Schumann: The Complete Organ Music

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COMPOSERS: Schumann
LABELS: Sony Organa Viventia
WORKS: The Complete Organ Music
PERFORMER: Olivier Latry (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: SK 57490 DDD
A selection of new releases from the ‘Organa Viventia’ catalogue, previously available only in France, might appear to be geared towards the organ specialist – but good quality recordings and some fine performances on first-class instruments should attract a broader audience.

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A complete survey of Duruflé’s music, all of six works, falls easily onto a single disc. Jean-Pierre Lecaudey’s recital, at just under an hour in length, might suggest some kamikaze-style playing, especially when compared with John Scott’s far lengthier recording at St Paul’s Cathedral (Hyperion), but the smaller scale of the Quoirin organ and dryish acoustic play an important part here. Where I think Lecaudey’s recording does score over Scott’s is in the range and character of the stops available to him. There are some charming flute stops, noticeably in the Prélude of Op. 4, that seem to fit so well the half-lights of Duruflé’s sound-world. And yet, when the mixtures and reeds are engaged, such as in the Toccata from Op. 5, they make a telling impact. The close recording picks up noise from the organ’s mechanism, but not intrusively.

Another complete survey comes from Olivier Latry, at the Cavaillé-Coll organ of Notre Dame de Saint-Omer. This centres on the music originally written by Schumann for pedal-piano, a hybrid instrument popular in the mid-1800s and especially linked with the composer Charles-Valentin Alkan. All three works were written in the full flow of Schumann’s maturity in 1845-6 and, although they cannot compare in level of inspiration with other works of the period, they form interesting essays in counterpoint. Latry plays with consummate style throughout, imbuing the ‘Bachian’ spirit of Schumann’s writing with Romantic fervour.

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Others in this series include music by Bach (SK 57487), Dupré (SK 57485) and Couperin (SK 57486). Stephen Haylett