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French Impressions
Ermend BONNAL (1880-1944)
Paysages Euskariens [18:12]
Jean ROGER-DUCASSE (1873-1954)
Pastorale [11:59]
Louis VIERNE (1870-1937)
Scherzo from 6eme Symphonie op. 59 [4:26]
Pierre COCHEREAU (1924-1986)
Berceuse [7:21]
Maurice DURUFLÉ (1902-1986)
Suite op. 5 [23:01]
Daniel Bruun (organ)
rec. 29 September-1 October 2012, Aarhus Cathedral, Denmark

“The painting  Water Lilies by Claude Monet is painted with unblended, visible brush strokes of mostly the same width. Only few of the many brushstrokes are thinner. In this painting the painter might have used only a limited variety of brush sizes. However the brushstrokes do have different lengths and directions of movement. Different elements in the painting are depicted with different kinds of strokes.” Marina Abramovic
Hands up if this quote from a formal analysis of Monet’s most famous work gives you the overall sense of the mood the painter wanted to convey. Anyone? No I can’t say that this formal piece of writing is particularly helpful but that wasn’t its purpose. Monet certainly springs to mind when listening to this CD, as it did to the performer Daniel Bruun when he wrote the liner-notes.
The first piece, by little known composer Bonnal, certainly conjures an overall sense of colour for which impressionist art, both visual and musical, is known. Without becoming pedantic about brush size, Denmark’s largest organ manages the world of this music with surprisingly French-sounding colours. This is also the case in Vierne’s Scherzo from the sixth Symphonie. The opening colours, mutation and reed combined, give the piece a light-hearted and cheeky feel, something which Bruun capitalises on. Personally, I like this movement a little faster but Bruun’s performance is concerned with clarity which is no bad thing. For an emotional contrast - Cochereau’s Berceuse in memory of Vierne is a masterpiece in the use of tonality. Combining Vierne’s tonal palette with Cochereau’s spontaneous brilliance this piece is a worthy contribution to this CD.
The main work on this CD, Duruflé’s Suite, is truly stonking, not a word I use often. This is the sort of piece which really sorts the men from the boys and Bruun’s performance is majestic and confident. The first movement is well judged, with the transition into the lyrical section prepared in advance. The middle movement, Sicilienne uses wonderful earthy foundation stops at the beginning, followed by a rich string sound. Again, some performances of this are played more quickly. This time I fully support Bruun’s tempo choice, the legato and phrasing are exquisitely handled. The Toccata, a whirlwind of figurations, is as exciting as the Sicilienne is graceful. For a performance on a French organ I would recommend having a listen to Olivier Latry’s contribution (Intégrale De L'Oeuvre Pour Orgue BNL 112508). However, this performance of this piece alone causes me to name this disc as Record of the Month. Virtuosity combined with sensitivity and technical facility creates a wholly absorbing atmosphere and really brings this wonderful music to life, no brush-strokes are visible beyond the overall impression.  

Hannah Parry-Ridout