One of the most grown-up review sites around
One of the most grown-up review sites around

Search MusicWeb Here


International mailing

Up to 40% off

  Founder: Len Mullenger

Some items
to consider

Yes we are selling
Acte Prealable again!
£11 post-free

we also sell Skarbo

and Oboe Classics


with Eggebrecht we get all the excitement we can handle

Book 1 Book 2 Book3
Mota The Triptych: -Website

Asmik Grigorian

Breathtaking Performance
controversial staging
Review Westbrook
Review Hedley
Every lover of Salome should see this recording
Mullenger interpretation

Vraiment magnifique!

Quite splendid

Winning performances

Mahler Symphony 8
a magnificent disc

a huge talent

A wonderful disc

Weinberg Symphonies 2 & 21
A handsome tribute!

Roth’s finest Mahler yet

Mahler 9 Blomstedt
Distinguished performance



We are currently offering in excess of 51,800 reviews

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels

Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


CD: AmazonUK AmazonUS

Louis VIERNE (1870-1937)
24 Pièces de fantaisie: Part II
Suite II, Op.53 (1926)
Suite IV, Op.55 (1927)
Kay Johannsen (Kern organ)
rec. Frauenkirche, Dresden, German, 24-29 May 2008. DDD.
Co-production of Carus Verlag and Stiftung Frauenkirche Dresden.
CARUS 83.251 [75:42]

Experience Classicsonline

Reviewing an earlier Carus recording of Vierne (Symphonies 3 and 5, 83.405 - see review), I expressed my surprise that the Kern organ in the Dresden Frauenkirche lent itself so well to French music of this period. That recording, like the new one, proclaims Viernes Orgelwerke on the front cover and the Carus website refers to the new recording as a Fortsetzung der Gesamteinspielung der Orgelwerke von Louis Vierne bei Carus, so I’m happy to report that I was right to assume that a complete series is in the making. The new CD is the successor to an earlier recording by Kay Johannsen of the other Pièces de fantaisie, Op.51 and Op.53.

The Pièces de fantaisie are less well known than Vierne’s Organ Symphonies, apart from the famous Carillon de Westminster from Suite III; there seems to be only one rival recording of all four currently available (Olivier Latry on BNL112742, 2 CDs). Though they contain some fine music, there are occasional longueurs unless they are played by a performer thoroughly in tune with their idiom.

I haven’t had access to Latry’s performances but, as Vierne’s successor at Notre Dame, he can be expected to be in touch with the idiom of the music and these CDs were well received when they appeared in 1990. If the video on YouTube where he plays the Toccata from Suite II on the Notre Dame organ is anything to judge by, I’m impressed. He takes a little longer than Johannsen but he brings out the debt to Bach and the power of the music even more clearly.

Johannsen is an esteemed interpreter of the German organ tradition: Glynn Pursglove was very impressed with his recording of Advent and Christmas music on Carus 83.179, a recording which he thought too good for just Christmas - see review; Chris Bragg liked the music and the performances but the organ left him ‘stone-cold’ - see review.

On the other hand, CB thought Johannsen’s playing of Liszt (Carus 83.171) less instinctive, remarking that it sounds “dark, supple, sometimes very atmospheric, and very musical, if, for my taste a little cold” - see review - which pretty well sums up my feelings about the Vierne.

Carus have chosen as their default illustration of the recording on their homepage a sample from the opening movement, Lamento, of Suite II. This will give you an idea of Johannsen’s way with the quieter sections of the music, but click on the word Hörproben and you’ll be able to hear mp3 samples from the other movements. Don’t judge the quality of the performances overall by that opening movement or the by the other reflective movements such as the following Sicilienne; there were times when I thought that Johannsen was just a little bored in those quieter moments and I much preferred his playing in the more extrovert pieces.

Listening to these extracts won’t, of course, let you hear the full majesty of the recorded sound, especially in the larger-scale movements which close each Suite, Toccata (track 6) and Les cloches de Hinckley (tr.12), where Johannsen’s playing can be heard at its best. The latter deserves to be as popular as the Carillon de Westminster, especially when played as well as it is here. I have heard this piece taken more quickly, but Johannsen’s pace is totally convincing.

The notes are rather brief and, in the English translation at least, an abridgement of the German original, tell us little about the individual movements. I should have thought it likely that English readers would have wanted to know about the reference to the bells of Hinckley (tr.12) but only the German original refers (briefly) to the influence of change-ringing on the structure of this piece. The Carus website mentions Vierne’s fascination with cathedrals, and, indeed, the third movement of Suite IV is entitled Cathédrales (tr.9), but Hinckley, situated between Leicester and Coventry, boasts only a parish church; Vierne must have heard its bell-ringers in action on one of his visits to England in the early 1920s. I think most listeners would have sacrificed the photocopy of the autograph score of the first page of Clair de lune on p.5 in order to have had more information about the music.

In another respect, the booklet is very helpful; like the recording of the Symphonies, it contains a full specification of the Kern organ in the Frauenkirche. Designed to replace the original 1736 Silbermann organ, destroyed in the bombing of Dresden, its specification was specifically planned to build on the Franco-German heritage of its predecessor. Silbermann had received his training in Strasbourg, long before the days of Cavaillé-Coll, of course, some of whose principles were incorporated into the new Frauenkirche instrument, thereby ‘honoring the memory of Silbermann while also enabling the organist to play 19th and 20th century music with conviction’, as Hans Musch’s note puts it.

On the whole Kay Johannsen’s playing does present the music convincingly enough, combined with good recording, for me to consider obtaining the earlier CD containing his performances of the other two Suites of Pièces (83.250). You might just want to check out that Latry recording, though, if you get the chance.

Brian Wilson 



Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.