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Joseph JONGEN (1873 - 1953)
Symphonie Concertante Op.81 (1926)
Marcel DUPRÉ (1886 - 1971)
Cortege et Litanie Op.19 No.2 (1921)
Concerto in E minor Op.31 (1928)
Franz Hauk (organ)
Ingolstadt Philharmonic/Alfredo Ibarra
Recorded: Ingolstadt Munster, August 1997
GUILD MUSIC GMCD 7195 [67:52]
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Joseph Jongen was the most important musical personality of his generation in Belgium. Pianist, organist, conductor and teacher, he was first and foremost a most distinguished composer who wrote in almost every genre. His large and varied output (over 130 opus numbers) includes a number of works for organ of which Chant de mai and Sonata Eroica are probably best-known to organists. However his masterpiece is the wonderful Symphonie Concertante Op. 81 for organ and orchestra completed in 1926. It is also his most recorded work, though it is still rarely heard in concerts. (I for one have attended two live performances in thirty years!) The piece is written on a large scale, in four substantial movements playing for over half an hour. It opens with an impressive Allegro that begins fugally and later develops a tightly knit symphonic argument. The second movement Divertimento is a delightful Scherzo which at times has folk-like rhythms. The heart of the symphony is the beautiful slow movement Molto lento, a long meditation of great depth and of remarkable harmonic subtlety. The symphony's last movement is a brilliantly scored, energetic Toccata providing for a rousing conclusion. Eugene Ysaye attended the first performance in Brussels in February 1928 and a few days later he wrote Jongen a characteristically friendly and perceptive long letter, quoted in full in Hauk's insert notes. Ysaye obviously got to the heart of the Symphonie Concertante and there is indeed nothing to add to his remarkably illuminating comments. He too believed that Jongen had put all his best musical thoughts and his heart into this magnificent masterpiece. For many years the best recorded performance available was that by Virgil Fox with the Orchestre de l'Opera de Paris conducted by Georges Prêtre (originally issued by CAPITAL RECORDS, then re-issued as ANGEL S-26894 and, later still, re-issued in CD format [EMI CDM 5 65075 2] possibly still available). A more recent recording was that by Michael Murray with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra conducted by Edo de Waart (TELARC DG 10096 published in 1985) which was splendid. Now, as far as I am concerned, I find the present performance second to none, even if Hauk and Ibarra give a more relaxed reading of the Scherzo and have a more expansive approach of the slow movement (14'20 compared to Fox's 12'26). However, the present performance is beautifully poised and never sluggish, with finely judged tempi.

Marcel Dupré was a remarkable organist and a very fine composer too who wrote extensively for his instruments. His music for organ also includes several works with orchestra or instrumental ensemble. Cortege et Litanie Op.19 No.2, a reworking of some stage music, is one of them. This short piece is superbly crafted and is a fine example of the somewhat lighter side of Dupré's music. By contrast, the Concerto in E minor Op.31, completed in 1928, is a substantial work, cast in the fairly traditional fast-slow-fast pattern. However Dupré's approach to the medium is highly personal and he succeeds in blending organ and orchestra in a masterly manner. The first movement opens boldly, then presents three main subjects that make-up for most of the ensuing development. The slow movement has a folk-like second subject contrasting with the chorale-like first one. The last movement is again a brilliant Toccata culminating in a grandiose apotheosis. A major work by all counts. Both Cortège et Litanie and the E minor Concerto are available on NAXOS 8.553922 (Volume 3 of their on-going Dupré series) in excellent performances by Daniel Jay McKinley with the Columbus-Indiana Philharmonic conducted by David Bowden. (This CD also includes Poème héroïque Op.33 and the Symphony in G minor Op.25, and I hope that these pieces will also be recorded by GUILD in the not-too-far future.) Again Hauk's and Ibarra's readings are very fine indeed, so that - in the present instance - the decision turns on the coupling.

The recording team has again coped quite successfully with the reverberating acoustics of Ingolstadt Munster.

To sum-up, excellent performances of magnificent pieces in a very warm and natural recorded sound, and one of the finest CD's of organ music I have heard recently. Unreservedly recommended.

Hubert Culot

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