I know, haven’t written much about any new albums in my collection of late. I have not done a whole lot of organ music collecting in the last two years or so. Yeah, when you lose your employment and become a (near) full-time stay-at-home-daddy, the household budget gets really tight. For my birthday my wife got me my 399th disc which presented two works for organ and orchestra! But, I admit, the number 399 had been bugging me for a while… So…
The 400th CD in my collection is an album I’ve had my eyes on for some time, at least, if you could find any copy of it available here in the USA… (It’s on iTunes, but I prefer to have physical album in hand) I had long forgotten that I had an eBay account and that ebay was often a great place to find little treasures, and this album was no exception! This disc features a single work for organ, Symphonie Eucharistique, by composer Auguste Fauchard (1881-1957), performed by Emmanuel Hocdé on the 1862 Cavaillé-Coll organ at St. Sulpice, in Paris.
I know, I know… Anyone who is familiar with this blog knows that I LOVE this organ. I have many recordings from St. Sulpice, and now (for my 400th disc) I have yet another. But the real treat is the music itself!
My first introduction to Fauchard’s music came a few years ago with the purchase of an album that features the composer’s Organ Symphony No. 2, Vexilla Regis, and his theme and variations Le Mystere De Noel Jesus Redemptor Ommnium 1940. His style of writing has fascinated me since. A student of Vierne, and André Marchal, his writing is very much a continuation of the later music of Charles-Marie Widor, and subsequently Louis Vierne.
However, Fauchard’s life as a priest (in addition to being an organist) has also greatly influenced his music as well–particularly the Symphonie Eucharistique–which is based on the Gregorian melodies Lauda Sion, Pange lingua, and Adoro te, among other themes. The resulting Symphonie is monumental in scale and the liner notes more accurately describe this 4 movement piece a symphonic fresco, as on this recording it occupies 57 minutes!
Under the fingers (and feet!) of Emmanuel Hocdé, the vast resources of the organ of St. Sulpice is on full display. From its powerful (not necessarily loud) full organ, to some of the more gentle and poetical capabilities of its solo stops, this organ NEVER ceases to amaze me. The colors this organ is able to produce lends itself only too well to the music.
I cannot overstate the combination of the beauty of this music, Fauchard’s writing, and Hocdé’s performance on this instrument, particularly at the outset of the 3rd movement–Communion. The theme from the chant O sacrum convivium is played on some beautiful combination of flutes and mutations that is set against a simple pedal line and a gorgeous figuration in the other hand. And having not seen the score here, I’m pretty sure that one hand is playing two parts on two different keyboards. This movement is amazing.
Overall, I’d highly recommend this album!
The above purchase led to two other albums that the same seller was offering… And I couldn’t restrain myself (a friendly reminder of why my collecting has been kind of put on hold). Both albums feature the organ works of Alexis Chauvet. Both discs, performed by Jacques Amade, are recorded on the 1890 Cavaillé-Coll organ at the abbey of St. Ouen, Rouen, France. Once again, those of you who are familiar with this blog, know that I already possess a ton of recordings from St. Ouen. In fact, it’s probably the most recorded organ in my collection. Seems kinda silly that I should add yet more recordings of this instrument, but it’s really all about the music.
Till now, the only other encounter I’ve had with the organ music of Alexis Chauvet is the splendid documentary on Cavaillé-Coll that the English company, Fugue State Films, produced a few years ago. And even then it was a thin introduction–with only two of his pieces featured. So, naturally, the “discovery” of these two albums would be enticing.
And having listened to them, I’m glad I purchased them. Alexis Chauvet’s organ works are somewhat unique in that there is a touch of the “popular” style of French organ playing (I would say typified by Lefébure-Wely), but also a mix of Franck, who is 15 years Chauvet’s senior. But there is also a forward treatment of counterpoint and pedaling that reveals the influence of the organ works of J.S. Bach on the French organ during this time.
His 20 Morceaux pour orgue are full of interesting pieces. For me I’ve taken such a liking to the fifteenth piece in the group, Office Des Morts in D minor, that I have sought out the musical score to learn it myself. It is really the only piece that can be linked with a somewhat liturgical idea, and is something that you might expect to hear at a funeral. But the piece to me is harmonically interesting and it’s called for 8′ and 16′ foundations are one of my favorite sounds on a French Romantic organ.
There are other pieces too that are a delight to listen to. Presented in Volume 2 are Chauvet’s 9 Offertoires, a group of Advent and Christmas pieces all based on Noël themes. These pieces I think best display this melding of the older classical style, with some of the new symphonic aesthetics that were being promoted at the time of their composition. Indeed the liner notes say that they were written after the composer was named organist of Saint-Merry, an organ re-built by Cavaillé-Coll that had deep roots in the classical french style, but with some of the modern leanings that Cavaillé-Coll would instill in the instruments.
It makes the choice of the organ at St. Ouen an interesting choice for these recordings as that instrument is, regarded by many in the organ world, one of the prime example of Cavaillé-Coll’s symphonic ideas. However, I’m struck in these recordings and with the Noël’s in particular, how well that instrument is still able to pull of peices that have a more classical feel to them.
My favorite of these Noël’s is the fifth piece in the series–La Nativité De Notre Seigneur (Nativity of our Lord). While this Noël is one of the most used by French composers, I never get tired of it. Here, Chauvet works the theme in some variations that lead up to the full power of the organ, which at St. Ouen is considerable!
I’m really glad that the purchase of the Fauchard album lead me to the discovery of these other two albums! It was worth taking that extra splurge to get them. Interestingly, I can hardly find anywhere else that has these CD’s with Chauvet’s works for sale. So, this was quite possibly a rare find!
Well. There you have it! My organ music collection has broken the 400 disc milestone! Granted I did it by adding yet another recording from St. Sulpice and two more from St. Ouen, but, hey! I’m on my way to 500!!!! Right?!? 😉