César Franck: Organ Works - Kalevi Kiviniemi

César Franck: Organ Works - Kalevi Kiviniemi

Fuga  FUGA-9281

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Instrumental

César Franck: Grande pièce symphonique, Trois pièces, Choral III

Kalevi Kiviniemi (organ)

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A true 5.0-multichannel recording, editing and mastering: Mika Koivusalo
SACD mastering: DER/Esa Santonen
Reviews (1)

Review by John Miller - March 19, 2009

Kalevi Kiviniemi, one of the foremost organists in Finland, specialises in French organ music; he has undertaken several study trips to Paris and made recordings on the historical Cavaillé-Coll organs in Orléans and Rouen. He gives a short biography of César Franck in his booklet essay, emphasising the synergy of the composer with the rapidly-developing Cavaillé-Coll organs, whose high wind pressures and huge array of tone colours brought a symphonic aspect to the instrument in the late C19th.

Kiviniemi's enthusiasm for Franck's music is very apparent in his excellent descriptions of the pieces played in his recital. Considerable preparation clearly went into this recording; he plays from MS sources in the Pièce Héroïque & Fantasie-Idyll, and uses the Vienna Urtext Edition for the Cantabile, Grand Pièce Symphonique and Choral III. His notes tell us that the MS of the Cantabile clearly shows that Franck wished the beautiful vocalise-like leading solo to be played with a tremolo effect.

The featured organ is a remarkable instrument installed in the Neo-Gothic Central Pori Church in Western Finland. This is the one of the largest pipe organs in Finland and was built in the French Romantic tradition following the methods of Cavaillé-Coll. It has a truly magnificent sound which is a very good mimic of French Cavaillé-Coll organs.

Kiviniemi's playing of these pieces is utterly convincing. His registrations are models of harmonious tone-colours, especially in the many quieter passages where a solo voice is required. Some organists, even including Marie-Claire Alain on the Caen Cavaillé-Coll organ, give a solo melody to a stop very different to the supporting accompaniment so that it sticks out like a sore thumb, but Kiviniemi blends the voices unobtrusively. Tempi are chosen with the long reverberation time of the building in mind, so that he does not attempt the hectic pace of Alain's Pièce Héroïque, which knocks 2 minutes off Kiviniemi's time but is rhythmically erratic and sounds rushed. In Kiviniemi's hands (and feet!) the Lisztian mystery of the first section is flowing and urgent, ending gloriously in a fury of fiery reeds and 32' pedal groundwork. He handles the gentle pastoralism and storm of the early version of the Fantasie-Idyll with tasteful rubato and affectionate phrasing. His scherzo section in the Grand Pièce Symphonique gurgles playfully with lovely articulation and dance-like rhythmic pointing. The Choral III in A minor is given a mercurial wildness in its faster sections, and turns into a thrilling ride with thunderous rising pedal scales.

This fine recital is given a resplendent 5.0 HD PCM recording which manages to tame the long reverberation time of the Pori Church, with its multiple reflections, using the minimum number of microphones. The wonderful ambience and atmosphere of the building and its enrichment of the organ sound is solidly captured, with the listener seated in the body of the church and the organ well-focussed and detailed. The organ divisions spread across the sound-stage, so the antiphonal interplay adds interest. As well as the massively impressive full organ climaxes (where the attack transients of the deepest pedal notes are palpable as the pipes speak), the pianissimo stretches are pure and clear. Deep bass lovers will not be disappointed. There is only slight breathing LF noise from the blowers (and or central heating), which is only apparent at the end of tracks.

Recordings of Franck's organ music are legion, and there are already several on SACD at the time of writing. Listeners who do not wish to invest in the 3 volume double-SACD complete works played by Hans-Eberhard Ross will find the most popular works on Kiviniemi's disc - at 77:00 very well-filled. A suitable complement would be Phillip Latry's programme (César Franck: Organ Works - Olivier Latry) with only a couple of duplications. To my mind, the Kiviniemi is the best-played single SACD disc and certainly the best recorded. It is most instructive to compare the foggy sound given to Marie-Claire Alain on RBCD with the realism of this Fuga SACD.

Fuga's substantial booklet is attractively designed with texts in English and Finnish, some very fine illustrations and photographs of the organ and its surroundings, with a full specification of the organ.

Unreservedly recommended.

Copyright © 2009 John Miller and


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