Piano Works, Vol. 1: Suite bourguignonne; Trois Nocturnes, Op. 35 etc
Sergio Monteiro (piano)
Naxos 8.574296 59:59 mins
Much as César Franck was venerated by his pupils, Vierne included, historical distance allows us to see that his influence was not wholly beneficial. In particular, his brand of creeping chromaticism, while in his own music it tended to be tempered with strong melodic lines, could persuade his less talented pupils to load their music with overactive inner parts. Add to this a fashion for regularly repeating four-bar phrases and the result, as in much of this recording, is wearisome in the extreme.
Finally, Sergio Monteiro’s refusal to observe clearly indicated dynamic contrasts and his almost unrelieved use of the sustaining pedal make you feel you’re trudging through a dense forest at dead of night armed only with a pencil torch. In the ‘Légende bourguignonne’ modality finds an expected place, and in ‘A l’Angélus du soir’ Vierne follows Debussy’s and Ravel’s bell obsessions with a C sharp that sounds throughout, but lacks the harmonic control and imagination of Ravel’s ‘Le Gibet’.
Only with the Silhouettes d’enfants, composed in 1918 after the other pieces, does Vierne bid to cast off his obeisance to Franck and, even when this is audible, as in the ‘Divertissement’, it’s employed so delightfully and skittishly that one forgives him. In these five delightful pieces we hear the natural, undutiful composer at play.