Notes and Editorial Reviews
Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2
Hans-Eberhard Roß (org)
AUDITE 92.674 (SACD: 65:50)
This disc is Vol. 1 in a projected series of CDs devoted to the six organ symphonies of Vierne, played by a German organist. Roß mentions in the liner notes that he is using the most recent text of these works issued by “Carus,” which corrects errors and inaccuracies of notation caused by the engraver at the time of printing as well as by blurring of the manuscript or mistakes in transcribing the Braille musical notation into standard notation. Thus, these may be taken to be the most accurate performances on record.
They are also quite terrific performances in terms of both coloration and clarity of line. Some of Vierne’s movements, i.e., the opening of both symphonies and the finale of No. 1, tend towards romantic bombast, but by and large his sense of structure is superb. The second movement of Symphony No. 1 is an excellent fugue, and the wonderfully mysterious moods he creates in the slow movements of both symphonies are truly exceptional. I especially enjoyed the “running” bass line in the second-movement “Choral” of Symphony No. 2, which creates an interesting countermotion. Roß describes in his notes the various registration changes he made, such as omitting the
pedal coupling in the opening of the First Symphony. In the same work’s Scherzo, he claims that if Vierne’s “manual instructions are followed, the new tenor counterpoint in bars 77-78 and 183-84 can hardly be heard,” thus he uses a “strongly registered
” instead. Other changes and registrations are found in his notes for the organ enthusiast.
On a lighter note, I’ve seldom if ever seen a photo of an artist in which he or she is wearing clothing that is color-coordinated with the CD packaging, but Roß is wearing a darkish red jacket that fits in perfectly with the color of this disc’s booklet and packaging. I can also attest that Vierne lived not backwards, as the CD case suggests (1870-1837), but until 1937.
There are three other recording of Vierne’s complete organ symphonies, by Jeremy Filsell on Brilliant Classics, Ben van Oosteen on MDG, and Martin Jean on Loft, but I haven’t heard them. I have, however, heard Michael Murray’s disc of Symphonies Nos. 1 and 3 on Telarc, and although they are good Roß’s performance of No. 1 is better. The hybrid SACD sonics are positively stunning even on my conventional CD player. Highly recommended.
FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley