Organ works account for only 17 of Vierne’s 62 opus numbers, and yet no one would now question his status as the organ’s greatest symphonist after Franck and Widor. His six symphonies stand at the pinnacle of the 20th-century literature for the instrument: the six-movement First Symphony with its fugue and celebrated Final (‘my Marseillaise’, as he referred to it); the Second, his masterpiece, with its scintillating scherzo; the Third, the shortest and most concise; the Fourth, whose tortured outer movements are in sharp contrast to the buoyant Menuet and sumptuous Romance; the Fifth, the longest, and in many respects the most elevated; his Sixth and last, the most harmonically advanced and psychologically complex, rising from the depths of despair to ebullience in its rampant Final.
In complement to the symphonies, Vierne composed several suites of pieces ‘in a free style’, as wekk as more impressionistically conceived sets of fantasy pieces. Music specifically designed for the llturgy includes a pair of organ masses – one of them a requiem – and a triptych of meditations. Whether reflective and deeply etched with chromaticism or ebullient and thunderous, all of Vierne’s output for his own instrument is conceived with the sound and tonal variety of Cavaillé-Coll’s organ’s in mind – one of the largest of all being the organ at Notre Dame in Paris, where Vierne occupied the post of titular organist for many decades.
The German-American organist Wolfgang Rübsam has himself been counted among the finest living organists for many decades, internationally known through over a hundred highly acclaimed albums of organ repertoire from the Baroque and Romantic periods including recent Bach recordings on the lute-harpsichord for Brilliant Classics: ‘These lovely performances memorably showcase Rübsam’s sensitive and poetic side’ (Classics Today). Rübsam has chosen an instrument with the full palette of tonal colours required to do justice to Vierne’s unique style, and he invests the music with the improvisational spirit and creative passion which lay behind its original conception.
Louis Vierne (1870-1937) is one of the most important French romantic composers for the organ. He used the instrument as a means to perform ‘symphonic’ music, inspired by the new possibilities of the new organs built at the time, for instance by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll.
The blend of styles in his organ music is unique. It contains aspects of Romanticism combined with an impressionistic ‘pastel-like’ quality. Like many of his contemporary colleagues Vierne felt a strong fascination with Wagnerian chromaticism.
An admirer and pupil of César Franck at thirty, the virtually blind Vierne was appointed organist at the Paris Notre Dame. Among many other pieces for organ he wrote six symphonies, which became standard organ repertoire. Franck inspired him in the use of cyclical elements and harmonic refinement, whereas Widor’s influence is clear in the use of the organ and the classical forms.
This recording contains the complete organ works by Louis Vierne, including the 6 Organ Symphonies and numerous character pieces called “Pièces en style libre” (pieces in a free style).
Wolfgang Rübsam is internationally known through over a hundred highly acclaimed recordings of organ repertoire from the Baroque and Romantic periods including recent Bach recordings on the lute-harpsichord. He gives frequent recitals and masterclasses in the United States and Europe and has served on the juries of the most prestigious international competitions.