Jean Guillou (*1930)- Organ Works Vol. 1-Fantaisie pour Orgue op. 1, La Chapelle des Abimes pour orgue op. 26 Säya (L’Oiseau bleu), Hymnus op. 72, Moussorgsky: Tableaux d’une Exposition (transcribed by Jean Guillou) Zuzana Ferjenčiková, Stahlhuth-Jann-Organ St. Martin, Dudelange (Luxemburg), 1 Hybrid-SACDwith 5.1 audio  MDG 906 2089-6 (10/6/18)  TT: 72:11

Jean Guillou was one of the most prominent and respected organists in Europe, but it wasn’t until the CD boom of the late 1980s that he became something of a recording star. Guillou entered the Paris Conservatory in 1945, studying keyboard and composition with teachers including Marcel Dupré, Olivier Messiaen, and Maurice Duruflé. In 1953, at age 23, he joined the faculty of the Intituto de Alta Cultura in Lisbon. In 1958, Guillou moved to West Berlin, where he established himself as a recitalist and also published his first original compositions for solo organ and chamber ensemble. In 1963, Guillou was appointed organist at the Church of St. Eustache in Paris, a position he has had ever since.

He subsequently toured Eastern Europe, Japan, and the United States. His recitals became renowned for their inventiveness and wit,  as Guillou enthralled audiences with his interpretations of works by Johann Sebastian Bach and César Franck, and arrangements of non-keyboard works by composers such as Franz Josef Haydn, as well as his own original compositions.

He reminds me a bit of Organist Virgil Fox in his prime, about a decade earlier who got a whole generation of young people interested in the power of the pipe organ.

Guillou is not the performer on this disc, but rather Zuzana Ferjenčiková, playing the Jann Organ at St. Martins in Luxembourg.

In this terrific SACD from MDG we get a very nice sampling of Guillou’s inventiveness with 3 of his own works, and a marvelous transcription of  Mussorgsky’s “Pictures At An Exhibition’’. Guillou’s transcription makes it a new piece, even if you’ve heard the Ravel version a hundred times.

I listened to the SACD layer of this disc, and the sound is awesome, especially in 5.1 surround. Of course the bass is prodigious, and the recording puts you in the venue with this immense organ.

It is the ‘Pictures’ transcription that is the highlight of the disc, but the whole experience is memorable. I also recommend a listen on a good set of headphones as well as speakers.

—Mel Martin