Franck: Six pièces; Trois pièces; Trois chorals

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

WORKS: Six pièces; Trois pièces; Trois chorals
PERFORMER: Jennifer Bate (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: RRC 2054 ADD Reissue (1981)
This is, surely, how Franck should sound, melting into the lofty distances of a great gothic church, just as the hues sink into the canvas of a Mark Rothko painting. One’s only fear is that the blazing choruses and vast pedal reeds in the Final will threaten Beauvais Cathedral’s 156ft-high vault with a second collapse. (After the first, in 1284, it took more than 200 years to rebuild.) Yet the essential contrapuntal voices are always clear, well-balanced, and Jennifer Bate’s broad tempi – firmly sustained – ensure that Franck’s structures stand up, whereas, in the wrong hands, some of the pieces can appear ramshackle. The Prélude, fugue et variation, for example, is perfectly paced, without any superfluous ‘expression’ impeding its flow. Bate’s sense of line allows the three mighty Chorals to grow organically. In the second, where Franck asks for voix humaine and tremulant, we hear a sinister death rattle. As this is one of Cavaillé-Coll’s most beautiful instruments, without any hint of harshness, one doesn’t feel qualified to complain, except about the lack of a stop list in the booklet. Personally, I would rather have had a photo of the organ or its breathtaking setting than Ms Bate in her party frock. Adrian Jack