SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

“Hymne à l’univers” [TrackList follows] – Organ recital by Mattias Wager at the Grand Organ in Stockholm City Hall – Opus 3

A fine program of 1930s-period French composers on a magnificent pipe organ.

Published on March 24, 2014

“Hymne à l’univers” [TrackList follows] – Organ recital by Mattias Wager at the Grand Organ in Stockholm City Hall – Opus 3

“Hymne à l’univers” [TrackList follows] – Organ recital by Mattias Wager at the Grand Organ in Stockholm City Hall – Opus 3 stereo-only SACD CD 23002, 63:27 (1/21/14) ****:

Opus 3 CEO and recording engineer Jan-Eric Persson decided not to derive the surround channels from the Blumlein stereo tracks of the original master as done on many of their previous SACDs, but to just release this as a stereo-only SACD. It is the second album Mattias Wager has recorded for them.

When the pipe organ was originally built in 1925 it was one of the largest in Europe with four manual and 155 stops. It also has an Echo Organ of 25 stops above the ceiling. In 1972 the organ extensively altered with slider soundboards, electropneumatic actions and a few stops. It now has five manuals and 138 stops, with major changes to the layout and wind system. A mobile console has been installed.

The program may seem surprising: it being all French repertory from the 1930s on a huge Romantic organ from a German builder and rebuilt by a British firm. The City Hall organ has incredible versatility, combining a full palette of various sounds with registrations enabling the most delicate clarity of sound. Some of the most imaginative music in the organ repertory is found in the French organ scene of the ‘30s.

The largest work for organ of Jehan Alain is his Three Dances, which was originally projected as an orchestral piece. Alain had a good-humored nature and warm personality and at the Paris Conservatory he had studied with Paul Dukas and Marcel Dupré. Bonnal lived in Bayonne rather than Paris. His three-part suite Basque Landscapes was inspired by the scenery of the Basque region. The work by Jolivet, which provided the overall title for the SACD, is from 1962 and explores the idea of the universality of mankind. His music generally shows a fascination for the magical and incantatory, and for non-European music cultures.  Sonics are superb.

Track Listings:

1. Jehan Alain – Trois Danses: Joies
2. Jehan Alain – Trois Danses: Deuils
3. Jehan Alain – Trois Danses: Luttes
4. Joseph Ermend Bonnal – Paysages Euskariens: La Vallee de Béhorléguy, au matin
5. Joseph Ermend Bonnal – Paysages Euskariens: Le Berger de Ahusquy
6. Joseph Ermend Bonnal – Paysages Euskariens: Cloches dans le ciel
7. Maurice Duruflé – Scherzo op. 2
8. André Jolivet – Hymme à l’univers

—John Sunier




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