Turbulent Heart

John Maidment
OHTA News (Australia)

While Louis Vierne’s organ works are mainstays of the instrument’s repertoire and are very well known and loved, we know little about his compositions for other media, which are most numerous  but largely forgotten. Harold Fabrikant has recorded some of his fascinating piano works, but here we have four major works for solo tenor and orchestra: Les Djinns, Eros, Ballade du désespéré and Psyché. These will oblige us to rethink Vierne’s capabilities as a composer: these works are riveting, complex and all masterpieces of the genre. Three date from the years of the First World War which affected Vierne in a very personal way—he lost both a son and a brother and his eyesight had deteriorated requiring major treatment. The Ballade followed in 1931, during a period of greater emotional stability for the composer.

The works display a very advanced harmonic language and an outstanding level of invention and compositional craftsmanship. The music rises and falls in an emotional tidal wave.

As one has come to expect from Melba Recordings, the technical quality of the production is first-rate, and the integrated booklet and CD cover highly attractive. The company is to be congratulated for its championing of this sadly neglected music. If one is to understand Vierne’s capabilities as a composer in the broadest sense, acquisition of this CD is mandatory.