Rolande Falcinelli was a French organist,
teacher and composer. She studied at the Paris Conservatoire
under Marcel Dupré and Henri Büsser, and won the coveted Prix
de Rome in 1942. She established a reputation as one of the
leading organ teachers of her time, and was a prolific composer,
writing for solo organ, orchestra, ballet and chamber ensemble.
It is hard to think of French organ music without
Messiaen coming to mind. Falcinelli began composing before she
started to play the organ, but it is not surprising that Messiaen
was an influence. Her music is quite different from his, though,
and the influence of Marcel Dupré was also strong. Dupré was
her teacher and mentor, and she performed most of his works
Azan is an enticing work for flute and
organ, based on texts from the Koran and demonstrating Falcinelli’s
interest in Eastern cultures, which came initially from her
mother, an artist who lived in Saigon for some time and developed
a passion for the culture of the Far East. The organ writing
is particularly interesting, with some dark low-pitched sounds
in the fourth movement (on the day that the hour of reckoning
will be established…) which give the instrument a menacing
percussive quality. The flute lines are rhapsodic, providing
a stark contrast to the organ and representing the sound of
the ney flute through the use of idiosyncratic ornamentation.
Cor Jesu Sacratissimum begins with an
opening flourish of plain chant, and quickly moves into the
realms of Falcinelli’s chromatic language. In the form of a
Passacaglia, this work makes full use of the possibilities available
to Falcinelli as organist at the Sacré Coeur in Paris.
Krishna-Gopala is a work for solo flute,
which, as the title suggests, once again demonstrates an interest
in the Orient. The piece has the feel of an improvisation, and
takes the form of a set of variations in different moods. Krishna
is an Indian God who is revered as one of the mystical flute
players, along with Pan and others.
The other works on the disc are for solo organ.
Cortège Funèbre, as one would expect, takes on a dark
tone. Falcinelli makes use of far–reaching sounds and harmonies
which enthrall the audience. A deeply moving work, this miniature
is a true gem in the repertoire.
Initiation à l’Orgue is a set of short
studies for organ, which fuses musicality with technical development.
Less heavy than the liturgical works, the last three studies
are heard here. The first develops rapid finger technique, and
contrasts with the second, which is more chordal in texture
and resembles an improvisation. The third study is richly layered,
with spiky rhythmic toccatas accompanied by pedal melodies,
recorded here in two different versions.
Litanies, Rondel and Fugue is a triptych
of pieces which forms Falcinelli’s first composition for organ,
composed while she was studying at the Paris Conservatoire.
Litanies opens with a held pedal note, over which the
music develops. The piece emerges with a natural sense of development
of the lines, showing already considerable talent at a young
age. Although texturally simpler than her later works, the language
is already richly chromatic, and the climactic moments are highly
memorable. Rondel is lighter, featuring keyboard glissandi,
a technique whose first use on the organ was attributed to Falcinelli.
The Fugue uses more traditional compositional techniques
but maintains an originality of language which characterizes
The playing on this disc is excellent. Philippe
Brandeis was a pupil of Rolande Falcinelli, and shows a deep
understanding of her music in his interpretation. He is joined
by Elise Battais, a flute player who has a strong interest in
modern music and practical knowledge of traditional bamboo flute-playing
techniques, which combine to enable well informed performances
of Falcinelli’s Eastern influenced works.