Like Franck, Alexandre Guilmant (1837–1911) was a Parisian organist: he succeeded Widor as Professor of Organ at the Conservatoire, presided at Ste-Trinité from 1871 to 1901, and was ‘Organiste honoraire’ at Notre Dame from 1902; and as well as composing prolifically for the organ, he was a widely travelled recitalist, and a musicologist who did much for French music of earlier centuries. His Sonata in D minor Op 42, the first of eight such works, dates from 1874. The dotted rhythms of its Introduction seem like a homage to the French operatic overtures of the Baroque, but what follows is not a fugue but a spirited sonata-form movement with a splendidly athletic first group and a sustained second one marked at its first appearance espressivo. The lovely Pastorale, in A major, is in A–B–A form, its middle section dominated by the ‘chorale’ of the voix humaine, its outer ones by the engaging tones of the oboe and clarinet. The brilliant finale, like the first movement’s Allegro, has a sustained second group whose material dominates the splendid coda. Here the minor-key tensions of the sonata’s dark and turbulent introduction are magnificently resolved in the key of D major.
from notes by Relf Clark © 2010