Amercian Record Guide
Amercian Record Guide
It's beautiful music, beautifully performed and recorded — and all new to me but dependably Franck.

Cesar Franck went to St Clothilde in 1857 and stayed there until he died in 1890. In 1859 he dedicated the new Cavaille-Coll organ there, and that instrument inspired some of his greatest music. This is the first volume of a series that will bring us his vocal-with-organ music from his years at that church. These are early works, from the late 1850s and early 1860s.

There are four organ offertories, five other offertories (with singers), three pieces called 'O Salutaris', two Ave Marias, and a few other pieces. The organ is in everything. Some of these pieces were written for the adoration of the sacrament at Vespers, but most were for the mass itself. The adoration was a 19th Cen­tury innovation that you still see in some churches.

There are soprano, tenor, and bass soloists; and there is a choir that combines children from the Geneva Conservatory Maitrise with the Solistes de Lyon. The recording was made in Lyon at St Francis de Sales, where there is a glorious Cavaille-Coll organ that survives largely unchanged. The SACD sound yields a real sense of space.

Three of the organ offertories here are quite wonderful, as are some of the motets. The cello turns up as a soloist in a couple of pieces, as does the contrabass. The harp emerges in a couple as well. Nothing is based on Gregorian Chant; Franck had enough confi­dence to ignore everything but his own inspi­rations. The Latin texts are pronounced the French way, as was Franck's custom. (Italian pronunciation of Latin only "came in" in 1903.) You notice especially the U in 'O Salu­taris'.

Listening to this was a wonderful devotion­al exercise one Sunday evening. It's beautiful music, beautifully performed and recorded— and all new to me but dependably Franck.