Vierne: 24 Pièces en style libre, Op. 31; Messes basses, Opp. 30 & 62

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LABELS: Dabringhaus und Grimm Gold
WORKS: 24 Pièces en style libre, Op. 31; Messes basses, Opp. 30 & 62
PERFORMER: Ben van Oosten (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: MDG 316 1011-2
Van Oosten seems to be recording the major part of the French organ school, including all Widor’s and Vierne’s symphonies on Cavaillé-Coll instruments. Here he turns to the smaller pieces of Vierne, most of which are best heard separately, and in the appropriate atmosphere of quiet thought. Not that the 24 Pieces in free style lack variety, and there’s a bravura scherzo among them, one of the genres Vierne was best at. Vierne let his ear for subtle harmonic exploration lead him where it would, and I often feel he should have edited himself more rigorously. The earlier Allegretto is memorable precisely because of its limited means. Yet the Postlude of the 24 Pieces might have gone on longer, and sounds gorgeous here on the medium-size Cavaillé-Coll organ in Saint-Antoine des Quinze-Vingts in Paris. Vierne had a sad, even bleak, life in many ways, and his last work, Messe basse pour les défunts, is a grim, brave record of this fact. It is much more rigorously constructed than most of the music on these three discs, and some movements concentrate obsessively on one motif. Both instrument and player seem ideal. Adrian Jack