MUSICTEACHERS.CO.UK VOLUME 2 ISSUE 12, JUNE 2001  
Online Journal

MASTERWORKS FOR ORGAN & ORCHESTRA
Franz Hauk – Organ
The Philharmonic Ingolstadt
Olaf Koch – conductor
Guild Music GMCD7215
£££

Guilmant: Allegro pour Orgue et Orchestre, Op. 81; Marche Fantaisie sur deux chantes d'église pour Orgue, Harpes et Orchestre; Boëllmann: Fantaisie Dialoguée pour Orgue et Orchestre, Op. 35; Guilmant: Méditation sur le Stabat Mater pour Orgue et Orchestre, Op. 63; Fétis: Fantaisie-Symphonique pour Orgue et Orchestre; Guilmant: Final alla Schumann sur un Noël Languedocien pour Orgue et Orchestre, Op. 83; Symphony No. 1 pour Orgue et Orchestre, Op. 42; TPT: 73'44

Looking at concert programmes throughout the world one would imagine that, due to the numerous repetitions of the Poulenc organ concerto, solo works for organ and orchestra are pretty thin on the ground. This is definitely not the case, and Guild's latest release of French masterworks for organ and orchestra certainly proves this with the seven works represented on this disc.

All of the pieces date from the nineteenth-century French symphonic period of organ music. Inspired by the instruments of Cavaillé-Coll and the exemplary playing and compositions of Franck and Widor, a world-renowned school of organ playing was created with pupils such as Vierne, Guilmant, Dubois, Dupré and many others. Cavaillé-Coll's instruments made use of an extended pedal range, orchestrally voiced stops, overblown flutes, string voices and heavy pressure reeds. They are famed for their rich warm and generally enormous sound, all of which qualities appear to be lacking in the organ of Ingolstadt Münster, which is a very large neo-Baroque instrument built in 1977 by the German firm of Klais. Ingolstadt, therefore, does not have the gravitas, warmth, or, when required, the sheer violence of a Cavaillé-Coll, a rather serious flaw when undertaking a recording of French organ works, especially if they are to compete with orchestra. The Ingolstadt edifice must be a recording engineer's worst nightmare, the acoustic of several seconds and the fact that the organ is several stories higher than the orchestra means that both parties have been recorded very closely – something which is never very flattering. This only serves to create a rather false and thin orchestral sound and to highlight the inconsistencies in the violins. The organ too sounds extremely feeble: nowhere on the whole disc is the warm sea of sound we expect from a Cavaillé-Coll, and the pedal has a real lack of power, which is sorely missed at the tutti pedal solo of Guilmant's Symphony. The bright Baroque mixtures are completely out of place in this repertoire and are obviously used in a vain attempt at making the organ sound powerful. The orchestra is lost in such a vast space because these works were originally intended for the concert hall.

Recordings of this repertoire are few, but in recent years Chandos has also released a recording of Guilmant's Symphony No.1 with the BBC Philharmonic and Ian Tracey at Liverpool Cathedral. This recording also suffers due to the vast building: however it has the advantage of having an instrument that is more than capable of competing with a Cavaillé-Coll.

The actual performances are generally very adequate apart from some unsettling violin intonation, which really lowers the standard of this release considerably. On the plus side however, the pieces are extremely enjoyable; they aren't all masterworks but will appeal to any lover of music by nineteenth-century French organ composers. But be warned – if you are used to the fiery reeds and breathy flutes of Saint-Sulpice then this proves to be something of a disappointment.


Jonathan Scott  


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