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The Songs Of Louis Vierne / Santesso, Vignoles

Release Date: 10/25/2005 
Label:  Deux-elles   Catalog #: 1105   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Louis Vierne
Performer:  Roger VignolesAndrew ReidHugh WebbRachel Santesso
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 1 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

In this day and age, with so many small independent labels and no reliable Schwann catalog, it is probably stupid to say that I believe this is the first disc devoted entirely to songs by Louis Vierne. I will certainly admit that it is the first one that I have encountered in 45 years of collecting recordings. And what a gem it is!

Vierne’s organ music is, of course, well represented on disc. He was one of the most important figures in French organ music in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Vierne (1870–1937) had a very sad life, with tragedy heaped upon tragedy, and it is not surprising to learn from Deux-Elles’s excellent notes that he felt abandoned by God and his church, and that between 1914 and 1934 he composed
Read more almost no sacred music. He was deserted by his wife, saw in a very short time the deaths of his mother, his friend and colleague Alexandre Guilmant, and his youngest son. That was followed by the onset of glaucoma (which would eventually cost him what limited sight he had in the first place), the collapse of another love affair, and the deaths of another child and his brother in World War I.

These catastrophes, one after the other, are surely behind the deep sadness that seems to underline virtually all of these songs—but they are varied enough to hold our interest throughout. And there are a few happy ones, such as “Extase,” set to a Victor Hugo text, or the serene and charming “Four Greek Poems,” with harp accompaniment, that he wrote near the end of his life. The cycle “Spleens et détresses,” and the Baudelaire settings, are deeply moving, the work of a troubled soul exploring his own despondence—but in a way that is transformative for the listener.

Vierne’s musical imagination is vivid, his melodic inspiration highly inventive, and his skill at shaping these songs into just the right lengths is impeccable. I enjoyed this disc as much as any discovery I’ve encountered in years. While much of that is due to Vierne’s music, one must also credit soprano Rachel Santesso. Some might find her tendency to slide up into the center of the pitch annoying, but for me it is an appropriately used expressive device. Her lyric soprano is lovely, and she has the ability to color it to reflect the music’s mood. Most of the songs are piano-accompanied, and Roger Vignoles is one of today’s finest. Vignoles makes specific music and dramatic points without ever calling undue attention to himself. The three songs that make up the cycle Les angélus are for soprano and organ, quite ethereal in mood, and well performed, although I find the overly reverberant acoustic (only for those three songs) somewhat annoying. The Greek Poems replace the piano with harpist Hugh Webb, and he partners the soprano perfectly as well.

Deux-Elles provides, as stated above, excellent notes, as well as full texts and translations. This is a superb disc, and is enthusiastically recommended. It might even wind up on my Want List.

FANFARE: Henry Fogel
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Works on This Recording

Les angélus, Op. 57 by Louis Vierne
Performer:  Roger Vignoles (Piano), Andrew Reid (Organ), Hugh Webb (Harp),
Rachel Santesso (Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1929; France 
Length: 10 Minutes 40 Secs. 
Language: French 
Mčlodies (3), Op. 13: no 3, Extase! by Louis Vierne
Performer:  Rachel Santesso (Soprano), Roger Vignoles (Piano), Hugh Webb (Harp),
Andrew Reid (Organ)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1899; France 
Length: 3 Minutes 16 Secs. 
Language: French 
Spleens et détresses, Op. 38 by Louis Vierne
Performer:  Rachel Santesso (Soprano), Roger Vignoles (Piano), Andrew Reid (Organ),
Hugh Webb (Harp)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1917; France 
Length: 25 Minutes 12 Secs. 
Language: French 
Počmes de Baudelaire, Op. 45 by Louis Vierne
Performer:  Rachel Santesso (Soprano), Roger Vignoles (Piano), Andrew Reid (Organ),
Hugh Webb (Harp)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1919; France 
Length: 10 Minutes 28 Secs. 
Language: French 
Počmes grecs, Op. 60 by Louis Vierne
Performer:  Roger Vignoles (Piano), Andrew Reid (Organ), Rachel Santesso (Soprano),
Hugh Webb (Harp)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1930; France 
Length: 12 Minutes 3 Secs. 
Language: French 

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