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Jacques BOYVIN (c.1649-1706)
Suites from the Premier and Second Livres d’Orgue
French Organ Music from The Golden Age, Volume 6
Details after review
David Ponsford (Organ of Saint-Michel, Bolbec)
rec. 2017, Saint-Michel, Bolbec
Organ specification and registration for each piece included
Reviewed as lossless (wav) press preview.
NIMBUS ALLIANCE NI6358 [79:00 + 78:20]

These two CDs offer an almost complete recording of Boyvin’s two books of organ works.  An earlier and even more complete recording, on two separate 2-CD sets, from Michel Chapuis, is now download only (Plenum Vox PV011 and 012), which makes this latest addition to the Nimbus Alliance series of recordings of Golden Age French organ music timely.  There’s always a suspicion that a particular composer may be less well-known deservedly but, on the basis of this recording, that’s assuredly not the case with Boyvin.

Earlier volumes in the series have offered both familiar and unfamiliar music, sometimes combined, as on NI6213, where Couperin’s relatively well-known Messe pour les couvents is paired, not as often with the Messe pour les paroisses, but with the organ music of Pierre DuMage – review.

As recently as January 2018, Johan van Veen was praising David Ponsford’s performances of the organ music of Nicolas de Grigny, albeit with some reservations about the accompanying chant (Volume 5, NI6342 – review).  In reviewing Volume 4, he had no such reservations (NI6292 – review).  Unfortunately, this sixth volume marks the end of the series.

Fortunately, there are no vocals on the Boyvin recordings to complicate the issue, just persuasive playing of the music by a scholarly performer, on an instrument of the period.  I’m almost as much impressed by the booklet notes on the organ – by Pierre Dubois – and the music – by David Ponsford – as I am by the performances.  We have always been able to rely on Hyperion for presentation of this quality and latterly on Toccata Classics, but this Nimbus Alliance release is equally informative and readable.

As on the earlier volumes, the focus of the recording is almost as much on the organ as on the music and a detailed history of how the four-manual Bolbec instrument came to be in its present condition is included in the booklet.  Though purchased as late as 1791, it had come from another church and though rebuilds would have taken it away from its original state, including additions from Cavaillé-Col, recent work has seen it restored to something like the state it was in when purchased, with a pitch of A=400Hz and unequal temperament after Sauveur (1702).

Organists will be pleased to find not only the specification of the organ but also the chosen registration for each track.  The rest of us can be content in the knowledge that the organ makes a good match for Boyvin’s music and that everything about these performances sounds right.  Comparison with a recording of three of Boyvin's Suites, performed by Bruno Morin on a single CD (Triton TRI331108 - streamed from Naxos Music Library) was largely in Ponsford’s favour, though Morin’s recording would make a good shorter introduction to the composer.

This new release should help to establish the organ music of Boyvin in the repertoire, with excellent performances on an appropriate instrument, well recorded and with informative notes.  A very fine conclusion to a distinguished series.

I understand from Nimbus that David Ponsford will be expanding his project and another recording will be made in June 2018. This will explore the music of Louis Marchand (1669-1732). That is good news indeed.

Brian Wilson

Premier livre d’orgue contenant les huit tons (1690)
Suite 1: Premier ton [18:17]
Suite 2: Second ton [16:42]
Suite 5: Cinquième ton [15:10]
Suite 6: Sixième ton [15:29]
Suite 7: Septième ton [13:22] 
Suite 8: Huitième ton [13:35]
Second livre d’orgue contenant les huit tons (1700)
Suite 1: Premier ton [14:22]
Suite 3: Troisième ton [14:46]
Suite 4: Quatrième ton [14:38]
Suite 5: Cinquième ton [20:59]



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