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Organ Spectacular - Jean Guillou

Toccata and Fugue in D Minor BWV 565 [8'24]

Recit de Tierce en Taille [6'09]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART

Fantasy in F minor K 608 [9'56]

Hyperion or The Rhetoric of Fire; Hermes [4'23], The
Fires of Silence [4'56], The Inflamed Soul [10'54],
Agni-Ignis [5'13]
Charles-Marie WIDOR

Allegro Vivace from Symphony No 5 [10'35]

Fantasy and Fugue on BACH [13'32]

Sinfonia from Cantata 29 "Wir danken dir Gott, wir danken dir" [3'51]
Choral, "Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme" BWV645 [4'25]
Badinerie, from Suite No 2 in B minor BWV 1067 [1'27]

Voluntary in A minor [4'16]

Trumpet Tune in D major [2'21]

Toccata in D minor [2'07]

Toccata in F minor [2'05]; Toccata in G minor [3'10]
George Frideric HANDEL

Allegro from Organ Concerto op7/10 in D minor [5'30]

Sarabande BWV 977 [2'56]

Basse et dessus de Trompette [2'01]

Fugue in G major BWV 577 [2'58]

Hornpipe from Water Music [4'10]
Joseph HAYDN

Flotenuhrstucke in D major [0'58]
Flotenuhrstucke in G major [1'42]

Canon in A-flat major [3'41]; Canon in B minor [2'45]

Valse Oubliée No 1 [3'47]

March from "Love of the 3 Oranges" [1'43]

Hautbois d'Amour from "Jeux d'Orgue" [1'58]; Tutti Ostinati from "Jeux d'Orgue" [2'34]; Improvisation on 'Greensleeves' [6'30]

Symphonie Concertante for Organ and Orchestra op 81;
Allegro, molto moderato (in the Dorian mode) [7'35], Divertimento, molto vivo [8'18], Molto Lento, misterioso [12'00], Toccata (moto perpetuo), allegro moderato [5'09]

Symphony No 3 in C Minor ‘Organ’
(Adagio [9'37], Poco Adagio [9'53], Allegro Moderato [7'38], Maestoso [7'18])
Jean Guillou, organ
Dallas Symphony Orchestra/Eduardo Mata (CD 3)
Rec: St Eustache, Paris (CD 1), Notre Dame des Neiges, Alpe D'Huez, France, (CD 2), Meyerson Center, Dallas (CD 3) between 1987 and 1994. DDD
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 92386 [75'11 + 70'04 + 68'44]


Jean Guillou is perhaps the greatest of all the organ world's ‘Enfants Térribles’. Here is a selection of re-released Dorian recordings of his 'art', recorded on two of his own creations, the screaming Van den Heuvel in his own church of St Eustache, and the comical Kleuker at Alpe d'Huez. The third CD is recorded on an organ inestimably more important, the Fisk at Dallas's Meyerson Symphony Center, an organ which literally changed the face of concert-hall organ building. However in contrast with the information given about the world's first 'Hautbois en Chamade' at Alpe d'Huez (a Guillou invention that sounds like a duck on amphetamines), and Guillou himself telling us that the St Eustache monster has "all the possibilities that a contemporary musician could wish for from a 20th century organ", nothing is told about the Dallas instrument. Literally nothing.

Guillou is an organist for whom organ music is clearly dull. This is evident in his desire to re-invent all the literature using his own registrational world, (strange mutations and a menagerie-like collection of reeds especially important) and adding cadenzas, (those in Handel pieces on CD2 are especially banal). Other typical Guillou-isms include replacing the flute in the famous Bach Badinerie with a Trompette en chamade, tasteful stuff.

Even when one could really expect something interesting, such as when Guillou plays his own compositions, one is let down here; nearly 25 minutes of Hyperion's pseudo-apocalyptic nonsense (CD1) left me with a headache and little else. The one area perhaps where Guillou could have a reasonable claim to have enriched the organ world is with his spectacular transcriptions of non-organ music. However even here it must be said that, almost without exception, his students play these better than he does. Guillou's rhythm is so weak throughout these recordings - the booklet euphemistically refers to his "highly personal approach to rhythm"- as to madden the listener. This is most clearly demonstrated in the third CD when his poor rhythm and wild tempi collide with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. This is catastrophic from the outset of the Jongen. The tempo at which Guillou begins the final Toccata is beyond ridiculous.

While I'm about it, we badly need a good recording of the Jongen, surely the finest Organ Concerto ever written. Wouldn't Debussy have been proud of the slow movement? Michael Murray's mid-1980s recording for Telarc with the excellent San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, is let down by the poor organ in that city's Davies Hall. In a more recent Solstice release, Pierre Pincemaille playing the lovely early Cavaillé-Coll in Perpignan, is badly let down by a woeful orchestra.

The saddest element of this gruesome Guillou box is that it will be very inexpensive. Presumably it was intended to find new followers for our instrument. I can barely think of a more inappropriate introduction.

Chris Bragg


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