Is it because it has come from the Antipodes that this Australian recording has taken a while since its release to chance upon our shores? It would have been a great pity not to have come to know the rarities this recording presents. Not only the original version of Ernest Chausson’s Poème de l’amour et de la mer, written for tenor (and not for a female singer which is how we normally hear it). But above all the little known—or not known at all—scores by Louis Vierne, composer and organist (at Notre Dame at Paris) whose name—when it is not completely forgotten—is too readily associated with organ symphonies. In addition to a quintet for piano and strings—a jewel in French chamber music in the interwar period—Vierne created settings, for voice and large orchestra, from the poems of Victor Hugo (Djinns, Psyché), Anna de Noailles (Eros) and above all a poem by Henri Murger (La Ballade du désespéré), a grandiloquent representation of a pathetic soul meeting Death.
In this long lyric scene of Faustian inspiration, Vierne projects large his own Calvary: his handicap (he was almost blind), his mourning (his two sons), his emotional shipwrecks. All is achieved showing some of the influence of his teacher César Franck and the musical god of his youth Richard Wagner. Formed artistically in Switzerland, the young French conductor Guillaume Tourniaire directs this sombre descent into hell with an implacable dramatic thrust.