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Confluences
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Prelude to Tristan and Isolde (1859) [10:31]
César FRANCK (1822-1890)
Fantasie in A major from Trois Pièces (1878) [14:44]
Samuel ROUSSEAU (1853-1904)
Fantasie for Organ (1894) [14:03]
Anton BRUCKNER (1824–1896) 
Adagio from Symphony No. 7 (1883) [21:17]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
At the Grave of Richard Wagner (1883) [4:39]
‘Funérailles’ from Harmonies poétiques et religieuses (1849) [13:26]
Maurice Clement (organ)
rec 2017, Church of St. Laurentius, Diekirch, Luxembourg
AEOLUS AE11141 SACD [79:08]

Maurice Clement here presents a thoughtfully curated programme of organ music. The title Confluences refers to a ‘process of merger’, in which selected works from a range of composers are contrasted. The underlying common denominator is Wagner, who was a significant influence on German and French composers from the mid-nineteenth century to the early twentieth. So, the Prelude from Tristan and Isolde, in an arrangement by Clement, is an ideal place to start. I was initially apprehensive as to how this orchestral work would adapt, but the arrangement works very well.

In 1883, on what would have been Wagner’s 70th birthday, Liszt composed his At the Grave of Richard Wagner. This brief work exists in versions for piano, organ and quartet with harp. It’s one of a series of epitaphs Liszt composed in memory of Wagner together with the two versions of La Lugubre gondola and R.W. - Venezia, the latter immediately following Wagner’s death. Its eldrich character is suitably portrayed, with the bells of Monsalvet, at the end, vividly captured. In similar vein we have ‘Funérailles’ from Harmonies poétiques et religieuses, a much earlier work dating from 1849. It sounds wonderful on the organ and provides a potent and dramatic finale.

Wagner’s enduring presence can be noted in Franck’s ‘Fantasie in A major’ from Trois Pièces (1878). With its heroism, romantic sweep and drama, embroidered with refined chromatic harmonies, the work makes a tremendous impact. The ‘Fantasie in E minor’ by Samuel Rousseau, a composer I have to admit I haven’t come across before, was written in memory of César Franck. It’s a boldly expressive piece, heightened with colourful harmonic brush strokes.

I am very taken with the arrangement of the Bruckner slow movement. In his Seventh Symphony, the composer pays homage to Wagner. The Adagio is inscribed “in memory of the deceased, much loved and immortal master”. Clement, responsible for this stunning transformation, coaxes myriad colours and sonorities from the organ with overwhelming effect.

The instrument is the Dalstein & Haerpfer/Manufacture d'orgues Thomas Organ (1870/2016) of St. Laurentius Church, Diekirch, in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. The Aeolus engineers have done a marvellous job in capturing the splendours of its magnificence in splendid SACD sound. Clement’s imaginative registration choices showcase the organ’s many colours and sonorities. Combining both German and French influences, its hybrid nature is particularly suited to the selection of music on display. I enjoyed this disc immensely and it gets my enthusiastic endorsement.

Stephen Greenbank

 



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