Gillian Weir - Poulenc Organ Concerto
Gillian Weir and the Organ Concerto by Francis Poulenc (1899-1963) have a long history together. She first played this piece by accepting a last-minute invitation to perform at the opening night of the Proms in London in 1965 at Royal Albert Hall, Sir Malcolm Sargent conducting. This provided major publicity since it was televised on BBC for millions of viewers. She has recorded the work twice; over the years she has played this work numerous times in many places, always drawing a crowd: sold-out performances are common. The work, considered to be one of the most important contributions to the organ and orchestra genre since Handel's Organ Concertos, is lively and energetic: “it's champagne music”, says Weir.
Years later she's still going strong- she performed the same work again in September 1999 on the last night of the Proms: “The highlight of the concert, however, was Dame Gillian Weir's performance of Poulenc's Organ Concerto which thundered above our heads and through the floor boards with physical directness. How she sparkled in the console. The image will abide until the next millennium.” (The Evening Standard, 13 September 1999) “...there were no such reservations on the Last Night about Dame Gillian Weir's playing of Poulenc's Organ Concerto. In her bewitching, sparkly crimson gown, she conjured up magnificent sonorities and subtleties from the mighty Willis organ, despite its wheezings of old age.” (The Daily Telegraph, 13 September 1999) “In an exciting yet also cooly lyrical account of Poulenc's Organ Concerto, Gillian Weir tamed a most un-French instrument and made light of the yawning distance between her and the strings of the orchestra.” (The Times, 13 September 1999) “Dame Gillian Weir was miraculously in sync with the orchestra for a thrilling account of Poulenc's Organ Concerto. It was a marvellous performance, and a matchless aural thrill for anyone lucky enough to be in the hall.” (The Independent, 14 September 1999)
Well, you get the point. Her performance in January 2004 at Ulster Hall in Belfast was sold-out, as was her March 2004 concert at Douai Abbey with the Arion Orchestra, so these wonderful live concerts are still very current. In February 2005 she performs in a pair of concerts with the Edmonton Symphony in their beautiful new concert hall, equipped with a magnificent new organ by Létourneau. Judging by past success, it promises to be a thrilling evening.