The Queensland Orchestra takes a bold step beyond regular classical fare to partner Australian tenor Steve Davislim for this world premiere recording of four symphonic poems for voice and orchestra by French composer Louis Vierne, plus Ernest Chausson Poème de l’amour et de la mer - Poem of Love and the Sea. French conductor Guillaume Tourniaire is well tuned to this material and gives secure lead through the impressionist-tinged imagery, drifting and soaring, exploding into furies of lush orchestral tones, retreating to intimacy.
Joy may be rare in this music, but it is rewarding to share Vierne’s intensely expressive style blending music and text. Better known as an organ composer and organist at the Paris Cathedral of Notre Dame until his death in 1937, he was also prolific in other genres, such as this vocal collection. Tourniaire brings a breadth of emotion to the symphonic poems The Djinns, a setting of Victor Hugo’s poem with its interesting developmental structure, and in Eros, Ballade du désespéré, Psyché. Davislim is a skilled word-painter, bowing his voice to the moods melting one into the other, a litany of sorrow and loss that mirrors the composer’s life. Chausson’s life was much more felicitous, but his setting of three poems by Maurice Boucher in his Poem of Love and the Sea pairs well with the unrelenting sadness of texts and music in Vierne’s cycle. The essays and printed texts in the handsome booklet are a helpful guide on this journey.