Symphonies Spectacular and Sublime - Volume 4
Marcel DUPRÉ (1886-1971)
Preludes and Fugues in B major [8:44]; F minor [7:55]; G minor [9:15]
César FRANCK (1822-1890)
Three Chorals: E major [13:49]; B minor [13:58]; A minor [12:20]
Florence Mustric (organ)
rec. January-February 2007, Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Cleveland, Ohio, USA
MSR CLASSICS MS1273 [66:01]

This CD is the fourth in a series entitled Symphonies Spectacular and Sublime. This rather confusing title really refers to the French Organ Tradition, which can be traced directly from teacher to student from César Franck to Messiaen and beyond. This tradition is very much centred on the instruments built by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll which were ground-breaking in their technological advancements as well as the symphonic sound they created. So, whilst none of the titles on this disc refer to “symphonies”, the sound-world of this tradition is symphonic.
“Spectacular” is not a word that could be associated with Florence Mustric’s rendition of the first piece on the programme. Both movements are slow and laboured. The sound from the Rudolph von Beckerath Organ at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church is rather thin and Mustric’s choice of registration - she uses the mixture but no reed as is common practice for this repertoire - feels pedantic. There is some saving grace when the fugue reaches the climax and stops are added but the rubato in the fugue leaves the listener rather confused. Whilst the organ was constructed by German builders in a baroque style, it should be capable of showcasing this repertoire. Mustric does a better job with the F minor Prelude and Fugue. The registration choice is much more appropriate and one can finally tell that the organ contains some lovely stops. Perhaps it is the recording methods, but the pedal sounds rather unclear, although it is obvious that this is a more thought out performance, with the rubato working well in the prelude. The G minor Prelude and Fugue is commonly recognised as the hardest of Dupré’s compositions to play. Once again, the performance is under-tempo and Mustric is over-fussy with the details. Comparing this recording to that by Dupré himself, also on an American organ, it is clear that his intentions are more broad - the fast-moving figures are supposed to bubble away under the sustained tune. Mustric is over-concerned with detail to the detriment of the bigger picture. Her recording of the prelude is two and half minutes longer than Dupré’s! The fugue gives the impression of over-eating on Christmas day and feeling full and bloated. However, the registration in this fugue is far more interesting than in any of the others.
The Three Chorals by Franck were written shortly before the composer’s death, and are some of the most accomplished compositions in an organist’s repertoire. It is these pieces, and the great man’s approach to composing them that inspired generations to come. The first chorale is quite introverted and performers have to find an interpretation that is just as personal. Mustric does a better job with this piece. Other performances use more flexibility of tempo, but the sounds and gestures chosen by Mustric are convincing and the organ sounds much warmer in this piece. The second choral is similarly treated. The organ doesn’t have the same rich, dark sounds that a French organ would have but Mustric clearly has an over-arching scheme to unite the different sections and this works well. The third choral starts strongly but the dramatic pauses suffer. Also, the reed stop isn’t wholly in tune in the upper registers, which detracts from the enjoyment of this piece.
The booklet notes are aimed at someone who doesn’t know anything about either composer or about organs. Whilst this might be a nice souvenir for someone visiting the church, it won’t challenge other recordings of these works, and feels rather cheaply produced.
Hannah Parry-Ridout 

Great repertoire but somewhat disappointing.