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

Jean-Baptiste ROBIN

Cercles Réfléchissants
Regard vers l'Air
Trois Éléments d'un Songe

Jean-Baptiste Robin, organ

NAXOS 8.570892


Jean-Baptiste Robin (b.1976) is the Organiste Titulaire at Poitiers Cathedral, and in addition to his duties there he maintains a lively and highly successful career as both international concert organist and composer. His teachers at the Paris Conservatoire included Marie-Claire Alain, Olivier Latry and Marc-André Dalbavie, and, at King's College, Cambridge, George Benjamin.

In his sleeve notes Robin outlines some of the thinking behind the music on this disc; its strength, presence, power and charm owe much to the development of special repetitive symmetrical modes and their 23 'reflections', which, as Robin explains "extend the character of of the tempered chromatic scale and add to the scales discovered in the twentieth century (i.e. Messiaen's seven modes of limited transpostions)...". One can hear obvious (and expected) shades of the music of several of Robin's countrymen in these works - e.g. that of Messiaen, Jean Guillou, Jean-Pierre Leguay - but this is a highly personal and individual musical world - radical, colouristic and progressive, yet infused with an expressiveness, virtuosity, light and fluidity far less present in the music of his older colleagues. Here, perhaps, one can detect something of the influence of Dalbavie.

The music on this tremendously rewarding disc has been recorded on the organs in the Église Saint Louis-en-l'Ile and Église Saint Étienne-du-Mont, Paris. It would have been good to hear more of the wonderful Aubertin instrument in St-Louis-en-l'Ile, featured in the opening track on the disc, but the mighty Cavaille-Coll//Beuchet-Debierre/Gonzales/Dargassies in St-Etienne-du-Mont is nevertheless undeniably compelling! The playing is superbly arresting at times, and generally immaculate, and the recorded sound is magnificent, capturing to perfection every detail of the vast array of sounds heard on each instrument, and the thrilling resonance in both churches. Full dispositions of the organs are included in the sleeve notes

It's interesting to hear the two different interpretations of the impressive opening work, 'Regard sur l'Air'; it's undeniably dramatic on the Aubertin organ, but far more devastating, ultimately, at St-Etienne-du-Mont. The main work, Cercles Réfléchissants (Reflecting Circles), dating from 2007-8, should find its way into the repertoire of any organist serious about playing real concert music - and real new music. The modal frames of reference informing all the works on this disc are at their strongest in these pieces. Particular favourites of mine are the very short but utterly magical tracks 4 and 6 ('Trait d'unions' 1 & 2) and track 7, Cercles Harmoniques - pure colouristic heaven! The range of timbres heard in all of the music is astonishing, without ever being self-indulgent or trivial.

I recommend this disc to organists, lovers of organ music, devotees of the French organ and its traditions, and to new music enthusiasts, without reservation.

Michael Bonaventure

Enjoy Jean-Baptiste Robin playing Alain's Litanies on YouTube