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César FRANCK (1822-1890)
Oeuvres Posthumes et Pièces inédites
Joris Verdin (organ)
Cavaillé-Coll organ of the Cathedral of Saint-Omer
rec. May 2011, Cathedral of Saint-Omer
Detailed track-list at end of review
RICERCAR RIC324 [55:19 + 53:01]

Truth to tell I would usually choose other instruments to listen to in preference to the organ. This luxuriously presented Ricercar double turned out to be an unexpected pleasure. For a listener whose attention span was likely to be challenged, as mine was, by the instrument, these short works were perfect; the majority - 37 out of 42 tracks - date from Franck’s prodigally productive youth. This is claimed to be one of the oldest surviving Cavaillé-Coll organs. In any event Verdin and this instrument prove versatile and responsive to the polar opposites of brash, marching grandiloquence (CD 1 tr. 21) and poised inwardness.
 
The reverentially quiet ppp playing in the Elevation (tr 4 CD1) is astonishingly satisfying. The pristine piping innocence of the Allegretto (tr 8 CD1) recalls Berlioz’s famous seasonal shepherds. The Andantino (tr 13 CD 1) steps jauntily along with a touch of the variety music hall. The Offertoire en si majeur (CD1 tr 27) is splendidly energetic as is the euphorically positive Offertoire en fa dièse mineur (CD1 tr 28). The preponderance of the inspirational writing comes on CD1 but CD2 still has such placid and rewarding works as the shining Offertoire pour la Messe Minuit (CD2 tr. 6), the Bachian assertiveness of the Offertoire en sol mineur (CD2 tr. 7) and the light-footed skip and jubilation of the Sortie en ré majeur (CD2 tr. 8). The Andantino (CD 2 tr. 13) floats merrily along - magic.

The booklet slips into a pocket in the central panel of a card triple segment digicase. The essays are in French and English and are by the organist and by Joël-Marie Fauquet.
 
It is little wonder that this music has taken so long to come to light. The majority of it exists in manuscript and was only published by his son after Franck’s death.
 
These works are a sort of counterpart out of time to Sibelius’s Humoresques - nourishing for the mind and soul but brief and concentrated in their poetry and musicality.
 
Organists need to look out this recording and the music. Introducing these fresh and sweet little pieces which add immeasurably to the church service repertoire will win many new friends. What a pleasing collection - not a dull moment.
 
Rob Barnett 
 
CD 1
1. Pièce en mi bémol CFF 49 8’55
2. Offertoire en fa mineur CFF 55 6’00
3. Offertoire en mi bémol majeur CFF 36 5’34
4. Elévation en la majeur CFF 93 5’34
5. Grand Choeur en ré majeur CFF 59 0’58
6. Andantino en ré majeur CFF 60 1’41
7. Quasi marcia en ré mineur CFF 61 1’06
8. Allegretto en ré majeur CFF 62 1’16
9. Grand choeur en ré majeur CFF 63 1’01
10. Offertoire en la majeur CFF 33 1’18
11. Quasi lento en fa mineur CFF 66 0’38
12. Allegretto en ut mineur CFF 67 1’01
13. Andantino en ut majeur CFF 68 0’46
14. Allegretto en ré mineur CFF 69 1’20
15. Allegretto en ré majeur CFF 70 0’49
16. Grand choeur en mi bémol majeur CFF 73 0’45
17. Moderato en mi bémol majeur CFF 74 0’48
18. Andantino en mi bémol majeur CFF 75 1’15
19. Allegretto en mi bémol majeur CFF 76 1’09
20. Amen en mi bémol majeur CFF 79 0’23
21 Gloria Patri en mi bémol majeur CFF 7 0’55
22. Prélude pour l’Ave Maris Stella en ré mineur (I) CFF 8 1’02
23. Prélude pour l’Ave Maris Stella en ré mineur (II) CFF 82 1’07
24. Prélude pour l’Ave Maris Stella en ré mineur (III) CFF 83 0’17
25. Amen en ré majeur CFF 64 0’19
26. Lento en ré mineur CFF 85 1’10
27. Offertoire en si mineur CFF 95 4’15
28. Offertoire en fa# mineur CFF 96A 3’24
 
CD 2
1. Grand Choeur en ut mineur CFF 87 1’23
2. Moderato en ut mineur CFF 88 1’02
3. Moderato en ut mineur CFF 89 1’02
4. Grand Choeur en ut mineur CFF 90 0’43
5. Grand Choeur en ut majeur CFF 56 4’43
6. Offertoire pour la Messe de Minuit en ré mineur CFF 57 5’13
7. Offertoire en sol mineur CFF 92 5’54
8. Sortie en ré majeur CFF 94 2’46
9. Andantino en la bémol majeur CFF 86 3’51
10. Allegro moderato en ré bémol mineur CFF 97 5’10
11. Petit Offertoire CFF 38 3’05
12. Petit Offertoire inédit CFF 39 3’06
13. Andantino CFF 54B 5’02
14. Pièce pour Grand Orgue CFF 51 9’02 

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