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Tournemire Recordings


Malcolm Farr
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Some years ago, I picked up an EMI CD called "Composers in Person", which includes Widor, at a truly venerable age, playing the Toccata from the 5th Symphonie and three movements of the Gothique, and Vierne playing two improvisations and the Andantino from the Pièces de Fantasie. Widor recorded in 1932, and Vierne in 1928.

 

Tournemire recorded five improvisations in 1930, and these were transcribed by Maurice Duruflé around 1958. I've only ever heard recordings of others playing Duruflé's transcriptions, and never Tournemire himself.

 

Does anyone know if Tournemire's original recordings still exist and, if so, whether they can be purchased on CD? I've never even heard of them being on CD ...

 

Rgds,

MJF

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Does anyone know if Tournemire's original recordings still exist and, if so, whether they can be purchased on CD?

 

Yes, EMI issued a 5 CD box a few years ago, "Orgues et organistes français du XXè siècle", which includes the Tournemire improvisations as well as the Widor, Vierne, Dupré you mentioned, plus a whole lot of other goodies. Details here.

 

(Actually, this is a reissue of an old 5 LP box, with a few deletions and a number of additions; look here for the contents of the original LP box.)

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Some years ago, I picked up an EMI CD called "Composers in Person", which includes Widor, at a truly venerable age, playing the Toccata from the 5th Symphonie and three movements of the Gothique, and Vierne playing two improvisations and the Andantino from the Pièces de Fantasie.  Widor recorded in 1932, and Vierne in 1928.

 

Tournemire recorded five improvisations in 1930, and these were transcribed by Maurice Duruflé around 1958.  I've only ever heard recordings of others playing Duruflé's transcriptions, and never Tournemire himself.

 

Does anyone know if Tournemire's original recordings still exist and, if so, whether they can be purchased on CD?  I've never even heard of them being on CD ...

 

Rgds,

MJF

If you've not heard the originals before you're in for surprise - some fairly extended passages are quite different from D's transcription - he tidied things up quite a lot.

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If you've not heard the originals before you're in for surprise - some fairly extended passages are quite different from D's transcription - he tidied things up quite a lot.

You've got me quite intrigued there. I'll absolutely have to get myself a copy now.

 

Incidentally, when I picked up the "Composers in Person" CD, I was rather taken aback by just how tame Vierne's recorded improvisations were. Certainly not what I had expected, given what I had read about him as a glorious improvisor.

 

I see that Vierne's Bach recordings are also on the "Orgues & Organistes" CD-set. It will be interesting to hear them, too, as I have read rather the reverse - that they weren't up to par in some respects.

 

Rgds,

MJF

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You've got me quite intrigued there.  I'll absolutely have to get myself a copy now.

 

Incidentally, when I picked up the "Composers in Person" CD, I was rather taken aback by just how tame Vierne's recorded improvisations were.  Certainly not what I had expected, given what I had read about him as a glorious improvisor.

 

I see that Vierne's Bach recordings are also on the "Orgues & Organistes" CD-set.  It will be interesting to hear them, too, as I have read rather the reverse - that they weren't up to par in some respects.

 

Rgds,

MJF

 

I have this set - I recommend it, if only for the historical aspect.

 

A couple of things are worth considering. Vierne improvised quite differently on these recordings than when he was playing for a service in the tribune at N.-D. When told the limit of the length of his recording (I think four-and-a-half minutes, but I am in school and cannot check at present) he said "Oh well, in that case I shall just have to do a pontifical march" (Or something to that effect.) Apparently, his improvisational style changed somewhat following the deaths of his brother and son in the Great War.

 

In a sense, the Bach playing is technically accurate (I think that he plays the 'little' E minor P&F) - the point being that he played (and registered) it in the style which was prevalent in France at the time. The Prelude (as far as I can remember) is registered as GPR tutti fonds and anches ff. The Fugue I cannot currenty recall the registration. Oh - and it is very slow; rather in the manner of PC's recording of the B minor (c. 1955), which is also slow - and possibly played an octave higher for some passages, presumably in order to achieve greater brilliance of sound.

 

It is also interesting to note that, for all his fastidiousness (almost to the point of obsession) as a composer, on these recordings Duruflé was rather less accurate as a performer. Of course anyone can have off-days and editing was either difficult, or in some cases impossible during a movement, but the fact remains that there are a number of mis-readings in the pieces which he played. Please remember that I am working on memory, here - I have not heard the discs for a year or two - perhaps I shall get them out tonight!

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Thanks for your comments, pcnd.

 

While I was aware that the early recordings would have been subject to the constraints imposed by 78s, I must confess that I hadn't really given any thought to the time factors involved being relevant to the "creative process". In retrospect, I suppose they were.

 

As I think you suggest, Vierne seems deliberately to have "dumbed down" considerably from his normal level (at least with respect to the standard of his written works). It's quite a pity, then, that recording equipment and techniques were at the primitive level they were then; and a pity, too, that there was no François Carbou who was so dedicated to the recording of Cochereau's service (and other) improvisations.

 

Interesting, too, are your comments about Duruflé's playing. I don't have any of his recordings, but had heard that he was good, but not absolutely front rank as a technician.

 

For a number of reasons, I can't wait to get this set ...

 

Rgds

MJF

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Thanks for your comments, pcnd.

 

While I was aware that the early recordings would have been subject to the constraints imposed by 78s, I must confess that I hadn't really given any thought to the time factors involved being relevant to the "creative process".  In retrospect, I suppose they were.

 

As I think you suggest, Vierne seems deliberately to have "dumbed down" considerably from his normal level (at least with respect to the standard of his written works).  It's quite a pity, then, that recording equipment and techniques were at the primitive level they were then; and a pity, too, that there was no François Carbou who was so dedicated to the recording of Cochereau's service (and other) improvisations.

 

Interesting, too, are your comments about Duruflé's playing.  I don't have any of his recordings, but had heard that he was good, but not absolutely front rank as a technician.

 

For a number of reasons, I can't wait to get this set ...

 

Rgds

MJF

 

It's a great set though, some wonderful performances. The Tournemire is quite electrifying...

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