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Jonathan Woolf
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Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Pénélope: Prélude (1913) (transcr. for organ by Guillaume Le Dréau) [7:31]
Claude DELVINCOURT (1888-1954)
Trois pièces for organ (1911-12) [21:10]
Henri RABAUD (1873-1949)
La Procession nocturne (1897) (transcr. Le Dréau) [14:31]
Maurice EMMANUEL (1862-1938)
Andantino [4:43]
Jean ROGER-DUCASSE (1873-1954)
Pastorale (1909) [11:25]
Florent SCHMITT (1870-1958)
Marche nuptial (1947) [6:32]
Guillaume Le Dréau (organ)
rec. June 2016, Organ of St Pierre Cathedral, Rennes

This sequence of organ music is enlivened by the fact that soloist Guillaume Le Dreau has been responsible for two transcriptions and that altogether there are five world premiere performances to be heard. The composers are not especially known for organ music though most share a link of some kind with Fauré, whose prelude to Pénélope, heard in the organist’s transcription, is the first item in the programme. This arrangement manages to capture the music’s subdued and sombre quality as well as its increasing anguish and moments of outburst. The re-exposition is also well handled, and it’s a tribute to the organist’s work that this all sounds as idiomatic as it does.

Forgotten Records is doing good work on behalf of the music of Claude Delvincourt and this is another example, his Three Pieces for organ of which only the last, Sortie de fête, has been recorded before. The pieces were written early in his compositional career, when he was in his early to mid-twenties, and includes the triumphant confidence of the opening Marche d’église – which has just enough harmonic grit to retain interest – and the ‘starry, starry night’ effects of the luminous and warmly modulating Méditation. That final piece is strikingly engaging, thematically varied and somewhat reminiscent of Franck and Widor. With a fugato and transfigured March it ends in a blaze of glory. It was quite brave of Le Dreau to transcribe Rabaud’s long 1897 symphonic poem after Lenau’s Faust, La Procession nocturne. The fact that it sustains its quarter-hour length is due to hothouse Franckian drama cross-pollinated with Wagnerianisms. Together, as so often, the result is intense but rather lugubrious.

Clearly the organist has an ear for piquant contrasts because Maurice Emmanuel’s Andantino, with its elfin registrations, is full of lightness and charm. If you know the Sonatines, you’ll know to expect warmth and grace and this piece, a kind of double lied, is no exception. Roger-Ducasse’s 1909 Pastorale is his only piece for organ and dedicated to Nadia Boulanger. The sun-dappled delicacy of its opening is deceptive as the ensuing free variations lead to a toccata – rich, powerful and sinewy – that gradually gives way to the kind of delicacy heard at the opening, all passion spent. And finally, there is Florent Schmitt’s Marche nuptiale, a bold, confident piece written for his friends’ wedding. By turns grandiloquent and sensitive, Schmitt is savvy enough to instruct the organist to skip passages ‘if the celebrants seem impatient’.

This is a well programmed disc from the heartland of the French repertoire but without any established pieces from the genre. The perceptive notes are by the organist himself. The organ specification is given. There’s a bit of ambient noise at the beginning and end of pieces but it is not noticeable otherwise. There’s much to enjoy and entertain here.

Jonathan Woolf

Previous review: Stephen Greenbank


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