> Symphonic Organ Music from France [AS]: Classical CD Reviews- Jun2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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BOËLLMANN Suite Gothique
César FRANCK Prelude, Fugue et Variation; Choral no 3 in A minor
Louis LEFÉBURE-WÉLY Choeur de Voix Humaines
Louis VIERNE Carillon de Westminster
Jean ALAIN Litanies
Maurice DURUFLÉ Prélude & Fugue sur le nom d’Alain
Charles-Marie WIDOR Andante Sostenuto (from Symphony no 9); Toccata (from Symphony no 5)

Christian von Blohn (organ)
Recorded on the organ of the Hildegardkirche in St Ingbert, 2001
ARTE NOVA CLASSICS 74321 85287 2 [72:55]


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This generously-filled disc presents yet another representative sample of the French organ repertoire. Most of the pieces have been recorded many times before – only the splendid Duruflé item might be unfamiliar. If you like the sound of a typical French organ (here, one built in 1933 and recently restored to its original specification) then I can warmly recommend the disc. But if, like myself, you have some reservations about that sound then you might want to steer clear of it.

That would be a pity, for you would miss two outstanding performances – those of the Duruflé and the pieces by César Franck. Franck’s Prélude, Fugue et Variation is characterised by playing of great poise and refinement, mainly through oboe and flute stops of remarkable beauty. To the Duruflé von Blohn brings a deft lightness of touch and delivers its rippling passage-work with admirable evenness and clarity.

As might be expected, the Lefébure-Wély piece adds a moment of comic relief: irredeemably banal – but irresistible!

For me, the trouble comes in the big pieces. The organ boasts a mighty bombarde department (with pedal reeds to match), and when it is unleashed it makes the sort of noise which has led some to assert that the organ is an inherently unmusical instrument. This is particularly notable in the closing bars of the Vierne Carillon and Alain’s Litanies: a tidal wave of muddy, bloated sound, obliterating every musical detail in its path.

Von Brohn is a fine player, though I do have some quibbles. Both his Boëllmann and Vierne are somewhat ponderous, and at the other extreme, his Alain is a shade too fast (as often happens in this piece, detail is sacrificed on the altar of mere brilliance).

Adrian Smith

Von Brohn is a fine player, though I do have some quibbles. Both his Boëllmann and Vierne are somewhat ponderous, and at the other extreme, his Alain is a shade too fast. … see Full Review

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