Yup, it is yet another JAV CD’s recording! Yup, it is yet another recording of the famous Cavaillé-Coll organ at St. Sulpice. Yup, it is yet another recording featuring the virtuoso Daniel Roth. Yup, it was recorded by Christoph Frommen. Yup, it’s a wonderful recording. So what else is new?
Well in the album organist Daniel Roth tackles more music by Charles-Marie Widor. This time taking on the 5th and 6th Symphonies for organ. The works are grand in scope and are so well suited to the organ, and Daniel Roth performs them flawlessly and makes them seem like it was easy to do! (Sound clips at the end of this post!)
I have been looking forward to this CD release since Roth’s last album (click here) with JAV in which Roth performed Widor’s last two symphonies the Gothique and Romane. With both these albums it’s nice to have Widor’s music performed on the very organ (in pretty much the same state as he knew it too!) that he was temporary-organist of for 60-something years! And both of these albums contain my top four Organ Symphonies by Widor! (The 5th, 6th, 9th and 10th) But this new release contains one of my favorite – if not the most favorite – organ pieces in the entire repertoire. That would be the thunderous, highly emotionally charged opening “Allegro” of the Symphony No. 6, Op. 42, No 2.
So for me what really stands out here is the performance of these symphonies. I should note that I have two other recordings of Widor’s 5th and 6th Symphonies, but performed by Dutchmen Ben van Oosten and Herman Van Vliet. This album is the first in my collection of having these works performed by a Frenchman. And Daniel Roth does not disappoint. It was actually refreshing to listen to his interpretation. It was kind of interesting as I listened to various parts how different his interpretations were from the other two, I’ll be honest and say I found myself saying, that’s now how it’s supposed to be played. But listening again I have come to appreciate the differences of Roth’s interpretation compared to that of the two Dutchmen.
Looking at it now, I almost think van Oosten’s playing is very technical, very calculated, and restrained. Not that his performance isn’t bad, it’s just on one end of the spectrum. Where I find Roth’s performance a bit more emotional and willing to place emphasis on certain points that I really enjoy. Again, it has allowed me to listen to the works again almost from a new point of view! I love that!
Widor’s Symphony No. 5 Op. 42, No. 1 opens with a piece that is based on a theme and then a set of variations that really shows off different sounds (through registration – choice of stops) of the instrument and through the use of varying rhythms creates a kalidescope of textures and color that I think make this a prime example of Widor’s treatment of the instrument as a symphonic entity. And of course having this performed on the monumental “100”-stop organ at St. Sulpice makes this a lot of fun. The rest of this symphony I think keeps up this symphonic conception very well and is less severe than some of his other symphonies. The third movement tends to be a bit more serious – certainly more serious than it’s preceding movement which is a bit playful with its flutes and solo reed. And the over relaxing fourth movement just gives away to the pyrotechnics of his famous Toccata. And yes, while I enjoy Widor’s famous Toccata, no it is not my favorite. Partly because there is hardly any organ compilation album out there where this work ISN’T featured… Enjoyable, but get’s old…
The Symphony No. 6 Op. 42, No. 2 opens in full organ with the theme of the first movement presented in large chords. I love this theme. I love this piece. From here Widor takes the theme on a tour de force and develops it through the entire movement. Roth tackles this one so well, including the eye-popping (if you see the score), earth shattering, thunderous challenge for the feet towards the end of the piece! There is only one way to listen to this piece – as loud as you can! And I often do when I’m in a really bad mood or a really good mood, it kind of works for both! The second piece provides a breather with its far more calm passages only to be greeted with a very bold middle movement – Intermezzo – played on a full registration. The piece is almost relentless in its movement. This in turn followed by a beautiful piece that features a melodic line using a solo reed (Oboe/Haubois?) against a soft flute accompaniment. The Final ends in much the same way this symphony began – full organ, and music characterized with big chords.
I have to say that I really enjoyed this album thoroughly. I love the freshness that Roth brings to these works and the organ itself is always a delight to listen too! I have to take a moment to note that those recording of these symphonies by van Oosten and Van Vliet were done on the Cavaillé-Coll organ at St. Ouen, Rouen. And being very familiar with those recordings (multiple listens!) the differences between that organ and St. Sulpice are now obvious to me as night and day. What strikes me is that St. Sulpice – while being the much larger monumental organ – does not speak as forcefully as it’s younger sibling in Rouen. It has a grand sound that I would classify as a “full” sound whereas in Ouen, I’d say it’s a “bold” sound. One obvious place this is apparent is in the 32′ Reed in the pedal. The Bombarde in St. Sulpice is a bit more subtle than is incredibly boisterous sibling. Also I don’t know if it’s just the recording or what but the expressive swell division of St. Sulpice is amazing, the dynamic range from loud to soft with the opening and closing of the shutters is amazing!
So again as with any JAV recording I highly recommend it!