Turbulent Heart

Peter McCallum
Sydney Morning Herald (Aust)

Louis Vierne is primarily known today among organ enthusiasts for his vigorous and robustly coloured organ symphonies in the style of Widor. This disc featuring fine singing from the Australian tenor, Stephen Davislim, reveals a neglected side of his output, his vocal settings of French poetry. The music has a spontaneous feel for Romantic musical symbols and textures emblematic of desire and unquenched sensuality and at times is reminiscent of Massenet. Victor Hugo’s poem, Les Djinns, describes an onset and departure of a flight of malicious spirits like a nightmare of unspecified clamorous terror. The first verse contains two syllables for every line, the second three, and this addition of syllables continues to eight, before reversing the process.  Vierne’s setting is pictorial, vivid and arresting making one of the most successful works on the disc. Eros to a poem by the Countess de Noailles is drenched with yearning desire, though Vierne’s setting is somewhat direct and overstated rather than alluring. A more perfumed and, for me, more successful style of musical eroticism can be found in Chausson’s  Poème de l’amour et de la mer [Poem of Love and the Sea] , Opus 19. In these and other works of Vierne Davislim’s voice has beautifully polished finish, and bloom and his French declamation resonates with sophisticated stylish eloquence. The Queensland Orchestra under Guillaume Tourniaire accompanies sensitively...This disc shines light on a bold forgotten style.