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La saveur des dissonances
Jean-Pierre Rolland (organ, Bénigne Boillot, 1768)
rec. 6-8 July 2009, Église Saint Jean Baptiste of Saint Jean de Losne, France. DDD
HORTUS 072 [69:03]

Experience Classicsonline

Giovanni DE MACQUE (1550-1614)
Capriccio sopra ré fa mi sol [05:24]
Antonio DE CABEZÓN (1510-1566)
Diferencias sobre el Canto del Cavallero [02:59]
François ROBERDAY (1624-1680)
Fugue deuxième, suivie d'un caprice sur le même sujet [04:31]
Jean-Pierre ROLLAND (b1972)
Trois études pour l'orgue de Saint Jean de Losne: 1. Diffraction [03:05]
Louis COUPERIN (1626-1661)
Prélude (1654) [04:23]
Fantaisie (récit de basse) (1656) [02:52]
Fugue (1656) [01:39]
Jean-Pierre ROLLAND
Trois études pour l'orgue de Saint Jean de Losne: 2. Polychronisme [02:47]
Juan CABANILLES (1644-1712)
Tiento por A la mi re [07:02]
Louis MARCHAND (1669-1732)
Récit (1er Livre) [04:13]
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695)
Voluntary for double organ in d minor (Z 719) [06:09]
Jean-Pierre ROLLAND
Trois études pour l'orgue de Saint Jean de Losne: 3. Fulminescences [06:34]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Fughetta super Wir glauben all' an einen Gott (BWV 681) [01:30]
Johann Jacob FROBERGER (1616-1667)
Capriccio VIII [04:39]
Georg MUFFAT (1653-1704)
Toccata VII [11:08]

The title of this disc means "the appeal of the dissonances". As Jean-Pierre Rolland states in his liner-notes: "[The] programme has a common denominator in the art of dissonance and ornamentation". This should serve as a justification for playing music from four centuries on a single organ. It’s a practice that seldom produces satisfactory results because the repertoire is so different in style and character. That is also the case here.
The organ was originally built in 1765-68 by Bénigne Boillot. It underwent various 'restorations' - meaning: adaptations to contemporary taste - during the 19th century. In 1852 Bernard Rothé cut the pipes to raise the organ's pitch. There is no reference to the tuning of the organ. But that is essential in this case as Jean-Pierre Rolland has chosen pieces which are remarkable because of their dissonances. It is crystal clear that dissonances in music of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries can only be experienced to the full in other than modern equal temperament. In most cases some sort of mean-tone temperament is most appropriate. This organ has a more modern tuning, probably even equal temperament.
In his notes Jean-Pierre Rolland quotes the French organ composer Jehan Titelouze: "As a painter uses shadows in order to enhance daylight and brightness, so do we mix dissonances and consonances (...) to enhance the mellowness of the latter". Rolland characterises this practice as "harmonic chiaroscuro". This reflects the aesthetic ideals of the baroque era, as in particular in the early 17th century a number of composers experimented with harmony and included some very spicy harmonic progressions in their compositions. Giovanni de Macque was one of them. He was born in Flanders and went to Naples where he also died. He was the first to write so-called durezze e ligature, which was to become an important element in Italian keyboard music of the 17th century. The words mean "discords" and "suspensions", a clear indication of their harmonic character. The dissonances in his works, including the Capriccio sopra ré fa mi sol played here, are only really noticeable in a mean-tone temperament.
The same is true for most other compositions Jean-Pierre Rolland has chosen for his programme. It includes three pieces by Louis Couperin, mainly known for his harpsichord music. He also wrote a considerable number of organ pieces, and the three played here are certainly remarkable from a harmonic point of view. Rolland even writes that "the melodic outline in the first measure of the fugue evokes a kind of serialism!". That hardly comes off on this organ.
In fact, the whole concept of this disc is seriously undermined because of the tuning of the organ which is not appropriate for the largest part of the programme. The playing of Rolland is correct and in line with the principles of the historical performance practice. His interpretations are not really captivating and quite often boredom intruded. Purcell's Voluntary for double organ in d minor is a quite exciting piece, but here is rather flat and slow.
Rolland also plays three pieces of his own. The subtitles of his Trois études pour l'orgue de Saint Jean de Losne, which are specifically written for this organ and this recording, refer to the kind of effects he wants to achieve. The first is Diffraction: "The simultaneous sounding of a pure major 10th (...) and its tempered version (...) creates diffraction - a harmonic vibrato considered here as a dissonance in timbre". The second is Polychronisme: "The superposition of three different beats generates slight rhythmic shifts within a thick three-layered (...) texture of repeated notes." The third is Fulminiscences: "The title refers to a succession of dazzling, unmeasured ornaments, interspersed with rests, the duration of which is left to the performer's choice." I leave the assessment of these pieces to people who know their way around contemporary music. Let me just say that this is not my cup of tea.
So, the interpretations of the baroque era compositions are rather disappointing. The concept is certainly interesting, but fails to make much impression because of the use of an organ with inappropriate tuning. Add to these points that Rolland’s interpretations aren’t very enthralling anyway.
Johan van Veen
























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