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Jean Guillou The Revolt of the Organs opus 69

: Jean Guillou, Roberto Bonetto, Winfried Bönig, Bernhard Buttmann, Silvio Celeghin, Franco Vito Gaiezza, Jürgen Geiger, Giampaolo Di Rosa, Jürgen Wolf
Percussion : Hélène Colombotti Conductor : Johannes Skudl

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"I've always wanted to shatter, to pulverise the organ...", says Jean Guillou (b. 1930)

This is a quite extraordinary, and certainly unique, DVD, possibly one to crown the career of the great veteran French organist/composer to date; he is still active and who knows what might remain in store for us (more DVDs are promised).

First, do see the documentary film which traces this astonishing project through its development. We are taken through its abortive commission in Tenerife, to its first realisation in Landsberg, Bavaria on nine organs, eight of them subsequently transported to Paris in a huge lorry for the French premiere 19/6/2007 at Guillou's own church, St-Eustache in Paris, where we had first encountered this great musician in 1999 (please follow that link).

The organ world is something of a ghetto in the classical music mainstream, probably because organ music is mainly to be heard in churches, where the player is often remote from listeners. Guillou deliberately tackles that problem here, by positioning his organs close to the surrounding audience - see plan.

Tomasz Cichawa's leisurely film traces the genesis of this work and is one of the most captivating music documentaries we've ever seen. It covers all the hard work setting it up; they brought all the organs from Bavaria because there mightn't have been eight in the whole of France... It is the best possible preparation for this spectacular but far from easy music.

As to the music of La Révolte itself, it builds up from initial tones of just a few notes to identify each of the instruments and its player, growing through several differentiated sections; a commentary in the sparse notes to help listeners traverse those would have helped.

You can watch the first few minutes of La Révolte des Orgues on You-Tube - recommended to do. And to let you in gently, there is an additional concert item, a piquant Concerto for two claviers by W F Bach, played on two organs by Guillou and his conductor for the Revolt, Johannes Skudl.

This is a very special release, one to appeal to followers of contemporary music innovations, as well as being an essential purchase for organ fans.

Peter Grahame Woolf

I hope to have a supplementary review by Michael Bonaventure, a concert organist specialist in the contemporary repertoire, who has recently introduced Guillou's music at recitals in South London, and will be giving two of his Six Sagas at Westminster Abbey on 7 February 2010 at 5.45pm

I have learnt that Guillou's La Révolte for nine organs will be given in Germany at the Philharmonies of Munich, Cologne and Berlin this year in celebration of his 80th birthday. [Editor]