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  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Louis VIERNE (1870-1937)
Piano Quintet (1918)
String Quartet (1894)
Gabriel Tachino (piano)
Quatuor Athenaeum Enesco
rec Salle Adyar, Paris, Sept 1999
PIERRE VERANY PV700011 [47.04]

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Vierne, best known as a writer of organ music - perhaps remembered in a single sweep with Widor, was by no means an exclusively 'organ loft' composer. His Symphony and the song cycle Spléens et Détresses were recorded by the ORTFSO conducted by Georges Tzipine in the early 1970s. Those recordings are now accessible via the Timpani label.

This Pierre Vernay CD introduces us to his troubled chamber music. It is no wonder that the Piano Quintet is as disturbing as it is. It was written in the year after his seventeen year old son's death. He had given parental consent to his son, Jacques, joining up and he was racked with guilt when his son was killed inaction. He wrote to a friend that he was writing a 'quintet of vast proportions to convey the inspiration born of my tenderness and my child's tragic death.' Its point of departure is surely Franck but the overlay is much more personal with both caressing moments, anguish and anger. It is instructive to compare this expression with Bliss's Morning Heroes and Frank Bridge's Piano Sonata and Concerto Elegiaco - each works linked with family deaths or the deaths of friends brought about by the Great War. Vierne does not stray from tonality. At track 3 6.20 bereavement and the ghostly joy of memory of summer's days is almost tangible. His brother René was also killed during the last two years of the war.

The rich harmony and melodrama encountered in the Quintet are also at work in the String Quartet. This was written while Vierne was studying in Widor's class at the Conservatoire. It is a work of pleasing promise. From this point of view it is good to have it here as a way-marker for Vierne's development. It is however rather Mendelssohnian with some inflections absorbed from knowledge of Franck's scores and much more than a touch of Bach in the finale.

Vierne is a fascinating composer and I note that Arion have two discs of his piano music in their catalogue. I plan reviewing these at some stage alongside the Timpani CD. I last heard the symphony when I borrowed that Erato (?) LP from Bristol's Central Library next to the Cathedral back in 1972.

Rob Barnett

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