WORKS: L’orgue mystique (excerpts); Mariales; Suite médiévale; Chorale Preludes Op. 8 (excerpts)
PERFORMER: Adrian Gunning (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: HLRCD 1572 DDD (distr. Gamut)
It is one of the strange quirks of fortune that the upsurge of interest in Gregorian chant, brought to prominence by the Benedictine monks of Solesmes in turn-of-the-century France, coincided with the age of Impressionism in the musical world. In the context of organ composition, the simple, fluid movement of Gregorian chant found a ready voice within the pastel colours and shimmering textures of the organ sound-world, and this, in turn, has stimulated generations of French composers to work in this genre. Adrian Gunning’s recital on the three-manual 1963 Walker organ at his home church of St John the Evangelist, Islington, North London, includes music from the mammoth cycle L’orgue mystique by the ‘father’ of the genre, Charles Tournemire, and intersperses this with music by three of his followers, including the successor to Messiaen at La Trinité in Paris, Naji Hakim.
The first thing that strikes one about this organ is its beauty and eloquence. Be it the pellucid and striking Cornet stop, the warm, translucent Swell strings, or the glorious sound of full organ, this instrument has a highly distinctive flavour that does the music a great service. The outer movements of Langlais’s rarely heard Suite médiévale are given a suitable weightiness and authority by Gunning, and there is a particularly delicious combination of Vox humana and Tremulant stops in the Méditation. Only occasionally in the recital I feel that Gunning treats the musical line rather inflexibly, where more give and take would add much more allure. Stephen Haylett