“Duo Piano et Orgue” – Works of LIPATTI, FRANCK, LEDROIT, DUPRE – Jean-Pierre Ferey, piano; Frederic Ledroit, organ – Skarbo “Duo a la Francaise” – Works of SAINT-SAENS, DUPRE, GUILLOU – Bruno Canino, p.; Claudio Brizi, o. – Camerata

by | Nov 12, 2008 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

“Duo a la Francaise” (A Century of French Music for Piano and Organ)
– SAINT-SAENS: Six Duos for Harmonium & Piano; DUPRE: Variations on
Two Themes for Piano and Organ Op. 35; GUILLOU: Colloques No. 2 for
Piano & Organ – Bruno Canino, piano; Claudio Brizi, organ –
Camerata CMCD-28015, 65:41 (Distr. by Albany} *****:

 
“Duo Piano et Orgue” (Piano & Pipe Organ Duo) – LIPATTI: Concerto for Organ & Piano; FRANCK: Variations Symphoniques; LEDROIT: Oppositions; DUPRE: Ballade Op. 30 – Jean-Pierre Ferey, piano; Frederic Ledroit, organ – Skarbo D SK 4054, 63:08 [Distr. by Albany] *****:

The combination of piano and organ today is not as unusual a duo as it once was.  (In fact it’s a regular part of the music program at my church in Portland. The postlude that always brings the sanctuary down is a Stoky-style arrangement of Mussorgsky’s Great Gate of Kiev!) )  In Europe there is a logistical problem intervening in many cases – the organ loft is often high up and nowhere near the grand piano on the floor of the sanctuary. But in the U.S. the two instruments can usually be closer together, and although at one time pianos were swallowed up in the more powerful organ sound, today’s grands have more power and can hold their own with proper arrangements and compositions. Also the divisions between secular and liturgical music have broken down, making it easier to perform duo concert works in venues where an organ is available.

A famous composer-organist helped popularize the duo – Marcel Dupre – represented by works on both of these CDs. He frequently gave U.S. concert tours with his daughter, who was a pianist.  His Ballade was the first of three pieces he composed for his daughter and himself. It sounds influenced by Franck’s Variations symphoniques, except that Dupre uses the piano as more of a percussion instrument.  Organist-composer Frederic Ledroit arranged Franck’s orchestral score for the pipe organ, but left his piano part unchanged.  His work was simplified by Franck having been an organist and his orchestrations were based on the use of distinct divisions as on an organ.

The first CD, coming from Japan, opens with a St.-Saens work from around the mid-1800s, originally composed for reed harmonium and piano. I thought I had a recording of it on the harmonium, but wasn’t able to locate it.  It is an early Opus 8 of the composer, and the greater resources of the pipe organ expand on the much more basic abilities of the harmonium.  The first and last duos have a festive character.  Dupre’s Variations begin with an exposition of two themes – one rhythmic and the other more cantabile – which are then followed by 12 variations. Organist-composer Jean Guillou (who has recorded his very colorful organ transcription of Mussorgsky’s Pictures) wanted in his work to combine two of Western music’s richest and most evocative instruments in a colloquium or conversation, “like two heroes of myth and legend.”  Over its course the piano and organ “assume the cloaks of menace, seduction, tenderness or fury.”

Dinu Lipatti was of course the masterful pianist who tragically died of leukemia in 1950.  He composed a number of works, including this four-movement concerto for the duo.  He completed it a few days prior to WWII and dedicated it to Nadia Boulanger, whose student he had been.  The dialog between the two instruments shows them as equals in a work that for the most part has a sunny Mediterranean feeling.

It’s a challenge to get the proper balance between the two dissimilar instruments, but both CDs achieve a sound that is probably superior to what would be heard in many church environments with such a duo.

 – John Sunier

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