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Grands Jeux
Jehan ALAIN (1911-1940)
Litanies [4:44]
Guy MORANÇON (b.1927)
Dix Noëls de Provence [37:26]
Jean-Dominique PASQUET (1951)
Quatre pièces sur des cantiques bretons [18:47]
Jean LANGLAIS (1907-1991) 
Suite Brève [17:21]
Rupert Gough (organ)
rec. Chapel of Royal Holloway, University of London, 13-14 September 2007
REGENT REGCD272 [78:18]

Experience Classicsonline

The organ of Royal Holloway began life as a small three manual Walker of 1886. Unfortunately rebuilt in the 1950s, it was replaced in the late 1970s by a new Harrison organ incorporating some earlier pipework. The instrument, housed in a distinctive (19th century) case is rather reminiscent, qua concept, of the work done by Ralph Downes 10-15 years earlier. The Choir is in fact a French classical-inspired Positif with a cornet décomposée, Cymbale, and Cromorne. The Great contains just two 8’ flues, a cornet composée and an 8’4’ chamade reed unit. Astonishingly the Swell contains yet another cornet, together with the original Walker Celeste (beautiful!) and reeds. A strongly neo-classical leaning is evident then, although, with its electric action, 61/32 compasses, and usual complement of pistons and ‘Anglican essentials’, it is ultimately another rather dated example of an English organ trying to be all things to all people.

It’s hardly the worst example of its kind however, and Rupert Gough, its organist, should be congratulated for putting together such a cunning programme of post-impressionistic French music which aesthetically comes off remarkably well. The neo-classical nature of the organ, with its slight lack of fundamental, all those cornets, and the reeds - even the chamades are cleverly used - are all exploited in an appropriate way. Only the fortissimo registrations, with the unavoidable screamy mixtures, really grate.

The inclusion of the unknown repertoire is also welcome. The Noël pieces by Guy Morançon are in fact ‘off colour’ - at least slightly acerbic, neo-classical - versions, one might say, of the Noël genre so loved  by the French organists of the 18th century. He goes as far as to use the typical registration combinations and textures found in such pieces, and adds interest by utilising Noël themes not used by Balbastre, Dandrieu, Daquin et al. Morançon is organist of Notre-Dame-des-Victoires in Paris, and a former student of Dupré and Messiaen. Pasquet’s pieces are less derivative, using the distinctively colourful melodies from Brittany to create tuneful character pieces, more impressionistic, in texture at least, than the other works on the CD. They remind me a little of Eugene Reuchsel’s Bouquet de France. Pasquet is Professor of Analysis at the École Normale de Musique in Paris.

While I would have enjoyed some more photos, this is well presented, well conceived, and clever enough to hold my interest, despite the not-terribly-interesting organ. As with previous releases, Rupert Gough plays with commitment and an excellent sense of timing and, especially, colour. I look forward to future releases from him.

Chris Bragg


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