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Franck, César: Complete Organ Works Vol. 1 - Ross

Franck, César: Complete Organ Works Vol. 1 - Ross

Audite  91.518 (2 discs)

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Instrumental


César Franck: Pièce en mi bémol, Pièce pour Grand Orgue, Andantino, Fantaisie (C major, version I), Cinq Pièces pour Harmonium transcrites pour Grand Orgue par Louis Vierne, Offertoire (Allegretto moderato), Fantaisie (C major, version II), Quasi Marcia Op. 22 pour Harmonium, Six Pièces pour Grand Orgue

Hans-Eberhard Ross (organ)


This double SACD is the beginning of a series of 3 double SACDs which together present César Franck’s complete organ works for the first time. This complete edition naturally includes the 12 major well-known works of this composer. In addition to these, it contains at least 40 minutes of first recordings alongside many smaller treasures of the repertoire. The works for harmonium are available here in their entirety in their versions for organ, as are two organ works discovered during the 1970s and 1980s, also new to the recording medium.

Besides these aspects of completeness, the present complete production is marked by the special sound of the Goll Organ. Its warm, soft sound, resulting from widely constructed pipes, creates an unobtrusive power and fullness; the essence of the French Cavaillé Organs has been preserved and further developed in this instrument.

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Review by John Broggio - December 3, 2007

A wonderful start to the cycle of works that Hans-Eberhard Ross has recorded over 6 SACD's (issued by Audite as 3 paired sets of discs) - I hope that the other volumes fulfil the potential revealed here.

Played on the wonderful Goll Organ of St. Martin, Memmingen this first volume (subtitled "From Prodigy to Composer") includes on disc 1:
Pièce en mi bémol, Pièce pour Grand Orgue, Andantino, Fantaisie (C major, version I), Cinq Pièces pour Harmonium transcrites pour Grand Orgue par Louis Vierne, Offertoire (Allegretto moderato), Fantaisie (C major, version II), Quasi Marcia Op. 22 pour Harmonium
From these the Pièce en mi bémol, Fantaisie (C major, version I) and Cinq Pièces pour Harmonium transcrites pour Grand Orgue par Louis Vierne are all first recordings; the Offertoire (Allegretto moderato) and Quasi Marcia Op. 22 pour Harmonium are first recordings on the organ. As one can see, there are embryonic versions of Op.16 and some interesting arrangements from Vierne. However, as well played as they are by Ross, the main interest is not on this first disc. A prodigy Franck certainly was and these works form a solid base which the second disc goes on to demonstrate that he was a rounded composer relatively early in his career.

On disc 2, we are offered the Six Pièces pour Grand Orgue that comprise Fantasie Op.16, Grand Pièce Symphonique Op. 17, Prélude, Fugue et Variation Op.18, Pastorale Op.19, Prèire Op.20 and Final Op.21 which contains some much more familiar fare for the "king of instruments" [as an aside, I always thought this should be the orchestra but anyway...] Here there are works that will be familiar to many a listener from their use in services and also as "mood music" in TV or film. The playing is very fine with a great deal of careful attention lavished on the registrations and the pacing adopted for each work. Ross manages to convey the wholeness of each part of the Six but more importantly, plays them like a cycle that is coherent and one feels that the conclusion is inevitable right from the opening some 76 minutes previously.

The extensive notes (both musical and biographical) claim that this interpretation differs markedly from the normal "26 to 29" minutes in Op.17 due to a recently discovered first edition bearing Franck's metronome markings suggesting about 21 or 22 minutes. However all the versions available that I am aware of have similar playing times around the 23'31 that Ross comes in at. Furthermore, many of these versions conveniently separate out the 3 principal sections of the piece which Audite do not.

Of keen interest to many organ devotees is the voicing of the instrument and this is dutifully presented together with a heartfelt note from Ross himself describing why the Goll instrument is suitable for Franck. Registrations are also provided on the Audite website (a nice touch that others may want to mimic) so that the players amongst us can pick up some tips from a master organist.

The acoustic of the Memmingen church is very fine for the purpose - not cloudy nor dry and the Audite team capture the reedy timbre of the Goll instrument with a care rarely heard in organ discs so far on SACD.

Recommended to all of Franck's admirers as, together with the Trois Pièces Pour Grand Orgue (on Franck, César: Complete Organ Works Vol. 2 - Ross) and the Trois Chorals Pour Grand Orgue (on Franck, César: Complete Organ Works Vol. 3 - Ross), this contains some of the pivotal works of Franck in what must be counted as ideal performances and nigh-on perfect recordings.

Copyright © 2007 John Broggio and HRAudio.net

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