LOUIS VIERNE: Organ Symphonies Nos. 3 & 5 – Samuel Kummer, Kern Organ of the Dresden Frauenkirche – Carus

by | Nov 10, 2008 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

LOUIS VIERNE: Organ Symphonies Nos. 3 & 5 – Samuel Kummer, Kern Organ of the Dresden Frauenkirche – Carus Multichannel SACD 83.405, 66:40 [Distr. by Albany] ***1/2:

Poor Vierne certainly came out on the short end of fate in his life.  The virtuoso composer-performer of the French organ school narrowly escaped amputation of his right leg after it was broken, he contracted life-threatening typhoid fever, his marriage broke down when his wife left him for the new owner of the Cavaillé-Coll organ company who had build his beloved organ at Notre-Dame, he went to Switzerland for four years for treatment for glaucoma and while he was gone his two sons died. His later organ symphonies become increasingly complex chromatically and this is thought to be due to ” the mounting darkness of his inner life.”

Both of these symphonies have five movements, ending in a fairly virtuoso Final, but neither is often heard as church preludes or postludes as are the last movements of some of Widor’s organ symphonies.  The Fifth shows a distinctly cyclical design, a propos of Cesar Franck having been the teacher of both Widor and Vierne. Both of the symphonies are performed using recently-published new editions of the Vierne symphonies, which were found to require many corrections due to the composer having had severely restricted eyesight.

The Kern organ in the Dresden church was originally a Silbermann organ but has had numerous ranks and effects added to make it appropriate for the performance of the more orchestrally-oriented scores of the French organ school. The surround sonics display a very reverberant sound field and the micing seems to be quite distant from the pipes.  At first the music was swallowed up by the reverberant acoustics, but upon raising the volume it sounded more balanced. However, a sort of amorphous quality still prevails, and I find that binaural recordings of some of the Vierne symphonies on the Motette label sound more focused, even when heard on speakers.

 – John Sunier

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