CHARLES-MARIE WIDOR & PHILIPPE BELLENOT: The Widor Mass, with improvisations & LEFEBURE-WELY: O Salutaris – Daniel Roth, grand organ/ Mark Dwyer & Stephen Tharp, choir organ/ Choir Darius Milhaud/ Ensemble Dodecamen/Christopher Hyde – JAV Recordings

by | Jun 19, 2006 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

CHARLES-MARIE WIDOR & PHILIPPE BELLENOT: The Widor Mass, Op. 36, with improvisations & LEFEBURE-WELY: O Salutaris – Daniel Roth, grand organ/ Mark Dwyer & Stephen Tharp, choir organ/ Choir Darius Milhaud/ Ensemble Dodecamen/Christopher Hyde – JAV Recordings Multichannel SACD JAV158, 72:49 ****:

JAV is a small label specializing in pipe organ recordings, and in this lavish album they have captured, as the disc subtitle states: “The Grand 19th-Century St. Sulpice Tradition.”  In fact the recording was made at Saint Sulpice in Paris, which has become a popular destination there since its mention in The Da Vinci Code. The church has two pipe organs: the large one was built in 1781 and not updated until 1862.  Its 1903 restoration continues to the present day. Several pages in the note booklet are devoted to the ranks and pipes of both organs and their histories.

Widor was one of the important figures in the French symphonic organ school and he wrote his mass especially for these two organs and for a double chorus of St. Sulpice. The choir organ usually doubles the choral parts, and with both organs in action plus the double choruses, the extended reverberation of the St. Sulpice interior sets up a rich overstuffed sonic stew that is something to hear. It is simply too much sound for the standard CD layer to handle – it jumbles everything together unforgivingly. Even the two-channel SACD option sounds confusing compared to the de rigeur spatial quality provided by multichannel SACD.

There are a total of 22 tracks to the Mass, because in between Widor’s compositions for the Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus etc., we have various improvisations on the preceding music – played by organist Roth at the Grand Organ. There are also choral-and-organ selections by Widor’s partner at St. Sulpice, composer Philippe Bellennot. The final Quam dilecta is truly delectable as both pipe organs and choirs come together for the concluding peroration. This is a first rate demo disc for multichannel SACD as well as a thrilling piece of liturgical music.

 – John Sunier

Related Reviews