Dame Gillian Weir – A Celebration
22CD 0028948421497 limited edition
Release date: 4 December 2020 (Australian release)
January 2021 (Worldwide)
- A 22-CD celebration of the doyenne of organists on her 80th birthday (17 January 2021) spanning her illustrious career of nearly five decades.
- Presenting Dame Gillian Weir’s complete Argo recordings, selected recordings on other labels that have reverted to her, and most enticingly, no fewer than ten discs of previously unpublished BBC radio broadcasts – selected by Dame Gillian.
- Sixteen organs from six countries.
- The 20,000-word booklet includes informative introductions to the recordings, with Gillian Weir’s reminiscences and amusing anecdotes from the recording sessions and from her encounters with composers such as Olivier Messiaen and William Mathias.
- Further online resources, including Gillian Weir’s fully comprehensive notes on the complete Messiaen oeuvre, as well as the specifications of the organs used throughout, will be available at https://www.eloquenceclassics.com/
- A showpiece recital of dazzling toccatas and fantasias from the French organ tradition opening and closing with spectacular pieces by Marcel Dupré, the epitome of the French organist-composer tradition
- A recording of Charles Camilleri’s breathtaking Missa Mundi, one of many pieces written for and premièred by Gillian Weir
- A stunning disc of pieces by Messiaen recorded at the Royal Festival Hall, London in 1966, shortly after she won 1st prize at the St Albans International Organ Competition
- A recital on the beautiful organ of Hexham Abbey, built by Dame Gillian’s late husband, Lawrence Phelps
- No fewer than ten discs of previously unpublished BBC radio broadcasts – selected by Gillian Weir, including:
- The complete organ works of César Franck, recorded on the magnificent Cavaillé-Coll organ of Saint-Sernin, Toulouse
- A thrilling “Proms” recital from The Royal Albert Hall, London of music inspired by dance
- The then-complete works of Messiaen recorded in 1979 at the The National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, DC, on the organ chosen by Messiaen himself for the première of one of his monumental works
- Dame Gillian's recital from St Alban’s Abbey recorded the day after winning the St Alban’s Competition, and marking the beginning of her recording career
- A recital of French music drawn from three individual programmes
Gillian Weir, A Celebration
In 1964, a young organist still in her second year at the Royal College of Music was taking part in the prestigious St Alban’s International Organ Festival. As her final piece she played a major work by Olivier Messiaen. At that time this seminal composer’s music was little known outside France, and the drama of the music and the emotion of the performance stunned the audience and the jury of international experts. The prize was hers, and Gillian Weir went on to become one of the world’s best known performers, a concert organist acclaimed by critics and public alike for her musicality, virtuosity and intelligence. Her stature as an international performer is recognised by her numerous awards and honours, which include more than a dozen Honorary degrees, a CBE in 1989 and, in the 1996 New Year’s Honours List, a DBE for her distinguished services to music.
Gillian Weir’s career has been highly unusual in its scope, tracing a trajectory unique for an organist, right from her spectacular double début shortly after that competition win: first as concerto soloist on the 1st Night of the Proms, and then with a solo recital at the Royal Festival Hall. Her impact as a new kind of organist, combining youthful glamour with virtuosity and erudition, was immediate, and she was launched on a career which saw her respected worldwide as an extraordinary musician and in particular as an ambassador for the organ, on the stages of the world’s concert halls from London to New York, Paris to Tokyo, Berlin to Hong Kong. Her appeal has been to both audiences and critics as well as to fellow musicians: a birthday concert sold-out the Royal Festival Hall in two days, critical plaudits such as ‘Weir’s performance was a marvel’ (Telegraph) are typical, and she was recently made an Hon. Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Musicians, joining such luminaries as Elgar, Vaughan Williams and Britten. She has been the subject of Melvyn Bragg’s South Bank Show (the only organist to be accorded that accolade), and was included in both the Sunday Times’s and Classic CD’s Millennium surveys as one of the100 greatest players of the century.
Gillian Weir has brought new audiences to an appreciation of organ music through her TV appearances and documentaries. Her six-part BBC series The King of Instruments, in which she was both presenter and player, drew a weekly audience of two million, exceptional for an arts programme, and was repeated in several other countries.
Dame Gillian is acclaimed as a pre-eminent exponent of Messiaen’s music, and is widely sought-after as lecturer and writer (including for Faber’s Messiaen Companion). Yvonne Loriod Messiaen's “C’est magnifique!” sums up the reaction to her famous Messiaen recordings. But her repertoire is exceptional in its breadth and variety, stretching from the Renaissance to contemporary works, as showcased in her legendary series for Argo, and she has performed the complete works of Bach as well as Franck and others. She is a sought-after pedagogue and coach for young players, and she has forged new paths for women, both as a player and in such rôles as President of the venerable Royal College of Organists as well as of the Incorporated Society of Musicians.
In 2012 Gillian Weir brought her 48-year-long performing career to a close, after some 2000 appearances and a host of acclaimed recordings. After her standing-room-only farewell recital, John Allison wrote in the Telegraph “The organ world will never be quite the same again”. Happily Dame Gillian continues to give master-classes, act as competition jurist, and indefatigably to champion the cause of music.
Praise for Dame Gillian Weir...
‘The contribution made to the world of the organ by Dame Gillian Weir is almost incalculable. Our instrument has hardly had such a skilled ambassador in modern times’ – CHRIS BRAGG (MUSICWEB)
‘Dame Gillian is one of the greatest of living artists; her playing shows a perfect mixture of hand and heart, a true musician with the technique to tackle anything.’ – JOHN AMIS, WRITER AND CRITIC
‘Weir’s virtuosity and control are staggering. An achievement of outstanding musical integrity’ – GRAMOPHONE
‘The organ world will never be the same again.’ – JOHN ALLISON IN THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH reviewing Dame Gillian’s final recital
Praise for the Recordings...
"Gillian Weir dazzles the ear. This repertoire could hardly be played more masterfully." – PENGUIN RECORD GUIDE 2003 (5-CD release of the legendary Argo recordings)
“Gillian Weir is one of the great virtuosos of our time” – AMERICAN RECORD REVIEW
“A marvellous Bach player who iconoclastically sweeps the mighty C major Toccata, Adagio and Fugue BWV 564 and C minor Passacaglia BWV 582 of their weighty cobwebs and restores their improvisatory impetus - 10/10” – CLASSICS TODAY.COM
“The dazzling performances of Dubois, Vierne and especially Dupré have scarcely, if ever, been beaten” – MUSICWEB
“Her performance is magnificent: sensitive, meaningful phrasing, virtuoso technique, musical intuition of the highest order” – FANFARE (French Virtuoso Organ Music)
“An astonishing range of organ technique and sonority…Weir gives a thrillingly dedicated performance” – PENGUIN GUIDE TO COMPACT DISCS (Camilleri)
“Incredibly virtuosic playing of Camilleri’s Missa Mundi” – MUSICWEB
“Such is Dame Gillian’s outstanding musicianship that it is easy to imagine her as a singer, conductor or ballerina” – GRAMOPHONE
“Towering musicianship in evidence from beginning to end” – BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE