> Tapray 6 Concertos for Organ K617079 [PW]: Classical Reviews- March 2002 MusicWeb-International

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Jean-François TAPRAY (1737? - 1819?)
6 concertos pour orgue
Concerto VI
Grave marqué, enchaînant avec Presto
Aria Gratioso
Presto Tambourin
Concerto II
Musette Très tendrement
Concerto III
Gavota gratioso
Concerto V
Aria dêtaché
Minuetto: Thèma suivi de 4 variations: les 3 premières étant confiées à l’orgue solo
Concerto IV
Allegro Moderato
Concerto I
Prélude Grave enchaînant avec Fuga a tre sujetti Allegro
Aria Gratioso

Dominique Ferran - organ
Ensemble Baroque de Nice directed by Gilbert Bezzina
Recordings made in the Abbey Sainte-Croix de Bordeaux; 1 to 4 November 1997


Experience Classicsonline

It is difficult to know just what to make of Jean-François Tapray; from the sound of these organ concertos he was either a free-minded genius well ahead of his time, or he was mad. Whichever it was, his reputation has not survived enough for him to be any sort of well-known name in our time and, on the evidence of these works, this is a real pity. The repertoire of organ concertos from Handel onwards is small and is dominated by the obvious Handel and Haydn sets with then a long break until the French 19th century outpourings of Widor and Saint-Saëns (both of whom wrote Organ "Symphonies" rather than "concertos") and the frequently heard Poulenc of the 20th century. That there should be a whole repertoire of earlier French organ concertos comes as something of a surprise, and yet, given the solo heritage of Couperin and Dandrieu, to name but two, Organ music was alive and highly regarded in France throughout the 18th century.

These concertos are without doubt remarkable. For anybody brought up on the small chamber organs of the Handel or Haydn concertos, with their palettes limited to flute and principal ranks, the addition of blaring, thick reeds comes as a real shock, but what a wonderful shock it is. The very opening of the disc shows the spectacular colours available from a large Baroque organ built for the church. The orchestra in these works consists only of strings (violins, cellos and double bass) but the colours of the large organ add just as much as any woodwind section ever could. The orchestral playing of the Ensemble Baroque de Nice under the direction (from the violin) of Gilbert Bezzina is lively, accurate and stylish. (Sample 1) On top of this the organ is played with not just a sense of style, but a bizarre outlandishness that fits this exotic music perfectly. (Sample 2) It is all impressively recorded to avoid imbalance between organ and orchestra, yet the organ is still captured with clarity while not loosing the sense of space that surrounds it. The performers are all French and clearly steeped in this little known repertoire, which they bring off with tremendous elan.

Of the works themselves it is difficult to know where to start. The variety of styles, themes and workings out is remarkable. The imagination of Tapray was prodigious, and this was recognised in his own time. While the fast movements have a certain edge of earlier romanticism, the slow movements remind one of the concertos of Vivaldi it their delicate cantilenas with string accompaniment. (Sample 3) As everywhere else on this recording, Domineque Ferran’s ability to communicate this music through the historic organ of the Abbey of St Croix is exemplary. The immediacy, and, where required, intimacy that he brings out of the instrument is constant. This is a quite remarkable disc that brings to mind the early days of the ‘early music revival’ in being a revelatory listening experience. In this case it is also bringing forth the music of a very interesting composer, of whom we should clearly know more. Highly recommendable.

Peter Wells


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