World of the Organ - Lunéville

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UGAB - World of the Organ Vol. 2 - Lunéville (France 1751) - Frédéric Desenclos (Organ) - Hybrid SACD - 3760014196515 - Released: November 2010 - Alpha 651

The second volume in Alpha's impressive series of recordings taking a close look at historical organs, a collection titled 'UGAB' (a Biblical name for the organ), now presents the 1751 Nicolas Dupont organ located in the church of St Jacques in Lunéville. What started out in 1751 as an 8' French Classical instrument, with 36 stops and four manuals, which then went through multiple renovations, restorations, removal and addition of stops, pneumatic traction, etc... was completely restored in 2003 after 27,000 hours of work over a period of five years. The end result is a magnificent instrument meshing both old and new stops and pipes seamlessly to project a sound that is warm in tone, orchestral in texture, and Baroque in delivery. Another interesting and arresting fact about this organ, is that it is the only known instrument to house completely concealed pipes by the use of a fresco in trompe-l'oeil on the woodwork, complete with fake gilded columns, that creates the optical illusion of infinite space representing the entrance to Paradise. In present day organ construction, we now find the complete opposite design in which as many pipes as possible are built outside the case.

The lives of the composers gathered together in this recording span over 300 years, from 1632 to 1937. The opening works on this CD are organ transcriptions of orchestral Overtures by Jean-Baptiste Lully and his successor, Henry Desmarest. They immediately give evidence of this instrument's Baroque delivery, with its clean tone and powerful reed stops. Noël en Récit en taille and Noël sur les jeux d'anches by Louis Claude Daquin help demonstrate this organ's three-dimensional character well with melodies given echo effects by the use of repeated notes moving from loud to soft pipes, this time around creating a trompe-l'oreille distance effect well captured here. The highlight of the disc has to be the Scène pastorale pour une inauguration d'orgue ou messe de minuit by Louis James Alfred Lefébure-Wély. It evokes a bucolic pastoral scene, complete with approaching thunder, torrential rain, thunder fading away in the distance, and the return of calm represented by birdcalls. The beauty of sound produced by this instrument is very well demonstrated in this piece. Works by César Franck and Alexandre Guilmant follow and lead into the famous Toccata from the 5th Symphony, Op. 42 by Charles-Marie Widor, which belies the fact that this organ has a limited number of stops. When combined in plein-jeux, they project an aural image bigger than its size, and deliver truly powerful final chords, which take a good 6 seconds to decay after being released at the end.

All of this played with character and variety by organist Frédéric Desenclos in a well engineered Alpha recording. And as in volume 1 of this series, the booklet notes are indispensable and the photographs place you inside the church. I am now already looking forward to volume 3.

Jean-Yves Duperron - November 2010