Rolande FALCINELLI (1920-2006)
Rolande Falcinelli (organ)
rec. 1979-1986, see below for track listings and details
track listing at end of review
HORTUS 079 [73:38]
Rolande Falcinelli is a name I suspect may not be hugely familiar beyond the world of organists, and French organist/composers in particular. The Hortus label has been raising her profile in recent times and these pages carry Chris Bragg’s review of her recital on Hortus 038. There is a programme of her own compositions which has appeared on Hortus 059 which was warmly received by Carla Rees. Organ improvisation is a form of musical creativity which is traceable to the famous duels of the Baroque period and beyond. Organists are still trained in the skills required to keep a church service going while the queues form for blessings, but few players demonstrate the creative powers demonstrated on this set of recordings.
Rolande Falcinelli was introduced to the organ by a conservatoire classmate Gaston Litaize, and was soon rubbing shoulders with Olivier Messiaen and Maurice Duruflé and receiving guidance from Marcel Dupré, whom she succeeded as professor in organ at the Paris Conservatoire. This powerful and noble tradition can clearly be heard in the playing on this collection of improvisations. The first of these, Improvisation sur les noms de Franz Liszt et de Marcel Dupré has a palpable relationship with the dramatic gestures of Messiaen. This is the most recent of the recordings, and the later performances fare best in terms of sound quality, though each has its own little noises from the instrument and audience. There are a few moments of distortion on some of the earlier tapes at the highest peaks, but in general the recordings are very good, and certainly filled with vibrant atmosphere. The tuning of the instruments is also a minor issue, but none of this detracts from the flamboyant and daring inventiveness of Falcinelli at work.
The improvisations often commence with a rendition of the theme on which the playing is based, and it is fascinating to hear how the material is moulded and transformed. Improvisation is a ‘risky’ business, and there are one or two moments of unevenness: the occasional lingering on a banal rhythm, one or two exploratory slips of the fingers or a sense that the logic of a progression or a texture is having to be retrieved from the brink, but the overall impression is one of unique creations unfolding through stunning technique and remarkable inventiveness and imagination. If like mine your tastes embrace 20th century organ music and the French school in particular, then this CD provides a feast of refreshing new material.
Genuine organ improvisation of this kind hasn’t been covered on very many recordings, and the only other one I know is that of Jean Guillou playing at Saint-Eustache from 1969 on the Philips label, 446 644-2. Guillou is more off-the-wall and even anti-tradition in comparison to Falcinelli, freewheeling and exploring the sonorities and tuning of the instrument in a line which might arguably extend more towards the experimental composition of György Ligeti and artists such as Keith Jarrett on his fascinating Hymns/Spheres release on ECM. All three players are entirely distinct in their approach, and in their ways equal in terms of impact. Rolande Falcinelli might be more recognisably traditional in terms of background and approach, but she is also something a bit special. I can feel my spine tingling at the mixture of colours and surreal atmosphere of the Improvisation sur deux thèmes de Jean-Jacques Werner and am truly grateful that these moments have been preserved on record.
Dominy Clements
Flamboyant and daring inventiveness.
Track listing:
Improvisation sur les noms de Franz Liszt et de Marcel Dupré (pour le centenaire de la mort du premier et de la naissance du second), Cathédrale de Belley, 25 July 1986 [13:40]

Improvisation sur un thème d'Eliane Lejeune-Bonnier, Cathédrale de Belley, 21 July 1980 [10:19]

Improvisation sur un thème de Claude-R. Roland, et sur B-A-C-H (pour le tricentenaire de la naissance de Bach), Cathédrale de Belley, 17 July 1985 [14:42]

Improvisation sur un hymne à Saint-Anthelme, Cathédrale de Belley, 17 November 1979 [13:16]

Improvisation sur deux thèmes de Jean-Jacques Werner, Cathédrale Saint-Louis de Versailles, 17 October 1982 [10:25]

Improvisation sur un thème de Maurice Duruflé, Saint-Etienne-du-Mont, 8 June 1983 [10:38]