A major contribution to the anniversary celebrations of César Franck, born 200 years ago, from the titular organist of the magnificent Sainte-Clotilde organ in Paris.
Work began on the basilica of Saint-Clotilde in 1846, and only three years later, construction of the organ began under the supervision of the doyen of French organ builders, Aristide Cavaillé-Coll. The instrument as it comes down to us is one of the most magnificent surviving examples of his art and craft – and crucially for the purposes of this album, influenced in its construction by César Franck, who played the dedicatory recital on the new organ in 1859, a decade after Cavaillé-Coll had begun work.
Thus the Saint-Clotilde instrument can be definitively acclaimed as the Franck organ par excellence, the ideal home of his organ output. And who better to make a new recording of it than the current holder of the organ’s titular post, Olivier Penin? Penin himself is thoroughly schooled in the lineage of French organ-playing. Born in 1981, Olivier Penin began playing the piano at the age of five and in 1987 he joined the Schola Cantorum in Caen. In 2004, he was appointed co-titular at Sainte Clotilde, and became the sole holder of the post in 2012. Thus he brings decades of experience to the recording of both this music and this instrument, each of which was designed for the other, as it were.
In making this album of Franck at Saint-Clotilde, Penin follows in the footsteps of distinguished forebears such as the composerorganist Jean Langlais. Nevertheless, he brings his own, 21st-century appreciation for the composer’s elusive idiom, which relies on the gradual accumulation of mood and intensity in long, rhapsodic pieces such as the three Chorales and the Grand Pièce symphonique, and then rhythmic grip in the unstoppable momentum of the Pièce Héroïque and the Final Op.21. The engineering captures the scale of the organ in full cry, and a full specification is listed in the booklet.
- César Franck (1822-1890), is widely considered one of the foremost 19th century French composers. He was not in fact French by birth, being born to parents of German stock in Liege, Belgium. He only became a full French citizen in 1873. A child prodigy he studied piano and organ in both Belgium and France. His career as a traveling piano virtuoso was not successful and it was as an organist that he finally established himself and settled in France as a teacher and organist,
the Paris church St Clothilde, with its magnificent Cavaillé Coll organ, being his home.
- Like Bruckner and Messiaen, he was a devout Christian who invested his music with an intense spirituality that was matched in his personal life by an almost saintly innocence. His musical style is characterized by rich chromaticism, long, curving melodic lines and highly personal counterpoint.
- This new recording presents the Organ Works by Franck, grouped in 3 CDs: spiritual organ music, the symphonic organ works and the romantic organ works.
- French organist Olivier Penin is titular organist of the famous St Clothilde church in Paris, where Franck himself was organist and where this recording was made.
- Excellent liner notes in French and English, the specifications of the organ are included in the booklet.