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Poulenc: Organ Concerto; Widor: Symphony No. 5; Guilmant: Symphony No. 1
Alexandre Guilmant, Charles-Marie Widor, Francis Poulenc
Poulenc: Organ Concerto; Widor: Symphony No. 5; Guilmant: Symphony No. 1
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (9) - Disc #1


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Among the best recordings for all works concerned
Eric Koenig | Kalamazoo, MI United States | 07/14/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Before purchasing this CD, I had heard of Felix Alexandre Guilmant, but had never experienced his music. Even though the Symphony is an arrangement of a Sonata for solo organ, many composers have "recycled" works quite successfully (think only of Bartok's Sonata for 2 Pianos and Percussion, which became the Concerto for 2 Pianos, Percussion and Orchestra) and the work demonstrates that he not only knew how to write beautifully for the organ but was no slouch when it came to orchestrating. As for the Widor, this is the most frequently played of his 10 Symphonies for solo organ, and the finale will be familiar to many who have heard organ recitals (every competent organist has to have this under his or her belt for encores). Tracey's performance of the Widor even rivals that of Ben van Oosten, who has recorded all of Widor's solo organ music on the MD&G label. As for the Poulenc Concerto in g, it also comes off quite well, and, were it not for some problematic passages toward the end, I would compare it favorably to the recording, made on EMI while the composer was still alive, by Maurice Durufle (who advised Poulenc on how to write for the instrument while composing this work), Georges Pretre and the ORTF. What goes wrong, sadly, is that Tracey and Tortelier somehow conspire to allow the music, and mainly the organ part, to "mumble," in both soft and loud passages, where it should be more assertive. However, I wouldn't dismiss the entire recording out of hand for a very few faults. It is definitely a first-rate performance and I would recommend it quite highly."
French Romantic Organ and Orchestra Music
Thomas F. Bertonneau | Oswego, NY United States | 08/05/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)

"The main attraction on this Chandos disc of music by Felix Alexandre Guilmant (1837-1911), Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937), and Francis Poulenc (1899-1963) is Guilmant's Symphony No. 1 for Organ and Orchestra, Opus 42, an exercise in unashamed robustness and theatricality. (The booklet gives no date for the composition, but the date of its successor for the same forces is 1906). This brilliant symphony in three movements looks ahead to that twentieth century spectacular, Joseph Jongen's "Symphonie Concertante" (1937). Guilmant's orchestra joins the solo instrument with massive fanfares in the outer movements and with subtle accompaniment (strings and woodwinds) in the central (so very French) "Pastorale." The recording of Widor's Symphony for Organ, Opus 42, No. 5, boasts many merits. Yet given that the previous CD made by these same performers included one of Widor's sonorous organ-and-orchestra scores, it would have been logical (and more satisfying to our collective curiosity) to hear one of the remaining organ-and-orchestra compositions by this imaginative musical creator - his "Sinfonia Sacra," for example. Nevertheless, Ian Tracey executes the "Fifth" impressively; I prefer this performance by Tracey to that by David Hill on Hyperion. Tracey interprets the score with muscularity and full-throatedness, especially in the First and Fifth Movements, exactly where Hill seems to shy from the music's amiable egotism. Tracey's "take" on the Toccata proverbially robs one's breath. I confess to disliking Poulenc's Concerto. The homogeneity of the string band does not contrast sufficiently with the sound of the organ while the timpani part strikes me as awkward and intrusive. Add to these objections the further one that Poulenc's music seems inappropriate to the instrumentation, vulgar and not a little grotesque. (His "Concerto Champetre," on the other hand, violates not a single jot of taste.) Such ill humor, however, is subjective and prejudicial. The popularity of the Concerto assures us that, my idiosyncrasy aside, many people admire this work and take much enjoyment from it. And it is, I suppose, splendidly well played. Buy this issue for the sake of Guilmant's glorious Symphony."
A spiritual experience
Ryan Kernaghan | New South Wales, Australia | 01/30/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This stunning compilation features some of the best works that the French have offered in organ music over the last two centuries. The particular highlight is the Guilmant Symphony, which is sensitively conducted by Jan Pascal Tortelier. The BBC Philharmonic is beautifully responsive and never intrusive, but this is perhaps more to Tracey's credit; his playing is radiant, firm and mature.

The music is so magically portrayed here that listening to the disc is almost a spiritual experience. I always look for organ music that portrays that divine feeling, almost placing you in a Church, and the Guilmant feature particularly evokes that response. This disc will always form a special place in my collection for that reason.

Typically brilliant quality recording from Chandos and some excellent documentary notes, featuring a list of the stops, pistons, and controls of the Grand Liverpool Cathedral organ. I am also a fan of the inclusion of brief biographical notes on the artists and there are some excellent photographs of the composers. Five stars for the clarity and vitality of the recording and performance."