van Oosten: Vierne - Complete Organ Symphonies (4 CD, FLAC)
van Oosten: Vierne - Complete Organ Symphonies (4 CD, FLAC)

Performer: Ben van Oosten
Composer: Louis Vierne
Audio CD
SPARS Code: DDD
Number of Discs: 4
Format: FLAC (image+cue)
Label: MD&G
Size: 882 MB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: yes

Disc: 1
01. Sym No.1 Op.14 in d: Prld
02. Sym No.1 Op.14 in d: Fugue
03. Sym No.1 Op.14 in d: Pastorale
04. Sym No.1 Op.14 in d: Allegro Vivace
05. Sym No.1 Op.14 in d: Andante
06. Sym No.1 Op.14 in d: Final

Disc: 2
01. Sym No.2 Op.20 in e: Allegro
02. Sym No.2 Op.20 in e: Choral
03. Sym No.2 Op.20 in e: Scherzo
04. Sym No.2 Op.20 in e: Cantabile
05. Sym No.2 Op.20 in e: Final
06. Sym No.3 Op.28 in f#: Allegro Maestoso
07. Sym No.3 Op.28 in f#: Cantilene
08. Sym No.3 Op.28 in f#: Intermezzo
09. Sym No.3 Op.28 in f#: Adagio
10. Sym No.3 Op.28 in f#: Final

Disc: 3
01. Sym No.4 Op.32 in g: Prld
02. Sym No.4 Op.32 in g: Allegro
03. Sym No.4 Op.32 in g: Menuet
04. Sym No.4 Op.32 in g: Romance
05. Sym No.4 Op.32 in g: Final
06. Sym No.6 Op.59 in b: Intro Et Allegro
07. Sym No.6 Op.59 in b: Aria
08. Sym No.6 Op.59 in b: Scherzo
09. Sym No.6 Op.59 in b: Adagio
10. Sym No.6 Op.59 in b: Final

Also available:  Redel, Haudebourg: W.F. Bach - Concertos pour clavecin (2 CD, FLAC)

Disc: 4
01. Sym No.5 Op.47 in a: Grave
02. Sym No.5 Op.47 in a: Allegro Molto Marcato
03. Sym No.5 Op.47 in a: Scherzo
04. Sym No.5 Op.47 in a: Larghetto
05. Sym No.5 Op.47 in a: Final

This complete boxed set of Louis Vierne’s organ symphonies played superbly by French organ music specialist Ben van Oosten on spectacular Cavaille-Coll organs and stunningly recorded by DG (Darringhaus und Grimm) is not to be missed, especially at its bargain price. I had hoped to find these recorded as played on Vierne’s titular organ at Notre-Dame de Paris without success, but these DG recordings are so well done that any recordings of these on the Notre-Dame organ have been placed onto the “maybe” list. Vierne was Charles-Marie Widor’s sub-organist at Paris’s St. Sulpice with its superb Clicquot–Cavaille-Coll organ before becoming titulaire at Notre-Dame and Vierne further developed the organ symphonic genre inaugurated earlier in France by others, including Cesar Franck and Widor and encouraged by Cavaille-Coll’s instruments.

Vierne’s organ symphonies vary considerably, musically reflecting a stylistic range from pathos to humor. Symphony 5 is perhaps the darkest in mood, likely influenced by Vierne’s own somewhat problematic life complicated further by marital problems and visual difficulties. But whatever the the mood at the onset, each symphony has a characteristic final movement which is uplifting and generally at least somewhat technically challenging for the performer. Ben van Oosten captures the nuances in each movement superbly.

The choice of organs for these recordings is appropriate- Saint-Francois-de-Sales in Lyon, Saint-Ouen in Rouen,and Saint-Sernin in Toulouse, each with its own tonal characteristics and environmental situation. The genius of builder Aristide Cavaille-Coll is in part demonstrated by the fact that none of the choices is large in size, especially compared with others such as at St. Sulpice and Notre-Dame de Paris or some huge American organs for examples, but each is fully capable of producing definitive and expressive sound and does so in these recordings. Because of van Oosten’s choice of registers and the skill of DG, for example the listener can hear the thunderous 32-foot contre-bombarde of the Rouen organ and in Symphony 6 also that organ’s chamades clearly. Each of these organs is virtually unaltered from when built, unlike a number of others. For van Oosten, part of the challenge is mastering the technical aspects of the organs, which sometimes are not conventional. The DG recording technique very skillfully manages to balance the sound and ambience in each recoding site so that the listener hears as if being near the organ yet in a normal listening position in that venue, which is quite a challenge with gallery-situated church organs where the choice generally is between being in the organ loft or quite a distance away on the nave’s floor.

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