded
by David Briggs for Priory (PRCD 568)
at a noticeably quicker tempo than Cochereauís
The timing of the recordings
is interesting; the Symphonie
and Versets were recorded in
1963 by which time the Notre Dame organ
had been electrified but had not yet
received its chamades. By the time of
the 1973 recording of the Boléro,
these had been added, and feature at
the climax of this arch-form construction.
Cochereauís radical changes to the enormous
Cavaillé-Coll - which had received
only comparatively insignificant alterations
until then - have been rightly criticised.
Indeed they represented nothing short
of vandalism given the quality of the
original instrument. Perhaps this side
of Cochereau is the reason that many
people are unwilling to accept the other
side of his legacy, of which this recording
forms a part.
Like all of the CDs
in this ongoing series, the present
release is essential listening.