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Charles TOURNEMIRE (1870-1939)
Resurrectio - l'Oeuvre pour Orgue, vol.1
Choral-Improvisation sur le Victimae Paschali Laudes (recon. Maurice Duruflé) (1930) [9:49]
Lento [2:16]
Toccata, op.19 no.3 (from: Suite de Morceaux) (1900/1901) [4:14]
Suite Evocatrice, op.74 (1938) [14:00]
Petites Fleurs Musicales, op. 66 - Office 'Dominica Resurrectionis' (1932/1934) [6:53]
Postludes Libres pour les Antiennes de Magnificat, op.68 - Amen no.5 'Dominica Resurrectionis' (1935) [0:49]
Postludes Libres pour les Antiennes de Magnificat, op.68 - Postlude no.17 'Dominica Resurrectionis' (1935) [0:51]
L'Orgue Mystique, op.56 no.17 - Office 'Dominica Resurrectionis' (1927) [20:20]
Vincent Boucher (organ)
rec. Casavant organ, Eglise des Saints-Anges-Gardiens, Lachine, Quebec, 23-25 August 2006.
ATMA CLASSIQUE ACD2 2470 [59:12]

Nativitas - l'Oeuvre pour Orgue, vol.2
Improvisation sur le Te Deum (1930) (recon. Maurice Duruflé) [6:19]
Variae Preces - 40 Pièces, op. 21: Cinq Noëls Originaux en forme de Versets [5:09]
Fresque Symphonique Sacrée no.1, op. 75 (1938-39) [13:02]
Postludes Libres pour les Antiennes de Magnificat, op.68 - Amen no.2 'Nativitas D.N. Jesu Christi' (1935) [0:46]
Postludes Libres pour les Antiennes de Magnificat, op.68 - Postlude no.3 'Hodie Christus natus est' (1935) [0:49]
Petites Fleurs Musicales, op. 66 - Office 'Nativitas D.N. Jesu Christi' (1932/1934) [6:16]
L'Orgue Mystique, op.55 no.3 - Office 'Nativitas D.N. Jesu Christi' (1927-32) [22:27]
Vincent Boucher (organ)
rec. Casavant organ, Eglise Saint-Jean-Baptiste, Montreal, October 2008.
ATMA CLASSIQUE ACD2 2471 [54:48]

Trinitas - l'Oeuvre pour Orgue, vol.3
Triple Choral, op.41 [22:20]
Postludes Libres pour les Antiennes de Magnificat, op.68 - Amen no.8 'In Festo Ss. Trinitatis' (1935) [0:34]
Postludes Libres pour les Antiennes de Magnificat, op.68 - Postlude no.26 'In Festo Ss. Trinitatis' (1935) [0:59]
L'Orgue Mystique, op.57 no.26 - Office 'In Festo Ss. Trinitatis' (1927-32) [17:10]
Postludes Libres pour les Antiennes de Magnificat, op.68 - Postlude no.44 'Dominica XVII post Pentecosten' [0:52]
L'Orgue Mystique, op.57 no.44 - Office 'Dominica XVII post Pentecosten' (1927-32) [16:07]
Vincent Boucher (organ)
rec. Casavant organ, Eglise Saint-Jean-Baptiste, Montreal, October 2008.
ATMA CLASSIQUE ACD2 2472 [58:02]

Though Charles Tournemire can hardly be described as a household name - Olivier Messiaen's assertion that "One day, the world will discover Tournemire" seems less realistic than ever - lovers of organ music know him well. One or more works of Tournemire's is likely to feature in programmes of every recitalist worth his or her salt whilst there are numerous recordings shining a light on various sections of his vast and decidedly original oeuvre for the instrument. 

Under review here are the three volumes to date of Quebec-born Vincent Boucher's project to record Tournemire's complete works for organ. The word 'ambitious' barely begins to cover the plan. The composer's Orgue Mystique alone - designated opp. 55, 56 and 57 but in reality fifty-one different works typically lasting 15-20 minutes apiece - is more than ten times as long as the complete organ works of Maurice Duruflé. At the current rate of one release every two or three years, many who invested in the first volume in 2006 will likely have succumbed to the processes of natural entropy before it reaches completion. Nevertheless, Boucher offers good value for money, with a practical approach to tempo, imaginative use of stops, expressive rubato and a general sense of warm empathy for Tournemire's inspired music.
 
Boucher - who also has a career, somewhat curiously, as a financial analyst, has taken a liturgically-themed approach to his recordings, as indicated by volume titles: Resurrection, Nativity, Trinity. Aside from reflecting the importance of church cycles to the deeply religious Tournemire, this tack offers obvious advantages,which Boucher himself explains in his prefaces. On the other hand, it has also has resulted in a certain degree of fragmentation, with bits and pieces of larger works scattered across albums.
 
On volume 1 sound quality is very high, but its 'Super Audio' was downgraded to regular for the next two, this presumably having something to do with the change of location. Different organs again will be featured on future recordings. Volumes 2 and 3 are at any rate not as impressive, with some background hum present, and traffic passing outside the church audible. It is unlikely either factor will encroach much upon anyone's listening enjoyment except perhaps in the final work on volume 3, the Office 'Dominica XVII post Pentecosten', where the hum sounds slightly 'bubbly', especially in the first movement. Anyone contemplating dipping into this series should just ensure that the sound of this 'Dominica' is acceptable to their ears. In fairness to ATMA, it must be said that engineers have in all cases done a good job of avoiding any high-volume distortion.
 
Apart from audio matters, there is very little to choose among the three discs. On each, Boucher plays an impressively colourful and powerful Casavant organ, his recital each time offering at least one different episode from the outstanding Mystical Organ cycle, plus one or two other longer items and some short excerpts from bigger works. Volume 3 features the Triple Choral op.4 which Boucher describes as "crucial to understanding and appreciating not only Tournemire’s work, but French symphonic organ music of the early 20th century", but in reality almost all of Tournemire's compositions for the instrument have something important, or at least different, to say. He is the key link between Franck and Messiaen.
 
Like Messiaen in his Livre du Saint Sacrement, say, Tournemire places much emphasis on contemplative atmosphere rather than fireworks, giving long periods of low-volume calm and simplicity which inattentive listeners might misconstrue as longueurs. On the other hand, some of the swirling, amorphous music of the Mystical Organ is better described as celestial, almost extraterrestrial in character! The opening minutes of the magnificent 'Christmas' music that closes volume 2 offer a memorable exemplar. A real two-for-one offer, this 'Paraphrase' soon morphs into a barnstormer, of which it should be added there are, for those who like to hear the organ at full throttle, one or two at least on each disc. Whether soft or loud, however, Tournemire's music is easily approachable, even if chromaticisms and dissonances at times bear witness to modernist leanings. Gilles Cantagrel's excellent notes - "erudite and poetic", in Boucher's words - guide the listener through it.
 
Incidentally, organophiles not deterred by ancient audio can enjoy the composer himself performing some of his own music and his teacher Franck's on 'Charles Tournemire - Complete Recordings', released five years or so ago on Arbiter (156, review). Elsewhere, Sandro Müller began a complete cycle of L'Orgue Mystique for the German label Cybele a few years ago. At present, volumes 1-8 are available, along with volume 14 - see this review for elucidation.
 
Byzantion
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