Saturday, 5 July 2014

Superb performances of Vierne’s organ symphonies from Hans-Eberhard Roß playing the magnificent Goll Organ of St. Martin’s, Memmingen on a new release from Audite

Organist, Hans-Eberhard Roß has followed up his complete cycle of the organ works of César Franck with a series of recordings covering the complete organ symphonies of Louis Vierne (1870-1837) for Audite

Audite have just released volume three, the final instalment of this Vierne cycle that brings us Symphony No.5 in A minor, Op.47 and Symphony No.6 in B minor, Op.59. Roß uses the same organ as with his previous recordings, the Goll Organ of St. Martin’s, Memmingen, Germany  

SACD audite 92.676
It is a salutary thought that when Louis Vierne was writing his Organ Symphony No.6, in 1930, Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992) was writing his Diptyque for organ (1930) and had already composed his Le banquet céleste for organ (1928).

So how much did the musical advances of the twentieth century find their way into Vierne’s organ music? There is certainly evidence of development in the earlier fifth organ symphony, with its dissonances, but it was to be the sixth organ symphony that moved even further ahead.

But, to start with the Symphony No.5 in A minor, Op.47 (1924), the opening Grave sounds quietly in the depths, hardly rising at all in this austere movement, only lightened when, centrally, a more forward moving section appears.

The dynamic Allegro molto marcato casts aside the mood of the Grave, full of drive, tension and thrust. Hans-Eberhard Roß is very fine, with lovely phrasing, dynamics and very much a feeling for the music. The way Roß handles the various musical lines is superb and there are some spectacularly dramatic passages.

The scherzo, Tempo di Scherzo ma non troppo vivo, has a terrific ‘bounce’ as it scuttles along, with almost a ‘diabolical’ nature. Roß’ restraint only adds to the menace of the music.

The Larghetto opens on deep chords before immediately lightening in a calm melody with Roß allowing the development to unfold naturally, with lovely textures emerging, such is his fine sense of tempo.

There is a wonderful, bright and joyful Final: Allegro moderato, much in the nature of a carillon. Roß brings out some lovely touches in the quieter moments, nicely coloured. He keeps a fine forward flow with some spectacularly fine playing, especially as the music moves rapidly toward the coda.

An ascending and descending flourish opens the Introduction et Allegro: Poco agitato e a piacere, of the Symphony No.6 in B minor, Op.59 (1930) full of chromaticism in this endlessly fascinating movement to which Roß brings so much fine playing before the spectacular coda.

The Aria: Andante quasi adagio has the same dramatic freedom to which Roß responds so well, such fine tempo, flow and phrasing, providing such clarity enhanced by the fine recording. What a fine coda Vierne provided, brilliantly played here.

Vierne returns to the ‘diabolical’ in the unusual Scherzo: Vivace, where there are little runs, phrases and rhythms, giving the music a strange character. This is another example of Roß’ brilliant technique; his ability to phrase so well in these complex rhythms.

The Adagio: Larghetto opens with a long held note, underpinned by a pedal motif before the music slowly moves forward with its chromatic lines and drooping melody that becomes increasingly passionate as it develops, before a deep, rich coda that has lots of pedal to test any speaker cone.

The Final: Allegro molto simply bursts out with energy before developing through a steadier middle section, with Roß building the return to the opening brilliantly, as the music moves quickly towards the coda in playing of supreme accomplishment. 

These are superb performances that should bring more people to appreciate these fine works. The magnificent Goll organ seems ideally suited to Vierne’s music and is well caught by the engineers who not only provide excellent clarity but produce a bass response to test any speaker.

There are excellent booklet notes from Rüdiger Heinze and Hans-Eberhard Roß as well as a full organ specification.

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