SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

LOUIS VIERNE, Vol. 1: Symphonie No. 1 in d-Moll & No. 2 in e-Moll – Hans-Eberhard Ross, Goll-Orgel of St. Martin, Memmingen – Audite

First in a series of three volumes of all the Vierne organ symphonies in clarified sonics.

Published on January 4, 2013

LOUIS VIERNE, Vol. 1: Symphonie No. 1 in d-Moll Op. 14; Symphonies No. 2 in e-Moll Op. 20 – Hans-Eberhard Ross, Goll-Orgel of St. Martin, Memmingen – Audite multichannel SACD 92.674, 65:50 [Distr. by Naxos] *****:

Vierne is considered the ultimate developer of the French organ symphony, being first taught by Cesar Franck (who founded the French Romantic organ school) and then Charles-Marie Widor. All three composers worked with the new Cavaillé-Coll organs, which had all sorts of new mechanisms, registrations, and the general ability to imitate the sounds of a full symphony orchestra, which was utilized in the organ symphonies.

Interestingly, organist Ross explains in his notes that the Cavaillé-Colls were all in huge cathedrals, where the extensive reverberation often blurred the musical details. He performs instead on a huge modern organ with an electronic system for the programming of complex registrations, and says especially in the several contrapuntal sections the music has more transparency and clarity. This cathedral only has a 4 second reverberation.

The Audite recording—the first of a proposed series of all six Vierne organ symphonies—is noticeably more detailed and well-balanced than the other first two symphonies on SACD, by organist Daniel Roth on the Aeolus label, recording at Paris’ St. Sulpice. The organ also has great dynamic range and power on this recording. Ross also takes a slightly faster tempo on most of the movements than competing recordings, which heightens their rhythms   and interest. Vierne—who lived until 1937—had a struggle both performing and composing. He was nearly blind and had to read and write his music in Braille. Actually, only about a quarter of his compositional output was devoted to organ music. Though his compositions were not exactly innovative, the organ symphonies are regarded as the final word on this form and style. We look forward to the other two volumes of this series which will commemorate the 75th anniversary of Vierne’s death.

—John Sunier

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