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Tournemire's Seven Last Words/Jean
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Program and Notes
Tournemire: The Seven Last Words of Christ
(Sept Chorals - Poèmes d'orgue pour les sept paroles du Xrist)
Martin Jean, organ
Newberry Memorial Organ, Woolsey Hall, Yale University
Tournemire's rarely recorded, monumental Seven Last Words employs a dense, French late-Romantic style that makes up a musical "program," dramatically depicting the phrases uttered by Christ in his final hours. Featured performer at the 2004 and 2006 AGO conventions, Martin Jean is Professor of organ at Yale University and Director of the Yale Institute of Sacred Music.
Tournemire: The Seven Last Words of Christ
I. Pater, dimite illis nasciunt enim quid faciunt
II. Hodie mecum eris in Paradiso
III. Mulier, ecce filius tuus. Ecce Mater tua
IV. Eli, eli, lamma sabacthani
VI. Pater, in manus tuas commendo spiritum meum
VII. Consummatum est
Trois Paraphrases Grégoriennes
Mors et resurrectio
Tournemire: Choral Improvisation sur le "Victimae paschali," reconstituted by Maurice Duruflé
This outstanding release from Loft Recordings makes available some rarely heard, but truly great music by Charles Tournemire (1870-1939), who was one of France's most distinguished organist-composers. Musically speaking he was heir to Cesar Franck in that he studied with him and eventually, like Franck, became titular organist of St. Clotilde in Paris. Consequently it’s not surprising that there's quite a structural similarity between his Seven Last Words of Christ featured here and Franck's well-known three chorals. In fact Tournemire described his work, which dates from 1935, as a poem for organ in the form of seven chorals based on Christ's last words. Granted Tournemire is more modal and mystical sounding than Franck, but the cyclical concept espoused by his teacher prevails in the form of two motifs that recur throughout the piece. One of these (best heard at the very beginning of track 5) that appears in all seven is based on a Hindu mode, which isn't surprising considering Tournemire, like Olivier Messiaen, was interested in Eastern music. Ranging from the softest
to the loudest
, this is one of the composer's most dynamic and emotionally moving creations.
The recital continues with a work by Jean Langlais (1907-1991), a student of Tournemire who followed him at St. Clotilde. His Death and Resurrection is one of "Three Gregorian Paraphrases" he wrote for organ in 1933. Although it's linked spiritually with the preceding selection, the sound world created is much less mystical and more immediately involving. It begins in a subdued almost dirge-like manner, but eventually erupts into a coruscation of triumphant joy.
The disc ends with a real rarity. Tournemire was noted for his organ improvisations and even recorded some of them back in 1930-1931. Then in 1956 another student of his, Maurice Durufle, reconstructed them from those transcriptions. One of these based on the Easter sequence Victimae paschali concludes this concert. By the way, you’ll find two others on the Tournemire release recommended in the last newsletter (7 February 2007). When you experience these powerful ad libs, you'll only regret you weren't around to hear all those other one-shot, spur-of-the-moment improvs Tournemire must have tossed off at St. Clotilde.
The selections here are beautifully played by Martin Jean, who’s Director of the Yale University Institute of Sacred Music. He’s at the console of the University’s Woolsey Hall, Newberry Memorial Organ, which was the work of three highly respected builders, including the great Ernest M. Skinner, and is ideal for the heavy-duty repertoire included here. The recording is excellent with some pedal profundities of seismic proportions. By the way, Martin Jean has also recorded Louis Vierne's six organ symphonies at Woolsey Hall.
(LRCD 1071-74 Martin Jean: Complete Vierne Symphonies)
And, while we're on the subject of organ music, you're encouraged to check out the new, beautifully appointed Gothic Web Site, where you'll find a wealth of information on just about anything related to the “Pope of Instruments.”
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found
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New Haven, CT: Woolsey Hall, Yale University, E.M. Skinner
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