Vierne: Pièces de fantaisie, Opp. 51 & 53, 54, 55

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

LABELS: Solstice
WORKS: Pièces de fantaisie, Opp. 51 & 53, 54, 55
PERFORMER: George C Baker (organ)
It is always a pleasure to hear the grand old dame of St Ouen (that is, the 1890 Cavaillé-Coll organ). There is an increasing number of recordings made here, including, now, two complete sets of Vierne’s Pièces de fantaisie (the other is played by Ben van Oosten). George C Baker’s set, part of a complete Vierne cycle in collaboration with Pierre Cochereau, is nicely played and well recorded, though is unlikely to set the world on fire. The best moments are where the performer really engages with the excitement of the sound of the St Ouen organ. There is an inexorable momentum in ‘Les cloches de Hinckley’ towards its peroration, and a good use of space in the ‘Hymne au soleil’. In general, however, there needs to be stronger characterisation; the legato needs to be more legato and the impromptu-style movements need to sound more impromptu. Much of this music is concert music, and with titles like ‘Naïades’ and ‘Clair de lune’, imaginative portrayal is all. Baker clearly has the technique at his disposal, though gives us readings of Vierne rather than performances. William Whitehead