ALBUM TITLE: King of Instruments Ð The Art of Gillian Weir
WORKS: Works by Bach, Clerambault, Bruhns, Marchand, Dandrieu, Roberday, Camilleri, Scheidt,
PERFORMER: Gillian Weir (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: 460 185-2 ADD/DDD Reissue (1974-80) (available through Classics Direct, Australia, tel +61 2 9905 9435)
Although this anthology reflects a recording career of over 25 years, compared to many of her illustrious colleagues, Gillian Weir’s discography is a modest one, and it is only with her recent and highly regarded recordings of the complete oeuvres of Franck and Messiaen that the balance has been partly redressed. Nevertheless, it is a joy to see a return to the catalogue of repertoire upon which Weir has set her own indelible and authoritative stamp, notably music of the French Classical tradition, represented here by Clerambault, Dandrieu and Roberday and also contemporary music, in which the spotlight falls on Maltese composer, Charles Camilleri.
There is an aristocratic poise and restraint which illuminates Weir’s readings of Clerambault’s two Suites, redolent of courtly airs and graces and highly-stylised dances. Even though much of this music wears a solemn expression on its face, Weir never lets it fall into a turgid procession, providing a judicious balance of lightness within the duos and trios and broader phrasing in the grander ‘plein jeu’ movements. Similar attention to stylistic cogency underpins her approach to the selection of suites by Dandrieu.
Weir recorded this repertoire on a delightful and distinctive Swiss instrument, and it is a pity that no space was found within the otherwise excellent booklet notes for a brief description of the instruments used. Moving forward to Camilleri’s monumental ‘Missa Mundi’, Gillian Weir narrates an amusing anecdote describing the closeness of the collaboration between composer and artist on this work, the score apparently being handed over to her page by page as it was written. This close identification with the music comes across in a reading of tremendous power and virtuosity. There is more than a sideways glance towards Messiaen, especially in the elemental ferocity of the central movement,’ Fire in the Earth’, brilliantly portrayed by Weir on the Festival Hall organ, and yet Camilleri’s own voice is most convincingly discerned in the calm, consonant resolution to the work.
Bach is represented impressively by, amongst other works, the Passacaglia in C minor, and Weir’s formidable virtuosity is given free rein in Mulet’s ‘Tu es Petrus’ and Dubois’ lively ‘Toccata’. A well-produced anthology which reminds us of the playing of one of the foremost organists of our time.