French Virtuoso Organ Music

Gillian Weir French Virtuoso Organ Music

The legendary recording that Gillian Weir made on the Hradetzky organ in The Royal Northern College of Music is now available on CD. Visit Eloquence Classics for details, track previews, and links to online streaming and download information!


Way, way back at the dawn of Fanfare (1:4—if anyone reading these lines has been a subscriber since the magazine’s inception, write in and tell us about it!) in 1978, James Hinds gave a rave review to the original LP release that contained most if not all of these items. (The headnote to that review does not list the Dupré Symphony, but I suspect that was simply an oversight.) The opening of that review bears quoting: “There is no doubt that Gillian Weir is a master organist. Her performance of these masterpieces of the French organ literature is magnificent: sensitive, meaningful phrasing; virtuosic technique; musical intuition of the highest order (which is lacking in so many front rank artists who have mastered technique and little else).” Hinds also had the highest praise for the recorded sound at that time as being state of the art. Of course, since then digital recording techniques have brought new advances.

James Altena, Fanfare Magazine

A first CD release for a thrilling recital of dazzling toccatas and fantasias from the French organ tradition by one of the world's most celebrated musicians. Installed in 1972 and built by the Austrian firm of Hradetzky, the four-manual organ at the Royal Northern College of Music was just four years old when Gillian Weir recorded this album. She draws from it a robust, vibrant sound and a dazzling array of French-accented colors in a showpiece recital which shows off both organ and organist to best advantage. As she relates in a newly written booklet note for this release, Gillian Weir played many recitals on the Hradetzky organ. She found its fresh, exciting sounds and array of pungent reed stops ideal for this repertoire. The album opens and closes with spectacular pieces by Marcel Dupré, the epitome of the French organist-composer tradition. The prodigious polymath Saint-Saëns had himself been acclaimed by Liszt as the greatest organist in the world, and he composed the carefree Fantaisie in his early twenties to display his own gifts at the console. Vierne succeded Widor as titular organist at Notre Dame, and his own Piecès de fantaisie are steeped in the cathedral's acoustic and the possibilities of the instrument designed by the king of French organ builders, Aristide Cavaillé-Coll. Among them, Naïades is his most loved piece, a perpetuum mobile of rippling scales summoning up a vision of laughing water nymphs diving through the water. Perhaps the most demanding piece in Gillian Weir's recital draws from the Vierne tradition via Olivier Messiaen, in L'ange à la Trompette by Messiaen's pupil Jacques Charpentier. Her performance of its exuberant, culminating toccata elicited particularly glowing critical praise when the album was released, for her absolute rhythmic security and assured mastery of both music and instrument.

Presto Classical

Her performance... is magnificent: sensitive, meaningful phrasing; virtuosic tehcnique; musical intuition of the highest order... acquisition of this disc is a must.

Fanfare, March 1978

Gillian Weir returns once more on this record to the French organ repertory which seems to draw out her highest powers of expression and whch she interprets with such imaginative flair... The quality of the recording matches the distinction of Miss Weir's performance.

Gramophone, July 1977

1-11 Variations sur un Noël Marcel Dupré (1886-1971)
12 Fantaisie, Op. 159 Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921)
13 Feux Follets Louis Vierne (1870-1937)
14 Naïades
15 Toccata in B-flat Major
16 L’ange à la Trompette Jacques Charpentier (1933-2017)
17-19 Symphony No. 2, Op. 26 Marcel Dupré (1886-1971)
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