César FRANCK (1822-1890)
Trois Pièces (1878):
Fantaisie in A, M.35 [15:52]
Cantabile, M.36 [7:12]
Pièce Héroïque, M.37 [8:45]
Prélude, Fugue & Variation, op.18 (from Six Pièces, 1859-63) [11:05]
Choral (no.1) in E, M.38 (from Trois Chorals, 1890) [16:13]
Lionel Avot (organ)
rec. Notre-Dame de la Dalbade, Toulouse, July 2010. DDD
HORTUS 083 [59:09]
This is French organist Lionel Avot's first recording, not just for Hortus, but anywhere. He has been teaching organ at the Jehan Alain School in Épinay-sur-Orge near Paris since 1999. Given that he did not take up the organ until the age of 23 - after listening to a disc of Duruflé! - and that he is still quite young, he gives here a very confident performance of Franck's demanding music.
All the works on this disc have been recorded numerous times. Even though Avot's timings are on the slow side compared with many, there was plenty of room on this CD for Hortus to have added at least another Chorale or one or two further works from the so-called Six Pièces, which would have given listeners not only more for their money, but more time to consider Avot's technique or the individuality of the instrument. Nevertheless, the works recorded here are widely held to be among the very best of Franck's complex, imaginative, often disquieting organ music.
The Grand Orgue de l'Église de Notre-Dame de la Dalbade was inaugurated in 1888 by Charles-Marie Widor, and restored shortly before this recording. A full description of its registration can be found in the booklet. It is certainly a massive, impressive-sounding instrument - unfortunately no photos of it or the church are supplied - and the Gothic acoustic of the Notre-Dame serves it very well. The music is well recorded, although background rumble of the electrical interference and distant traffic kinds is quite noticeable in any quieter sections.
The CD booklet has a high-quality feel about it, and a curious, literary essay about Franck and his music in place of the more orthodox style of liner-note. The CD case itself is cardboard, with a flap for the booklet that is really too small to hold it for very long without tearing.
Though Avot's abilities are beyond doubt on this musical evidence, and Franck's genius as a composer for the organ irrefutable, this disc will appeal primarily to those who are particularly keen to hear this freshly restored instrument. On the other hand, for anyone new to Franck's extraordinary music, this is a fairly good place to start - the Heroic Piece is justly named, and the massive final passages of the Chorale in E will blow not only music-lovers' minds, but neighbours' windows (out).
Avot's abilities are beyond doubt and Franck's genius irrefutable however primarily for those keen to hear this freshly restored instrument.