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Symphony No 4 in G minor, Op 32


The Quatrième Symphonie in G minor, Op 32 (1914) is dedicated to American organist William C. Carl and opens with a single haunting and sustained note, repeated four times; a plangent, tolling bell amidst turbulent times. The Great War had just erupted when this Symphony was composed in the summer of 1914. Cyclic in its thematic conception, it is built from material derived from two germinal 'cells'. Four pairs of chromatic notes (two ascending and two descending) serve as an opening idea [A] in the brooding, slow-moving Prelude. The austerity of the first subject is interrupted periodically by a second more lyrical theme [B], first heard on the Récit trompette. Although highly chromatic, the Prelude is relentlessly organic and the absence of resolution at its end is striking. The succeeding Allegro reverses the order of themes. Opening with the trompette idea [B] in martial mode, a second subject is formed from theme [A]. Its apotheosis is as unexpected as it is strident, affirming an emphatic G major.

The grace and charm of the Minuet seems momentarily to have forgotten the guns and the austere chromatic figure of [A] is converted to an enchanting and piquant idea heard on the Hautbois. In the central episode, the original sustained note from the first movement returns in the background and a portion of the trompette theme reappears. One of Vierne's most sublime melodies is heard in the Romance. The central section recalls the darkly dramatic nature of the opening movement's chromaticism, but the tonic key of D flat major grants the movement melancholic warmth and an atmosphere of solemn tranquillity. Intensity returns in the Finale and [A] and [B] are clearly identifiable in music transformed into a moto perpetuo of considerable drama. Ultimately, the original theme is transformed into a series of massive chords ending the Symphony with four reiterated tonic chords recalling the first movement's opening 'chime'.

from notes by Jeremy Filsell © 2005


Vierne: Symphonies pour orgue
SIGCD063Download only


Movement 1: Prélude
Track 1 on SIGCD063 CD3 [7'22] Download only
Movement 2: Allegro
Track 2 on SIGCD063 CD3 [6'14] Download only
Movement 3: Menuet
Track 3 on SIGCD063 CD3 [6'57] Download only
Movement 4: Romance
Track 4 on SIGCD063 CD3 [8'00] Download only
Movement 5: Final
Track 5 on SIGCD063 CD3 [6'16] Download only

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