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CD: Fuga

Organ Era Volume 14: Cavaillé-Coll à Paris
Kalevi KIVINIEMI (b. 1958)
Improvisation: Suite francaise: Caprice héroique - hommage à Aristide Cavaillé-Coll [3:58] Souvenir - hommage à Madame Dupré [3:54] Carillon - hommage à Marcel Dupré [3:13]
Marcel DUPRÉ (1886-1971)
L’Annonciation, Op. 56 (1956)
Méditation 1 [4:45]
Méditation 2 [4:18]
Magnificat (Versets sur les Vêpres de la Vierge, Op. 18) (1919) [1:59]
Le Vitrail de Saint-Ouen, Op. 65 (1965) [8:14]
Improvisation: Toccata - hommage à Albert Dupré [2:20]
Henri NIBELLE (1883-1966)
Toccata [4:01]
César FRANCK (1822-1890)
Pastorale, Op. 19 (1862) [10:18]
Felix Alexandre GUILMANT (1837-1911)
Sonate 3, Op 56 (1881)
Preludio [4:26]
Adagio [3:49
Fuga [3:24]
Charles-Marie WIDOR (1844-1937)
Toccata (Symphonie No. 5, Op. 45/1) (1880) [5:21]
Andante sostenuto (Symphonie No. 9 ‘Gothique’, Op. 70) (1895) [5:36]
Final (Symphonie No. 8, Op. 42/4) (1887/1890) [6:19]
Kalevi Kiviniemi (organ)
rec. 8-10 October 2008, Abbey Church of Saint-Ouen, Rouen, France
FUGA 9282 [77:00]
Experience Classicsonline

Who is Kalevi Kiviniemi? I hadn’t heard of him either until I came across a YouTube clip of him improvising on Waltzing Matilda at the organ of Melbourne Town Hall. Even allowing for the limitations of my PC sound card this had me searching the web for more. It appears this Finnish-born organist has just recorded his 100th disc for a small, home-grown label called Fuga, who only sell via their online shop. Make no mistake, though, there’s nothing amateurish about the hybrid discs in this OrganEra series, which have already been praised elsewhere. As for the instruments chosen, they are among the finest in the world.

The Cavaillé-Coll organ in the Abbey Church of Saint-Ouen is no exception; indeed, when Kiviniemi lets rip one can very easily feel intimidated by the sheer weight of sound produced. He kicks off with three improvisations, the first of which is dedicated to the organ-builder Aristide Cavaillé-Coll. Not surprisingly Kiviniemi exploits every facet of this instrument, whose roaring bass and pedals won’t so much rattle the rafters as crack the foundations. Contrast that with the gentle, almost ethereal start to the second piece, a hommage to the wife of organist-composer Marcel Dupré, and you soon begin to appreciate the breadth of Kiviniemi’s talent. He draws the most diaphanous sounds from this unruly beast, which then reverts to type in the lumbering Carillon, dedicated to Dupré himself.

Recording in vast Gothic spaces such as this presents all sorts of technical challenges, and judging by these opening flourishes Kiviniemi’s sound engineer Mika Koivusalo has done a splendid job. My review is confined to the stereo SACD layer, which is staggering in its depth and detail, and I can only guess at the overwhelming impression this music must make in its multi-channel form. That said, I found it useful to cut back on the volume a little, in order to hear the music’s inner voices. Hifi nuts will probably take the opposite view, in which case be prepared to give your sound system a hammering.

The two Méditations by Dupré are another matter entirely. Kiviniemi articulates these gravely beautiful pieces with great care and sensitivity, matching the organ’s pellucid upper registers with firm, but judicious, use of bass and pedals. Such is the three-dimensionality of this recording that it really is like being there. The brief Magnificat (Gloria) rolls and thunders around the church to thrilling effect, the more subdued Vitrail (rose window) radiantly beautiful. Not since Volume I of Audité’s Franck series, played on the Goll organ at Memmingen (see review) have I encountered playing that moves so easily between flamboyance and finesse.

The first Toccata, Kiviniemi’s hommage to Albert Dupre, Marcel’s father and one-time organist at Saint-Ouen, is broadly conceived, the second, by Henri Nibelle, much more focused on intricate details. Kiviniemi voices the latter very well indeed, the rising figures underpinned at the end by those glorious pedals. And then there’s Franck’s Pastorale, rhythmically alert and shimmering with iridescent colours. A gem, made even more desirable when it’s made to sparkle like this. Without doubt, this is musicianship of the highest order, and a tantalising glimpse of what we can expect from Kiviniemi’s Franck disc - Fuga 9281 - which I shall review soon.

The Sonata by Marcel Dupre’s teacher, Felix Alexandre Guilmant, begins with a rather opaque Prelude - not the most endearing of openers - before modulating into a serene Adagio, shot through with delicate colours. Again, the remarkable recording picks out the tiniest threads in this huge musical tapestry. The closing Fugue is less colourful but no less well played. Curiously, it’s the ubiquitous Toccata from Widor’s Symphonie No. 5 that fails to thrill. It’s overexposed - probably overrated, too - and while it sounds magnificent on this recording there are more urgent performances available from the likes of Simon Preston. The Andante sostenuto and Finale may be less well known but they are more satisfying, the bell-like figures of the former hanging as if suspended in the gloom. Kiviniemi lets the beast out of its cage in the Finale, which certainly makes for a fitting end to a fine recital.

Good organ records aren’t hard to find but exceptional ones are very rare; this is one of the latter, a joy from start to finish. The programme is well chosen and that, combined with jaw-dropping sonics, makes this a must for organ buffs. What’s more, the disc sounds just as thrilling on CD as it does on SACD, so there’s no need to feel short-changed if you don’t have high-res equipment.

Dan Morgan 



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