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Track(s) taken from CDA67922

[Dies irae]

?1859; first published in 1991 under the title Thème, Variations et Choral

Andrew-John Smith (organ)
Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Studio Master:
Studio Master:
Recording details: June 2011
La Madeleine, Paris, France
Produced by Daniel Moult
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: July 2012
Total duration: 6 minutes 58 seconds

Cover artwork: Leaving La Madeleine by Jean Beraud (1849-1935)
Private Collection / Photo © Christie's Images / Bridgeman Art Library, London


'The mighty Fantaisie pour orgue-Aeolian, complete with tubular bells, written for the new American Aeolian organ in 1906, sounds epic on this vast, brooding instrument, so splendidly tamed by the dextrous Smith' (The Observer)

'Saint-Saëns described the Fantaisie as 'unplayable by the hands and feet' but Andrew-John Smith proves otherwise … in the more conventional repertoire, Smith capitalises on the colours that the La Madeleine instrument so richly offers' (The Daily Telegraph)

'The variety of colour explored by Smith on this fabulous instrument contributes to the joyous experience of listening to his performance. The use of orchestral tubular bells … is successful and Smith's dextrous virtuosity thrills us though to the conclusion … the enthusiasm with which Smith talks about these pieces in his notes … is amply reflected in his playing, which is in turn commanding, sensitive, robust and lyrical, as the music requires' (International Record Review)
Little is known for certain about the untitled Dies irae which appeared in print for the first time only in 1991, when it was assigned the title ‘Thème, Variations et Choral’. The working title given here derives from its use of the Requiem’s Dies irae plainchant. Written on seven staves it survives only in a manuscript at the Bibliothèque nationale and regrettably breaks off fifteen bars into a second movement. Quite what form, or even what instrumentation, the finished work would have taken is unknown. The music that we have is too strong to be ignored, however, and is not unlike the first movement of Cyprès et Lauriers, Op 156, in mood, subject matter and texture. Sabina Teller Ratner has suggested a date of 1859 for the piece, based on its inclusion among manuscripts from this time. If this date is accurate then the work is all the more remarkable for anticipating Liszt’s music of the 1860s onwards. The juxtaposition of styles found here is quintessentially Saint-Saëns, however, from the Mendelssohnian clarity of its first variation and the Romantic turmoil of its central section to the sparse, empty landscape of its bleak conclusion. Surely such a combination is innovative in itself.

from notes by Andrew-John Smith © 2012

On ne sait pas grand-chose du Dies irae paru pour la première fois en 1991, date à laquelle on lui assigna le titre de «Thème, Variations et Choral», le titre de travail donné ici venant de ce que cette œuvre utilise le plain-chant Dies irae du requiem. Écrite sur sept portées, elle ne nous est parvenue que dans un manuscrit conservé à la Bibliothèque nationale et, chose regrettable, elle s’interrompt à quinze mesures d’un second mouvement. On ignore donc quelle forme, ou même quelle instrumentation, elle aurait prise une fois achevée. Pourtant, la musique dont nous disposons est trop forte pour être ignorée—son climat, sa thématique et sa texture ne sont pas sans rappeler le premier mouvement de Cyprès et Lauriers, op. 156. Pour Sabina Teller Ratner, elle daterait de 1859, au motif qu’elle figurait parmi des manuscrits de cette époque-là. Si tel est le cas, ces pages sont d’autant plus remarquables qu’elles anticiperaient la musique écrite par Liszt à partir des années 1860. La juxtaposition de styles qu’elle abrite est cependant bien de Saint-Saëns, de la clarté mendelssohnienne de la première variation au paysage aride, dépouillé de la morne conclusion, en passant par l’effervescence romantique de la section centrale. Pareille combinaison ne laisse pas d’être novatrice en soi.

extrait des notes rédigées par Andrew-John Smith © 2012
Français: Hypérion

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