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Louis VIERNE (1870-1937)
Deux Pièces, Op 7 (1893-95) [4:35]
Suite bourguignonne, Op 17 (1899) [19:16]
Trois Nocturnes, Op 34 (1915) [23:26]
Poème des cloches funèbres, Op 39 No 2. Le Glas (1916) [4:48]
Silhouettes d'enfants, Op 43 (1918) [10:35]
Sergio Monteiro (piano)
rec. December 2020, Oklahoma City University¸ USA
NAXOS 8.574296 [59:59]

Louis Vierne - a tragically assailed figure - is known for his organ works but there is much else besides and it is not without beguilement.

This is the first volume in Naxos series of the complete Piano Works of Vierne and plays for a second short of an hour. It steps into the gap left by the sad departure of the Timpani 2CD set as this elite label ceased to exist a few years ago. There’s a compelling case for licensing this invaluable catalogue wholesale.
The Two Pieces and the Suite were written during the nineteenth century. The Pieces are the Impression d'automne which speaks of a coolingly placid autumn (no sign of Glazunov’s buffeting gales and flurrying leaves) and a much more animated little Intermezzo which presses forward all the time.

The Burgundy Suite sets out its impressions of the Burgundy region: I. Aubade; II. Idylle; III. Divertissement; IV. Légende bourguignonne; V. À l'Angélus du soir; VI. Danse rustique; VII. Clair de lune. The Aubade spares us a morning stretch and yawn and flies along with poetic wings and musculature. The whole set reaches towards impressionism. The final Clair de Lune both warms and charms. The region also drew music from Vierne’s contemporary and countryman Maurice Emmanuel (1862-1938) in his Sonatine No. 1, Op. 4 Bourguignonne; and the same composer’s orchestral song-cycle Chansons Bourguignonnes du Pays de Beaune

The Three Nocturnes (each substantial in duration and style) are from the midst of the Great War. The titles are La Nuit avait envahi la nef de la cathédrale; Au splendide mois de mai lorsque les bourgeons rompaient l'ecorce; La Lumière rayonnait des Astres de la nuit, le rossignol chantait. Any lightness of mood is expelled in these pieces. They seem to speak of a world upturned and tonality is at times adrift - certainly in the second piece. The clouds are thinned but not driven away and a rather milky light beams down in the nightingale voice heard in the last of the Nocturnes.

The Poème des cloches funèbres, Op. 39: No. 2. Le Glas, also hails from the core years of the Great War. It is sombre and impressive and would pair nicely with Holbrooke’s war-time piano piece The Barrage.

The Silhouettes d'enfants suite was written coming out of the War and recaptures - no doubt not without a struggle - a much desired immersion in innocence. The music soothes and skitters. Its short movements (each dedicated to the five children of the Comtesse du Boisrouvray) are: Valse; Chanson; Divertissement; Barcarolle and Gavotte dans le style ancien. They were written during an extended stay in Lausanne while he was receiving treatment for his blindness.

Peter Siepmann’s notes are difficult to fault; you are unlikely to be tempted to try. The sound - which is of forward projected clarity - complements the unfamiliar music. The performances by Sergio Monteiro instil confidence that we are hearing this unfamiliar music to best advantage. He conveys a sense of touch that encompasses, without hard edges, both the gentlest confidences and the most climactic oratory. Further volumes, please.

Rob Barnett

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