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Festivo

Pierre COCHEREAU (1924-1984) trans Jeanne Joulain
Improvisations sur les Versets de Vêpres Nos. 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 4, 13 [11'16]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)

Passacaglia in c BWV 582 [12'29]
César FRANCK (1822-1890)

Choral No. 2 in b [12'04]
Charles-Marie WIDOR (1844-1937)

Allegro Vivace from Symphony No. 5 [10'06]
Leon BOËLLMANN (1862-1897)

Suite Gothique op. 25; Introduction-Choral [2'03], Menuet gothique [2'40], Prière a Notre-Dame [4'34], Toccata [4'04]
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953) transc Imbert

Extraits de Romeo et Juliette; La jeune Juliette [3'33], Padre Lorenzo [2'13], Montaigus et Capulets [3'31]
Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915) transc Imbert

Etude Op. 2 No. 1 [2'18]
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943) transc Imbert

Vocalise [4'17]
Dimitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975) transc Imbert

Valse No. 2 [3'34]
Jean-Paul Imbert, organ
Rec Basilique Notre-Dame du Perpetuel Secours, Paris, October 2004
FESTIVO 6962.012 [78'55]

 

This is a peculiar and unfortunately not wholly successful release from Festivo. Its primary purpose is to showcase the new (2004) Bernard Dargassies organ in the Basilique Notre-Dame du Perpetuel Secours in Paris. However, the astonishing admission that the new organ is "built from organ pieces that belonged to dismantled organs or to organs that had been changed in some way" hardly fills one with confidence and proves entirely reflected in its tonal quality. This is strictly second-rate organ building, featuring hardly a beautiful solo colour anywhere, though plenty of ugly ones, in its more than sixty stops. The one exception is a marvellous Flute Harmonique, which presumably came from an organ of worthy vintage. At the other end of the spectrum, the hideous chamade-unit is a model of bad taste.

The clue to the organ's design can be found in its titulaire, Jean-Paul Imbert's, background. This is a Guillou disciple, perhaps not quite as radical as the man himself, but with bizarre mutations and pizzicato couplers, the enfant-terrible's organ-design ethos hangs heavy over the instrument. The Guillou-world is clearly evident in Imbert's playing. The least successful tracks here are the mainstream repertoire; Imbert is unable to keep the Bach stable, and moreover gets lost in his myriad of silly registration changes. The Franck and Widor are played according to the Guillou-rules of registration rather than those of the composers, stability and legato line are sacrificed.

More enjoyable is the opening gambit of Cochereau, where the rather hard-sounding organ seems apt for anyone who has heard those François Carbou recordings of the Notre-Dame organ following Cochereau's radical alterations in the 1960s. Imbert seems more willing here to keep within the bounds of what the music's creator intended. I wish the rest of the disc had stayed in the same vain. The final transcriptions also fare better than the literature, though again Imbert's lack of rhythmic solidity slightly spoils the otherwise quite effective transcription of the famous "Montaigus et Capulets". The use of the pizzicato-coupler in the Shostakovich is a cute effect.

Unfortunately this (in all senses) ugly instrument would never be on my itinerary of must-visit Parisian organs. The CD is only recommendable for the Cochereau.

Chris Bragg



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