Alain: Complete Works for Organ

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LABELS: Nimbus
WORKS: Complete Works for Organ
PERFORMER: Kevin Bowyer (organ)
‘Reason having attained its zenith, only Faith continues its ascent.’ Thus Jehan Alain concluded the preface to what has become his best-known work for organ, Litanies. In their dual acknowledgement of intellect and belief, such words ring true for the majority of his organ works. For many, the fascination with his music has lain here, with the un-analysable admixture of the cerebral and the emotional.


Kevin Bowyer’s decision to return to the 1995 Marcussen organ at Tonbridge School for this issue was a wise one. A versatile and beautifully crafted instrument, it has the facility to sustain Alain’s exotic and highly charged harmonies, and energise to perfection its imaginative ostinati. The stylistic range of pieces recorded is vast, from easy (but intense) miniatures (the Cinq pièces faciles) to the larger-scale first and second Fantaisies, and the magnificent Trois danses. Bowyer’s interpretations are thoroughly convincing across the board, and his programming of both discs gives some sense of order to the few scattered but innovative works Alain left us at his untimely death in 1940. Andrew McCrea