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Rolande FALCINELLI (1920-2006)
Azan for flute and organ (1977) [14:56]; Cor Jesu Sacratissimum (1958) [8:31]; Salve Regina (1968) [4:33]; Krishna-Gopala for flute (1985) [12 :15]; Cortège Funèbre (1965) [4:25]; Initiation à l’orgue (1969-70) [6:46]; Triptyque «Litanies, Rondel et Fugue» (1941) [15:31]
Elise Battais (flute); Philippe Brandeis (organ)
rec. 20-23 August 2007, Cathedral of Saint-Louis des Invalides, Paris and Church of Cergy-Villages, Val d’Oise. DDD
HORTUS 059 [66:39]

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Rolande Falcinelli was a French organist, teacher and composer. She studied at the Paris Conservatoire under Marcel Dupré and Henri Büsser, and won the coveted Prix de Rome in 1942. She established a reputation as one of the leading organ teachers of her time, and was a prolific composer, writing for solo organ, orchestra, ballet and chamber ensemble.

It is hard to think of French organ music without Messiaen coming to mind. Falcinelli began composing before she started to play the organ, but it is not surprising that Messiaen was an influence. Her music is quite different from his, though, and the influence of Marcel Dupré was also strong. Dupré was her teacher and mentor, and she performed most of his works for organ.

Azan is an enticing work for flute and organ, based on texts from the Koran and demonstrating Falcinelli’s interest in Eastern cultures, which came initially from her mother, an artist who lived in Saigon for some time and developed a passion for the culture of the Far East. The organ writing is particularly interesting, with some dark low-pitched sounds in the fourth movement (on the day that the hour of reckoning will be established…) which give the instrument a menacing percussive quality. The flute lines are rhapsodic, providing a stark contrast to the organ and representing the sound of the ney flute through the use of idiosyncratic ornamentation.

Cor Jesu Sacratissimum begins with an opening flourish of plain chant, and quickly moves into the realms of Falcinelli’s chromatic language. In the form of a Passacaglia, this work makes full use of the possibilities available to Falcinelli as organist at the Sacré Coeur in Paris.

Krishna-Gopala is a work for solo flute, which, as the title suggests, once again demonstrates an interest in the Orient. The piece has the feel of an improvisation, and takes the form of a set of variations in different moods. Krishna is an Indian God who is revered as one of the mystical flute players, along with Pan and others.

The other works on the disc are for solo organ. Cortège Funèbre, as one would expect, takes on a dark tone. Falcinelli makes use of far–reaching sounds and harmonies which enthrall the audience. A deeply moving work, this miniature is a true gem in the repertoire.

Initiation à l’Orgue is a set of short studies for organ, which fuses musicality with technical development. Less heavy than the liturgical works, the last three studies are heard here. The first develops rapid finger technique, and contrasts with the second, which is more chordal in texture and resembles an improvisation. The third study is richly layered, with spiky rhythmic toccatas accompanied by pedal melodies, recorded here in two different versions.

Litanies, Rondel and Fugue is a triptych of pieces which forms Falcinelli’s first composition for organ, composed while she was studying at the Paris Conservatoire. Litanies opens with a held pedal note, over which the music develops. The piece emerges with a natural sense of development of the lines, showing already considerable talent at a young age. Although texturally simpler than her later works, the language is already richly chromatic, and the climactic moments are highly memorable. Rondel is lighter, featuring keyboard glissandi, a technique whose first use on the organ was attributed to Falcinelli. The Fugue uses more traditional compositional techniques but maintains an originality of language which characterizes Falcinelli’s works.

The playing on this disc is excellent. Philippe Brandeis was a pupil of Rolande Falcinelli, and shows a deep understanding of her music in his interpretation. He is joined by Elise Battais, a flute player who has a strong interest in modern music and practical knowledge of traditional bamboo flute-playing techniques, which combine to enable well informed performances of Falcinelli’s Eastern influenced works.
 

Carla Rees
 
 

 

 

 

 

 


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