Notes and Editorial Reviews
Fantaisie in C;
Grande pièce symphoniques; Prélude, Fugue et Variation; Pastorale; Prière; Final.
Fantaisie in A. Cantabile in B.
Joris Verdin (org)
RICERCAR 223 (2 CDs: 122:20)
Brace yourself. Toward the end of the last
century, Franck’s biographer, Joel-Marie Fauquet, published his discovery of the composer’s penciled metronome markings for the Six Pièces indicating traversals considerably brisker than what we had become accustomed to, while supporting the evidence of recordings of the Third Choral, the Cantabile, and the
made in 1930 by Franck’s pupil, Charles Tournemire, whose startlingly fast-forward presentations, so to speak, had theretofore been ascribed to personal idiosyncrasy or to the limitations of the 78-rpm disc. Susan Landale responded to the new prehension with a spanking pace throughout her 2002 traversal of the canonical dozen works (Calliope 9941.2,
28: 2) as quicksilver animation dispelled the grandfatherly mien that had clung to Franck like dusty cerements. The cloying chromaticism of such things as the
or the central Andante of the
Grande pièce symphoniques
evaporated as compelling
suffused Franck’s architectural unfolding. Throughout, between speed and detailed articulation Landale struck a salutary balance. Joris Verdin, on the other hand, surpasses Landale in speed in every piece—by a minute-and-a-half to three in all but two of them—thus winning the race but losing interpretive edge. Passagework is often blurred, while climaxes are too quickly reached and too soon over. Jaunty and jolly, the
skips insipidly along. The
Prélude, Fugue et Variation
loses swing, the
is smudged. These failings are magnified in the chorals, with their rich, harmonically shifting textures—in the upshot, they resemble marches. The Third Choral’s long central cantilena comes off as less a rapt prayer than a raucous hornpipe. Overall, the effect is less animating than glib. This is surprising—and disappointing—given Verdin’s persuasive championship of Franck’s harmonium music, which has gone far toward rescuing both the instrument and a significant portion of Franck’s most immediately appealing work (Ricercar 213, reviewed with the Landale in
On the plus side, Verdin plays three splendid Cavaillé-Coll instruments—that of Santa Maria del Coro de San Sebastian for five of the Six Pièces (also used by Landale for the Trois Pièces), the organ of Santa-Maria d’Azkoitia for the
and the last two chorals, and that of St-Ouen à Rouen for the Trois Pièces and First Choral. In all three venues, over both albums, Ricercar’s aural perspective is recessed and murky, contributing to the blurring already effected by Verdin’s hustle, where Calliope’s, for Landale, is immediate and luminous. At 10:17, by the way, Verdin’s Third Choral times in almost evenly with Tournemire’s—a fascinating comparison. Verdin’s volatility makes for a viscerally stimulating couple of hours by pushing the limit in the speed sweeps—any faster and coherent expressiveness would be wholly lost. The program booklet features a note on Cavaillé-Coll’s innovations and the artist’s remarks on his interpretations. A photo of the organ builder and a color reproduction of the famous Ronger portrait of Franck are included in Ricercar’s attractive open-out pasteboard sleeve. Landale’s performances are to live with: Verdin’s are arresting curiosities—and on those terms, recommended.
FANFARE: Adrian Corleonis
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