Franck: Grande pièce symphonique; Prélude, fugue et variation, Op. 18; Fantaisie in A; Fantaisie, Op. 16; Trois chorals; Prière, Op. 20; Final, Op. 21

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COMPOSERS: Franck
LABELS: Erato
WORKS: Grande pièce symphonique; Prélude, fugue et variation, Op. 18; Fantaisie in A; Fantaisie, Op. 16; Trois chorals; Prière, Op. 20; Final, Op. 21
PERFORMER: Marie-Claire Alain (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: 0630-12706-2 DDD
Although the catalogue is by no means underfunded with organ recordings of Franck, any addition to the list from this particular artist is likely to be an enriching one. There are, indeed, some wonderful moments in this two-disc set, especially when Alain coaxes from the three-manual Cavaillé-Coll organ at St Étienne de Caen a truly living, breathing and singing voice, for instance at the opening of the Prélude, fugue et variation and the middle section of the Third Chorale. In these contexts, her sense of line and subtle use of rubato are second to none. And it is not only in isolated incidents that Alain impresses. For example, she cogently integrates the musical strands of the Grande pièce symphonique, leaving one with a strong awareness of the music’s overall design. However, I do take issue with the way in which Alain distorts whole sections of a piece with inexplicable accelerations, usually at moments of heightened tension. In the Second Chorale, beats are clipped short and rhythms pushed forward, sapping the music of its strength and grandeur. Despite these reservations, there is much in this set to savour, not least the fine organ and good recorded sound. Stephen Haylett

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