Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

Great Organ Works of César Franck
Pièce Héroïque. Three Chorals. Prélude, Fugue et Variation.

Catharine Crozier (organ).
Delos DE3272 [DDD] [59'01]
 £11.99  AmazonUS $14.22

This is an extremely well recorded disc of organ music. The instrument in question is the Great Marcussen Pipe Organ in Wiedermann Hall, Wichita State University, Kansas, and Delos' producer/engineer John Eargle has succeeded in capturing its wealth of timbre.

As Eargle's own sparse notes point out, Franck's major organ works fit comfortably on to two discs, and if this is what is required, then Marie-Claire Alain's 1995 set on Erato 0630-12706-2 would seem a wise choice (she plays the Cavaillé-Coll organ in Saint-Etienne, Caen, France).

Catharine Crozier's curriculum vitae makes for impressive reading. She was a member of the faculty of Eastman School of Music between 1938 and 1955 and has sat on juries of organ competitions throughout the World, including Bruges, Chartres and St Albans. Certainly there is a confidence about her playing which is most reassuring: she seems totally at home in Franck's musical language and is able to elucidate the structure of these works well. She captures the cumulative, slow-moving progress of the Pièce Héroïque, whose solemn majesty is testament to Franck's stature in this genre. Crozier also impresses in the late Three Chorals of 1890. The toccata-like aspects of the B minor Chorale (the third) have real clarity, and she projects the improvisational passages well. Moreover, there is an amazing variety of texture to enjoy throughout these fairly substantial pieces.

The tempos for the Prélude, Fugue et Variation, Op. 18 are carefully chosen so that the opening Andantino cantabile can contrast with the following Lento. The final section (Andantino) is as peaceful as one could wish.

Colin Clarke



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