Home | Reviews | Articles | Festivals | Competitions | Other | Contact Us

Vierne Symphonies 1 - 6

Jeremy Filsell (organ)

Signum SIGCD063 [3 CDs, St Ouen Cathedral, September 2004]

An important composer in his time, prolific in many genres, Louis Vierne (1870-1937) is known, and his music kept alive, solely in the repertoire of organ recitalists, mainly for his six symphonies (1899-1930). General listeners may find some of the larger movements of the earlier ones somewhat turgid and too dependent on Franckian methods, and there may be something to be said for starting with the last two, which I enjoyed best. They move towards the language of Dupré and Messiaen, though there are many delights in the smaller movements en route.

Jeremy Filsell is a virtuoso organist (& pianist too!) of supreme mastery (q.v. my review of Francis Pott's Christus) and he makes as good a case as can be for these monumental works on the famous Cavaillé-Coll organ of St Ouen Cathedral, the last great masterpiece of the great 19th C French organ builder, whose instruments provide the authentic character for realising the music of Franck, Widor and their successors.

Filsell's exemplary notes tell of the rigours of long nocturnal recording sessions on this great instrument whilst the surrounding traffic was quiet, and he concedes that the visual and acoustic splendours and overwhelming presence cannot really be captured by microphones. Nonetheless, this splendid team achievement encapsulates many moments of 'successful inspiration late into the night' and the reccording will stand alongside Filsell's benchmark contributions to organ recording such as his monumental 12 CD set of the complete organ music of Marcel Dupré.

The documentation is thorough, as is Signum's way, with organ registrations and photos. Filsell provides detailed analyses of the cyclical transformations of themes [A] and [B] in each symphony, surely intended to be illustrated by music examples?

If printing those was precluded by space considerations, might not Signum, at the least, make them available on their website for the majority of non-professional organ lovers who are unlikely to have scores at hand to consult?


© Peter Grahame Woolf