> BONNAL organ music [RB]: Classical Reviews- July 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Joseph-Ermend BONNAL (1880-1944)
Paysages Euskariens (1931)
Noël Landais (1918)
Paysage Landais (1904)
Petite Rhapsodie (1898)
Reflets Solaires (1905)
Symphonie pour Grand Orgue d'Après 'Media Vita' - Répons du temps de la Septuagésime (1932)
Jean-Pierre Lecaudey (organ)
Grandes Orgues Adema de la Kathedrale Basiliek St Bavo a Haarlem.
rec: DDD
PAVANE ADW 7357 [54.09]
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Bonnal is one of the undiscovered and, by the French, still unpromoted treasures of their romantic-impressionistic fleuve. Readers in any doubts should start with the Arion disc of his two string quartets (ARN 68504). There you will encounter music in which a Ravel-like impressionism melds with a pastoral romance.

Lecaudey is clearly well attuned to championing neglected causes. I have just finished reviewing his two CD set of the Ropartz organ music - also on Pavane. These Bonnal pieces are lighter on the aural palate although they are most decidedly not light music. His melodic genius is close to the sweeter inspirations of Vaughan Williams (the big theme from The Wasps, Lark Ascending and Serenade to Music). He is less concerned with the grand striding French organ tradition although he doffs his hat in that direction in the ever mobile delights of the brilliantly pictorial Cloches dans le ciel; the third of the charming Paysages Euskariens.

The two Landais pieces include a brief smiling and unassuming Noël and a similarly self-effacing countryside 'esquisse'. The little Rhapsodie is similarly calming. Reflets Solaires (lovely title) is a step away from impressionism although as the episodes around 2.23 show he is soon enough drawn back into the quieter sunny waters. It was written for a state occasion to be played by Bonnal's friend, the recitalist, Joseph Bonnet. The grandeur of much of this piece recalls the organ part in Saint-Saëns' famous symphony and Walton's state display pieces. The Symphonie is austere and inward-looking (especially in the first two movements). This is a spiritual journey rising to its third and final movement in which a jaunty, marching wing-beat alternates with elegiac thoughts and the heady beauties of birdsong and folk-inflected rural delights (try tr. 10, 3.10).

Bonnalís is music which, unlike much of Ropartz's, convinces you that it has nothing to do with the church - the exception being the first two movements of the Symphonie. Its only link is that churches are where you find organs of the quality apposite to such subtly expressed pieces. All would work well in orchestration.

The full organ specification is given. The fine notes are by Marie-Elizabeth Bonnal.

This is exceptional music. We need more Bonnal. Does anyone know of other Bonnal discs?

Rob Barnett

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