Cochereau: Symphonie improvisée; Variations sur Adeste fideles; La marseillaise; Sortie improvisée sur La marseillaise; Alleluia de Pâques; Scherzo symphonique

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COMPOSERS: Cochereau
LABELS: ASV
WORKS: Symphonie improvisée; Variations sur Adeste fideles; La marseillaise; Sortie improvisée sur La marseillaise; Alleluia de Pâques; Scherzo symphonique
PERFORMER: Jeremy Filsell (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: CD DCA 1104
All composing is improvisation, unless it’s totally mathematical. But whereas what’s called composition is done in secret, improvising musicians make their mistakes in public. Inevitably, improvisations – compositions in real time – fall back on well-worn patterns, and a lot of Pierre Cochereau’s improvisations, painstakingly transcribed here from recordings which the virtuoso organist made from the Fifties to Seventies, were slow, so that he had time to think. Still, there are some breathtaking fast pieces, too, including, on Jeremy Filsell’s disc, a gossamer, delicately scented Alleluia de Pâques, and a wickedly challenging Scherzo symphonique. In the reverberant acoustic of the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Liverpool, it’s hard to be sure what the athletic Filsell is actually playing a lot of the time, but that adds to the seductive impression of distance and mystery. The large 1967 Walker organ, with its horizontal reeds, does a good job in place of a Romantic French instrument. As does the monster in Gloucester Cathedral, most recently rebuilt in 1999 by Nicholson, on Ian Ball’s selection of French organ music. Here, though the sound is less heavenbound, more tangible than on Filsell’s disc, there are nonetheless many-layered depths, and the right melting quality for the music. David Briggs’s transcriptions include Cochereau’s Toccata on a theme from Bizet’s L’arlésienne, but Ian Ball’s biggest achievement is in Vierne’s best-known organ symphony and a very natural account of Franck’s tortured, introspective Fantaisie – a very difficult work to bring off. I also enjoyed Duruflé’s subtle little Prélude sur l’introit de l’Épiphanie. Adrian Jack

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