Yummy Sonic Bonbons
Orgelbear | 08/22/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This collection of French music for organ and orchestra gathers together several enjoyable yet eminently forgettable pieces. With one exception, there is no great music here, but it all makes for thrilling, floor-shaking fireworks.
The Dupré Cortège et Litanie stands out from its discmates by reaching surprising emotional depths with simple musical materials. After a quiet statement of the opening cortege theme, the repeated litany reaches its apotheosis and at last combines with the cortege, climaxing in a Catherine's wheel effect topped with glittering percussion.
The eighty-four year old Saint-Saëns wrote Cyprès et lauriers to commemorate the end of World War I. The first movement ("Cypress") is a meditation for solo organ, while in the second movement ("Laurels") the orchestra joins the organ for martial fanfares and flourishes. Frankly, it's not a very good piece, especially if you're expecting something of substance reminiscent of the 3rd Symphony. Still, Gambon and Tracey manage to whip things up to a rousing and almost convincing conclusion; the performance is by far the best of those few recordings of this work that have made it to disc.
The familiar Gigout Grand choeur dialogue appears here in an orchestration by Ropartz, an effective arrangement but one that doesn't quite catch the music's antiphonal effects as both the original organ solo or various organ/brass versions do.
All of these pieces, including the Dubois, Guilmant, and the Gounod Fantaisie (the theme of which was also used by Tchaikovsky in the 1812 Overture) have appeared on CD before, but the Chandos SACD provides unmatched sonics and performances.
Gambon and Tracey take the music seriously and serve it well. The recording is spectacular, with the reverberant Liverpool Cathedral acoustic, the orchestra, and the organ extremely well balanced in both the surround and two-channel programs. Bass response (percussion, 32' organ pedal) is detailed and clean. The cathedral's Willis organ is surprisingly well suited to the French literature, and the instrument's English lineage is given away only by the sound of the reeds in fuller registrations.
This disc is a rich and tasty serving of bombast, high in empty calories but great fun.