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Cesar Franck At Notre Dame, Paris.


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You better try the very last recording of Franck's organ works by Pincemaille on St Sernin de Toulouse!

He explains why he has adopted rather faster tempi than usual.

http://www.solstice-music.com/index.php?basculeLangue=true

 

I had a dream that I was travelling in a Paris taxi...Hurtling past places that I almost recognised. Not quite sure what to hold on to. Frightened that we would crash at any moment. But through the skill of the driver we just made it to our destination in one piece...

Then I woke up and found I was listening to the Pincemaille Franck!

 

I don't find this CD a comfortable listening experience and I'm not yet sure what elements to take from it, but I admire Pierre Pincemaille's courage in abandoning convention and interpreting the music in his own way.

 

The Saint-Sernin chamades are stunning. Perhaps every Paris taxi driver should have one!

 

Perhaps it is a sign that I am getting older, but I still prefer André Marchal's recordings at (the old) St Eustache, in which he didn't follow the composer's indications exactly, but achieved a beautiful sound in spite of the shortcomings of the instrument.

 

JC

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I had a dream that I was travelling in a Paris taxi...Hurtling past places that I almost recognised.  Not quite sure what to hold on to.  Frightened that we would crash at any moment.  But through the skill of the driver we just made it to our destination in one piece... 

Then I woke up and found I was listening to the Pincemaille Franck! 

 

I don't find this CD a comfortable listening experience and I'm not yet sure what elements to take from it, but I admire Pierre Pincemaille's courage in abandoning convention and interpreting the music in his own way. 

 

The Saint-Sernin chamades are stunning.  Perhaps every Paris taxi driver should have one! 

 

Perhaps it is a sign that I am getting older, but I still prefer André Marchal's recordings at (the old) St Eustache, in which he didn't follow the composer's indications exactly, but achieved a beautiful sound in spite of the shortcomings of the instrument. 

 

JC

Your metaphor is excellent and made me laugh!

In fact I know very well Pincemaille whom I visit regularly at his ACC Opus 1 in St Denis. He plays like a real virtuoso and I'm not frightened by his speed as he has got an amazing technique! A part from that he is also an excellent driver !!

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Your metaphor is excellent and made me laugh!

In fact I know very well Pincemaille whom I visit regularly at his ACC Opus 1 in St Denis. He plays like a real virtuoso and I'm not frightened by his speed as he has got an amazing technique! A part from that he is also an excellent driver !!

 

You are so fortunate! I would very much like to meet M. Pincemaille. His improvisational skills are superb. Apart from the late M. Yves Devernay, he is the organist who can sound the closest in style to Cochereau, when he chooses.

 

I would also dearly like to see the C-C at S. Denis - I have it on recordings and have been in the building - but unfortunately not when M. Pincemaille was playing the organ.

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You are so fortunate! I would very much like to meet M. Pincemaille. His improvisational skills are superb. Apart from the late M. Yves Devernay, he is the organist who can sound the closest in style to Cochereau, when he chooses.

 

I would also dearly like to see the C-C at S. Denis - I have it on recordings and have been in the building - but unfortunately not when M. Pincemaille was playing the organ.

The st Denis CC is very special. I played a lunchtime concert there ages back and M Pincemaille turned up in the loft halfway through the first piece to say hello. After a mid Dupre conversation he then spent the rest of the programme squinting at my registrations, muttering 'merde' and changing stops on a bar by bar basis till it sounded right..and the stereotype about chain smoking Gauloises was on this occasion borne out by reality. He was quite right about all the registrations, of course, and was altogether a pretty cool sort of bloke.
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The st Denis CC is very special. I played a lunchtime concert there ages back and M Pincemaille turned up in the loft halfway through the first piece to say hello. After a mid Dupre conversation he then spent the rest of the programme squinting at my registrations, muttering 'merde' and changing stops on a bar by bar basis till it sounded right..and the stereotype about chain smoking Gauloises was on this occasion borne out by reality. He was quite right about all the registrations, of course, and was altogether a pretty cool sort of bloke.

 

This is very interesting, Stephen.

 

The C-C at S. Denis is indeed wonderful - although I think that I would have added a Céleste instead of the 1p stop which PP chose!

 

Am I correct in thinking that M. Pincemaille does not speak (or chooses not to speak) English?

 

On a non-musical point - was he smoking Galouises in the loft? (Not that there is any room, there!) At N.-D., at least Léfébvre goes into the tiny studio inside the case and smokes there - and when I was there a year or two ago, he also kindly made me a cup of very strong black coffee!

 

How easy was it to find your way around the S. Denis organ? I notice that the drawstops (on vertical and parallel jambs) pull out several inches. Is the clavier action heavy?

 

When you played it, was it still tuned to that odd unequal tempered system which was (re-)introduced at the most recent restoration - or had M. Pincemaille succeded in having it tuned to equal temperament by then?

 

My apologies for the multitudinous questions; I find this a fascinating subject.

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This is very interesting, Stephen.

 

The C-C at S. Denis is indeed wonderful - although I think that I would have added a Céleste instead of the 1p stop which PP chose!

 

Am I correct in thinking that M. Pincemaille does not speak (or chooses not to speak) English?

 

On a non-musical point - was he smoking Galouises in the loft? (Not that there is any room, there!) At N.-D., at least Léfébvre goes into the tiny studio inside the case and smokes there - and when I was there a year or two ago, he also kindly made me a cup of very strong black coffee!

 

How easy was it to find your way around the S. Denis organ? I notice that the drawstops (on vertical and parallel jambs) pull out several inches. Is the clavier action heavy?

 

When you played it, was it still tuned to that odd unequal tempered system which was (re-)introduced at the most recent restoration - or had M. Pincemaille succeded in having it tuned to equal temperament by then?

 

My apologies for the multitudinous questions; I find this a fascinating subject.

Hi pncd - I'll do my best to remember! It was one of my first concerts outside the UK and all a bit scary - lurking somewhere in the attic is a cassette of it, but I haven't been able to face digging it out - the playing is probably terrible.

In order of asking! - I think we did the whole conversation in French - I was at that time reasonably fluent in a sexy chit chat with girls sort of way, but couldn't have taken a physiology class or directed a light opera .

There was a Gauloise perched on PP's lower lip during his visit to the loft, yes - some of the ash went on and in my suit. Very hard to find your way around - nothing labelled, ventils heavy, stop draw length massive and not entirely perpendicular to the jambs for the most part, bench cripplingly positioned and immovable. Action HEAVY. Afraid I can't remember a thing about the temperament - it was so out of tune anyway it made no difference! I'll see if I can find that cassette... I think there's some footage of PP improvising at SD on that Solstice Cochereau DVD. S

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Hi pncd - I'll do my best to remember! It was one of my first concerts outside the UK and all a bit scary - lurking somewhere in the attic is a cassette of it, but I haven't been able to face digging it out - the playing is probably terrible.

In order of asking! - I think we did the whole conversation in French - I was at that time reasonably fluent in a sexy chit chat with girls sort of way, but couldn't have taken a physiology class or directed a light opera .

There was a Gauloise perched on PP's lower lip during his visit to the loft, yes -  some of the ash went on and in my suit. Very hard to find your way around - nothing labelled, ventils heavy, stop draw length massive and not entirely perpendicular to the jambs for the most part, bench cripplingly positioned and immovable. Action HEAVY. Afraid I can't remember a thing about the temperament - it was so out of tune anyway it made no difference! I'll see if I can find that cassette... I think there's some footage of PP improvising at SD on that Solstice Cochereau DVD. S

 

Thank you, Stephen! Yes - you are correct, PP improvises a scherzo (or part of one, if my memory serves me correctly) - and very good it is, too.

 

I loved your comment regarding a physiology class and light opera - that brightened my day!

 

I believe that PP himself paid for an adjustable bench - but presumably space is limited by virtue of the fact that the console is inside the lower part of the case; therefore, I assume that the bench cannot be moved backwards. Is this correct?

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Thank you, Stephen!  Yes - you are correct, PP improvises a scherzo (or part of one, if my memory serves me correctly) - and very good it is, too.

 

I loved your comment regarding a physiology class and light opera - that brightened my day!

 

I believe that PP himself paid for an adjustable bench - but presumably space is limited by virtue of the fact that the console is inside the lower part of the case; therefore, I assume that the bench cannot be moved backwards. Is this correct?

Yes, that's right. Afraid I can't claim credit for the physiology class comment, but I'm glad it brightened your day - thank Blackadder.

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The st Denis CC is very special. I played a lunchtime concert there ages back and M Pincemaille turned up in the loft halfway through the first piece to say hello. After a mid Dupre conversation he then spent the rest of the programme squinting at my registrations, muttering 'merde' and changing stops on a bar by bar basis till it sounded right..and the stereotype about chain smoking Gauloises was on this occasion borne out by reality. He was quite right about all the registrations, of course, and was altogether a pretty cool sort of bloke.

No doubt M. Pincemaille was right in the registrations he changed during your recital, but I would have found it infuriating. There is, after all, more than one way to skin a cat.....

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In fact I know very well Pincemaille whom I visit regularly at his ACC Opus 1 in St Denis. He plays like a real virtuoso and I'm not frightened by his speed as he has got an amazing technique!

 

Having got over the initial shock, the more I listen to these recordings, the more I like them. Back to the keyboard - I have a lot of things to re-learn.

 

JC

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Having got over the initial shock, the more I listen to these recordings, the more I like them.  Back to the keyboard - I have a lot of things to re-learn.

 

JC

 

Personally, I would not bother to re-learn too much of them - it is only one person's interpretation.

 

My CDs (Franck/Pincemaille) arrived to-day.

 

I have listened to much of both discs and I intend to do so a number of times, before forming a firm impression. However, certain things struck me immediately. I can understand Pincemaille's reasoning behind these interpretations, although I do not necessarily accept his conclusions. Yes, there are a number of over-reverent, even ponderous recordings of Franck's organ works. However, some of Pincemaille's speeds seem too wayward for me - for example, the last section of the Prélude, Fugue et Variation just sounds hurried and a little scrappy. Furthermore, the speeds of several sections of the Trois Chorals are also too fast at times, for my taste; whole sections of the Troisième Choral sound almost bizarre - certainly rushed and lacking in detail. The last section, for me, had lost its inexorable majesty - personally, I was just glad when it had finished.

 

There are recordings by a number of other French organists (of equally high calibre) who also argue effectively (through their playing) for a somewhat different interpretation - which is no less valid.

 

Insofar as registration is concerned, for me, Pincemaille adds nothing to the music. His comment regarding the omission of the Hautbois because at S. Sernin the fonds are strong enough is, in my view, to miss the point. The Hautbois adds an almost indefinable edge to the prescribed timbre - which is absent in Pincemaille's recording. The factor which he overlooks is that with a Cavaillé-Coll instrument, French organists knew what to expect when drawing many different registrations. It is true that the Anches Récit were a particularly delicate sound at Ste. Clothilde - largely due to the unusually small box, which also made crescendi and diminuendi so magical there. However, according to written contemporary accounts, there is no reason to suppose that there were any great differences with other C-C organs, with regard to the rest of the instrument.

 

Furthermore, I remain un-convinced that the implied reason that Franck specified the use of certain fonds with the Hautbois (or with the Hautbois and Trompette) was to make good any thinness of timbre in the ranks at Ste. Clothilde. It is equally possible that Franck wished for a more mellow effect, in order that the melody might speak more gracefully. It should be remembered that on virtually any Cavaillé-Coll organ, the Récit Hautbois and the Trompette have rather less body and greater edge and brightness than their English counterparts.

 

In the forte sections, to my ears, the sound is far too mixture-oriented - even the chamades (8p and 4p, not two unison ranks, as given in the booklet) do not really dominate the tutti, as they do in the building and on a number of other recordings.

 

Please do not mis-understand me - I am well aware of the towering virtuosity of Pierre Pincemaille and of his phenomenal improvisatory skill. I possess several other recordings of Pincemaille's playing (including the complete Widor Symphonies - his interpretation of which I regard highly). It is simply that I feel that, in these recordings of the organ music of César Franck, he has done what Cochereau himself occasionally did; that is, he has allowed virtuosity and an almost blatant disregard for reasonable convention to be usurped by a desire to seek a completely new interpretation which is, at times, almost violently different. It is by these criterior that, for me, Pincemaille fails either to excite or to speak afresh. The music and its own message have become subservient to the wayward declamations of a new demagogue.

 

Notwithstanding, this is only my opinion. If you have heard these interpretations and you are freshly-inspired to play the music of Franck in a similar way, then I am happy for you. For myself, I am content with the interpretations of Maurice Clerc, also playing the great works of Franck on the Cavaillé-Coll masterpiece at S. Sernin, Toulouse.

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Personally, I would not bother to re-learn too much of them - it is only one person's interpretation.

 

My CDs (Franck/Pincemaille) arrived to-day.

 

I have listened to much of both discs and I intend to do so a number of times, before forming a firm impression. However, certain things struck me immediately. I can understand Pincemaille's reasoning behind these interpretations, although I do not necessarily accept his conclusions. Yes, there are a number of over-reverent, even ponderous recordings of Franck's organ works. However, some of Pincemaille's speeds seem too wayward for me - for example, the last section of the Prélude, Fugue et Variation just sounds hurried and a little scrappy. Furthermore, the speeds of several sections of the Trois Chorals are also too fast at times, for my taste; whole sections of the Troisième Choral sound almost bizarre - certainly rushed and lacking in detail. The last section, for me, had lost its inexorable majesty - personally, I was just glad when it had finished.

 

There are recordings by a number of other French organists (of equally high calibre) who also argue effectively (through their playing) for a somewhat different interpretation - which is no less valid.

 

Insofar as registration is concerned, for me, Pincemaille adds nothing to the music. His comment regarding the omission of the Hautbois because at S. Sernin the fonds are strong enough is, in my view, to miss the point. The Hautbois adds an almost indefinable edge to the prescribed timbre - which is absent in Pincemaille's recording. The factor which he overlooks is that with a Cavaillé-Coll instrument, French organists knew what to expect when drawing many different registrations. It is true that the Anches Récit were a particularly delicate sound at Ste. Clothilde - largely due to the unusually small box, which also made crescendi and diminuendi so magical there. However, according to written contemporary accounts, there is no reason to suppose that there were any great differences with other C-C organs, with regard to the rest of the instrument.

 

Furthermore, I remain un-convinced that the implied reason that Franck specified the use of certain fonds with the Hautbois (or with the Hautbois and Trompette) was to make good any thinness of timbre in the ranks at Ste. Clothilde. It is equally possible that Franck wished for a more mellow effect, in order that the melody might speak more gracefully. It should be remembered that on virtually any Cavaillé-Coll organ, the Récit Hautbois and the Trompette have rather less body and greater edge and brightness than their English counterparts.

 

In the forte sections, to my ears, the sound is far too mixture-oriented - even the chamades (8p and 4p, not two unison ranks, as given in the booklet) do not really dominate the tutti, as they do in the building and on a number of other recordings.

 

Please do not mis-understand me - I am well aware of the towering virtuosity of Pierre Pincemaille and of his phenomenal improvisatory skill. I possess several other recordings of Pincemaille's playing (including the complete Widor Symphonies - his interpretation of which I regard highly). It is simply that I feel that, in these recordings of the organ music of César Franck, he has done what Cochereau himself occasionally did; that is, he has allowed virtuosity and an almost blatant disregard for reasonable convention to be usurped by a desire to seek a completely new interpretation which is, at times, almost violently different. It is by these criterior that, for me, Pincemaille fails either to excite or to speak afresh. The music and its own message have become subservient to the wayward declamations of a new demagogue.

 

Notwithstanding, this is only my opinion. If you have heard these interpretations and you are freshly-inspired to play the music of Franck in a similar way, then I am happy for you. For myself, I am content with the interpretations of Maurice Clerc, also playing the great works of Franck on the Cavaillé-Coll masterpiece at S. Sernin, Toulouse.

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Sorry... wrong button and lost my reply, here we go again.

 

Don't get me wrong, I hate PP's rendering of prelude, fugue and variation with a passion and, so far, I share your view about the three chorals. But I support his view that convention sometimes needs to be challenged. What stirred me to write my earlier remark was the Grand Piece Symphonique, a work I never seem to have got right. It always seems dull and boring (like me, perhaps!) and finding that PP manages the first section a full minute faster has stimulated my grey cells and made me realise that there are things I haven't tried before. Sometimes it is necessary to hear or see something done differently to help one think about one's own work.

 

JC

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The question of the Hautbois in Franck is a complicated one: many actual Hautbois

are too strong and too crude for the task.

In a german organ for instance, the Oboe is nearly a chorus reed, while you have

excellent strings that will do better.

Many belgian romantic organs will present you a "Basson-Hautbois" stopknob in a seemingly "Cavaillé-Coll-like" specification, so you will use it "as in the book", but what you have actually behind may be an Oboe....So every organ should be used

in its own way.

My preffered Franck recordings still remain Jane Parker-Smith and André Isoir, despite some shortcomings with the organ Isoir used (Luçon).

 

Pierre

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But I support his view that convention sometimes needs to be challenged.
I couldn't agree more. My organ professor rarely imposed an interpretation on me (except, ironically, when it came to Franck): his preferred method was to play a passage to me in two or three different ways and send me away to think about it. It's a very good exercise to try to think that way.
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  • 8 months later...

I spent some time last weekend listening to some recordings of the Franck Priere - but couldn't find anything I felt really hit the spot. It's an amazing piece IMO, but difficult to bring off convincingly (along with a lot of Franck). I have Sanger, Rubsam, LeBrun complete sets - all good performances, but somehow lacking something.

 

Does anyone have any alternative suggestions? I heard the Peter Hurford did a complete Franck, but I can't trace it - does anyone know if it exists, what it's like, and wht instrument(s) was used?

 

Many thanks

 

JJK

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I spent some time last weekend listening to some recordings of the Franck Priere - but couldn't find anything I felt really hit the spot. It's an amazing piece IMO, but difficult to bring off convincingly (along with a lot of Franck). I have Sanger, Rubsam, LeBrun complete sets - all good performances, but somehow lacking something.

 

Does anyone have any alternative suggestions? I heard the Peter Hurford did a complete Franck, but I can't trace it - does anyone know if it exists, what it's like, and wht instrument(s) was used?

 

Many thanks

 

JJK

 

I had this on tape and I think that it was from St Sernin Toulouse. However my tapes have now been passed on or recycled so I can't check this.

 

AJJ

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I had this on tape and I think that it was from St Sernin Toulouse. However my tapes have now been passed on or recycled so I can't check this.

 

AJJ

I consider the version by André Marchal pl

 

I had this on tape and I think that it was from St Sernin Toulouse. However my tapes have now been passed on or recycled so I can't check this.

 

AJJ

I consider the version by André Marchal playing Franck's organ works as the most valuable one.

I got held of a second hand copy (ERATO) through amazon.com, because the recording (1956) is now soldout§

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I spent some time last weekend listening to some recordings of the Franck Priere - but couldn't find anything I felt really hit the spot. It's an amazing piece IMO, but difficult to bring off convincingly (along with a lot of Franck). I have Sanger, Rubsam, LeBrun complete sets - all good performances, but somehow lacking something.

 

Does anyone have any alternative suggestions?

 

If it's only for the Prière, my favourite versions are:

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I had this on tape and I think that it was from St Sernin Toulouse. However my tapes have now been passed on or recycled so I can't check this.

 

AJJ

 

I recommend two sets recorded on the mighty Cavaillé-Coll in S. Sernin, Toulouse. The first is played by Michael Murray and is on the Telarc label (CD-80234 [2CD]). The playing is good. However, he occasionally takes liberties with Franck's clearly-marked registrations - for example, using a Céleste instead of Voix Humaine and Tremblant in the Deuxième Choral - which rather misses the point.

 

Then there is the recording by Maurice Clerc (REM Nr. 311095 XCD). This set only includes the Trios Chorals, the Fantasie en La majeur, the Cantabile and the Pièce Héroïque.

 

There is also the recording by Kåre Nordstoga at S. Etienne, Caen (on the Simax label: PSC 1072), again playing the Trois Chorals, but this time they are coupled with the Grand Pièce Symphonique.

 

The second and third discs I include for the sake of general interest.

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I spent some time last weekend listening to some recordings of the Franck Priere - but couldn't find anything I felt really hit the spot. It's an amazing piece IMO, but difficult to bring off convincingly (along with a lot of Franck). I have Sanger, Rubsam, LeBrun complete sets - all good performances, but somehow lacking something.

 

JJK

 

Dear JJK,

 

I think the choice depends on what you feel is lacking in those performances of Prière. For me, they are too calm, almost to the point where they become ponderous. Having recently gone through a period where my prayers were filled with despair and grief, my own interpretation is much more turbulent and emotional and the recent Pierre Pincemaille recording comes closest to my ideal. Some may feel it is a little rushed in places but towards the end of the piece I find it almost unbearably poignant. PP does not follow the clearly marked registrations, but St. Sernin 2006 is not Ste.Clotilde 1860, and in this case I believe the lighter textures are beneficial. It may not suit the purist, but I believe it is well worth hearing, preferably more than once, to appreciate its qualities.

 

John

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I think the choice depends on what you feel is lacking in those performances of Prière. For me, they are too calm, almost to the point where they become ponderous.

 

Yes - I found them too staid. But neither do I like to hear Franck rushed - it has to be just right, which is a bit of a subjective judgement. I haven't heard the Pincemaille Franck, but I do quite like his Widor: I'll try to get hold of a copy.

 

Thanks v much to all for so many suggestions - it seems there is a lot of listening to do. :)

 

JJK

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I was disppointed by his Franck, which I found to be much colder than his Messiaen (I like the latter quite a lot, actually). I very much prefer his Duruflé and his Vierne from the 1980's. But maybe he has set standards so high that one ends up "expecting" too much from him...

Since all this started out as a discussion about Latry's DG Franck set, I' d like to add a thought. Having heard Latry in recital a few times, and on CD very often, I came to think that there is a certain quality in his playing that is not communicated easily in recordings. E. g., when I heard him in a recital in my hometown Freiburg, I kept wondering why he started many pieces so slowly. Usually, however, the effect was that, a few bars into the piece, I was drawn powerfully into his vision of the music. It was like getting caught in a stream. There was something in his playing that made the music completely clear and unsdisturbed, a concentration so deep that you couldn't miss it. It worked even better when I did not know the music, as in the Florentz suite he played.

 

It was like taking a stroll in the performer's mind, watching him meditate the music.

 

In the DG Franck set, I can merely sense that quality, but I think you just have to leave it to a recital to be overwhelmed by something as intensely "live" as that.

 

About other Franck recordings, I think there isn't such a thing as the right one. I liked Demessieux for the poetic spirit in her playing (especially in the most difficult "Prière"); I liked Guillou for his spectacular use of the Saint-Eustache organ without -- in my opinion -- mising the mark. It very much depends on the overall character of the performance, and of the performer's style of making music. There are organists who beautifully sing out Franck, others who turn his pieces to monumental statements of the inherent symphonic spirit, and still others who aim at an epic broadness. Some do survive the dramatic turmoil of Choral III, staying in control until the end, and some don't. I never was surprised as often by unexpectedly good, as well as poor, interpretations as in Franck.

 

Best,

Friedrich

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