There is a handful
of recordings of Duruflé’s complete organ works. The market is
not inundated with them for the simple reason that much of the
music is so fiendishly difficult. It takes a brave person to tackle
these works, let alone record them. Henry Fairs has taken on the
challenge and succeeded superbly, even though his playing doesn’t
quite have the same flair and excitement as the John Scott/St.
an enormous acoustic to contend with, the clarity of Duruflé’s
complex, fastidious writing can be heard clearly in this recording
thanks to the recording engineer’s microphone placement. It’s
also testimony to Fairs’ articulate playing; this repertoire
requires buckets of technique. Organs in echo-plagued buildings
are not the easiest instruments to record well. Here the sound
of this magnificent Cavaillé-Coll organ has been captured beautifully.
That said, the ambience of a larger building in other recordings
gives the listener the greater sense of gravitas that this music
order in which to place these works on a recording poses a curious
dilemma. There is really no obvious sequence apart from doing
them chronologically. I think the order here works well. It’s
a pity though that the mutation stop used at the opening of
the first track is so hideously out of tune; it detracts from
the enjoyment like a poke in the eye.
some of the quieter sections and in pauses, the action of the
organ and stop-changes are very audible, as if the janitor has
stumbled in to do a spot of cleaning; nothing terribly untoward
though. On the contrary, it adds an element of reality, giving
the performance a more spontaneous, ‘live’ feel which I applaud.
organ itself is a splendid instrument for such a recording.
The lovely warm sonorities of the Cavaillé-Coll craftsmanship
are showcased throughout, but really shine in the Prélude
of Prélude, Adagio et Choral varié sur le theme du ‘Veni
Creator’, Op. 4 demonstrating the beautifully voiced flutes
and soft reed stops, not to mention the luscious strings. The
rousing finish to the variations is extremely exciting.
a fantastic piece the Scherzo is. Duruflé’s softer pieces
really can be as gripping to the listener as the big crash-bang-wallop
showpieces, particularly when played with the sort of effervescence
and verve Fairs shows here. Alternating between slow interludes
and rocket-speed acrobatic passages this little gem is a highlight
of the disc.
was very fond of using triplet figures in order to create a
sense of forward momentum - two of the Préludes and the
Sicilienne for example - and this direction is achieved
to perfection in the Prélude sur le nom d’Alain; such
tremendous drive and excitement which for a movement that doesn’t
exceed mezzo-piano indicates a genuine sense of energy.
The fugue that follows is a little on the leisurely side and
doesn’t quite have the same drive as the Prélude. Indeed
a number of the tracks are significantly slower than other recordings
but not damagingly so.
delightful Méditation - omitted from some recordings because
it was unknown until its publication in 2002 - and the Hommage
à Jean Gallon - curiously missing from other ‘complete organ
works recordings - incorporate deliciously impossible twists of
harmony that only Duruflé could get away with. Thus follows the
mighty Suite, Op. 5 which in my opinion, is the daddy of
the lot. Sandwiched between the brooding Prélude – the
musical equivalent of a rumbling volcano waiting to erupt - and
erupt it does once the Toccata gets cracking – and the
fiery Toccata, the Sicilienne ambles rather than
lilts along. Some of the solo tunes are unfortunately slightly
obscured by the accompaniment. It is, however, played with extreme
dexterity. Precise and accurate playing with such zest and vitality
and a perfectly paced accelerando ensures that the Toccata
is the icing on the cake of an excellent recording.
see also Review
by John France