> JEFFREYS Organ Music [CSS]: Classical CD Reviews- Jun2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Organ Music
Michel Bourcier (organ)
The organ of Saint-Antoine des Quinze-Vingts, Paris
Rec 2000?
SOMM - Celeste Series - CD019 [57.00?]


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A casual visit to a Suffolk church with an organist friend whose masterly improvisation on the instrument greatly impressed Jeffreys led to the composition of a body of music for organ - the bulk of which, including two major compositions, is given in this recital from the Paris church of Saint-Antoine des Quinze-Vingts.

The instrument, originally commissioned by Baron Albert de l'Espée for his Bois de Boulogne house, was later installed in its present church as being too powerful for its original domestic situation. That power is certainly demonstrated here - as is the complete contrast in the most delicate sonorities (in the rustling of Canon Howard's little mice, one of the sketches especially written for the chamber organ at the church at Otten, North Essex.)

Jeffreys is perhaps best known for his many songs - settings of words from the 16th Century and from the more recent Georgians of the 'thirties. His studies at college were counterpoint and musical philosophy - and while a light balance is achieved in his songs with quasi-Warlockian jollity, and light-hearted love songs, concentration is needed here to follow the slow deliberate unfolding of his musical thought.

The two major compositions on this disc - a complex Fantasia written for Alfred David Williams, the friend whose introduction to the instrument was the improvisatory spark (at 17 minutes the most substantial piece on the disc) - and an equally substantial Flourish, Affirmation, Meditation and Six Variations - are both powerful, deep and imbued with a compelling spirituality.

There are a number of shorter pieces, drawn from 'Music from Otten' and 'Duodecimedes' (twelve character pieces) and also another larger-scale 'Christ in Majesty' of considerable intensity whose dark-hued harmonies echo solemnly from the cold stone - and the recital ends with an evocation of the vast loneliness of a visit to the summit of Cader Idris, reflecting Jeffreys' Welsh origins and in some strange way the spirituality that emanates from such a sense of place.

Like all good things this music is to be savoured, not rushed, and in the hands of Michel Bourcier, now Professor of Organ at Rennes Conservatoire, it is impressively moving.

Colin Scott-Sutherland


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