Poulenc, Petit, Barber

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Barber,Petit,Poulenc
LABELS: Linn
WORKS: Organ Concerto
PERFORMER: Gillian Weir (organ); ECO/David Hill, Raymond Leppard
CATALOGUE NO: CKD 178
Gillian Weir, David Hill and the English Chamber Orchestra offer a bracing, cogent performance of the Poulenc Organ Concerto, marred only by some moments in which the organ swamps the strings and by Weir’s casual treatment of dotted figures in the Subito andante moderato. Peter Hurford seems to cherish the music more at this spot, and overall I prefer the suavity and specificity of characterisation in his account (with Dutoit and the Philharmonia) to Weir’s accomplished but comparatively all-purpose playing.

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By supplementing the well-known Poulenc with two similarly scored 20th-century pieces, this disc makes a modest case for expanding the repertoire of concerted works for organ. Pierre Petit (1922-2000) was

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a composition student of Nadia Boulanger and longtime music critic for Le Figaro; his Concertino (1958) is an attractive, stylistically eclectic piece with a brooding ostinato in the second movement that does not prevent outbursts of (sometimes polytonal) jauntiness elsewhere. Samuel Barber’s Toccata festiva, premiered in 1960, covers a considerable range of expression, from the triumphant to the introspective, but I’m afraid that the lilting, rhythmically off-kilter, and dangerously ubiquitous main theme, which could be a leitmotif for an irresolute, inebriated cowboy, prevents me from taking this piece very seriously. The sound nicely captures the brilliance of the apparently remarkable 1995 organ by Marcussen & Søn at St Augustine’s Chapel, Tonbridge School, although the instrument is recorded to make a slightly more incisive impact in the Petit and Barber (conducted by Raymond Leppard). David Breckbill