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Louis Robilliard (organ)
Marcel DUPRÉ

Symphonie-Passion Op 23: Le Monde dans l'attend du Sauveur [6'59], Nativité [7'39], Crucifixion, [8'28], Résurrection [6'02]
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924) trans Louis Robilliard

Suite "Pelléas et Mélisande" op. 80: Prélude [5'37], Fileuse [3'07], Sicilienne [3'41], Molto Adagio [4'32]
Maurice DURUFLÉ (1902-1986)

Suite op. 5: Prélude [9'21], Sicilienne [6'25], Toccata [8'19]
Louis Robilliard organ
Rec. St Sernin, Toulouse and St François-de-Sales, Lyon, April 2003. DDD
FESTIVO 6961.942 [70'16]

This is an absolutely first-rate release from Dutch-based label Festivo featuring exemplary performances of two of the better known late-French Romantic masterpieces, coupled with a breathtakingly beautiful transcription of the Fauré Suite. Louis Robilliard is organist titulaire of the mild, warm Cavaillé-Coll in Lyon (1879) and Professor of Organ at the 'Conservatoire National de Région de Lyon'. Moreover he has a formidable reputation as one of the leading organists in France today.

The playing here is extremely fine throughout, his approach to the Dupré is perhaps a little hard-driven, or at least impulsive, if compared to the great Ben van Oosten's darker, more brooding reading for MDG in Rouen. However it is always dramatic, exciting, perhaps more lyrical in the second movement and admirably unifying. The unstable violence of Le Monde dans l'attend is especially vivid. His Duruflé is similarly no-nonsense, with an extremely fiery Toccata, but it is in his poetic and highly sensitive transcription and performance of the Fauré that his musicality reaches its highest level. His use of the organ and sense of harmonic structure especially make the music sound so naturally as if it were originally written for the organ; no mean feat.

Additionally, Robilliard's decision to split the programme between the softer, colourful Lyon organ, and the later (1888), altogether more hot-blooded Toulouse Cavaillé-Coll (generally regarded to have lost some of its character in the controversial 1996 restoration by Boisseau/Cattiaux, however Robilliard's description of it as "as radiant as the afternoon sun" is still very appropriate) is inspired. The Fauré and Duruflé Sicilienne are recorded on the former organ, the remainder on the latter. The sublime contrast between the two organs, and they way they enhance the specific pieces chosen for them, is a powerful testament to Robilliard's insight.

I find both organs too closely recorded, which is a shame. On the plus side though, the booklet contains several interesting photographs and the sort of programme notes from the performer that we all wish we could write. Don't miss this one, it really is fantastic.

Chris Bragg

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