"The recording is amongst the best of St Ouen, blending individual colour and clarity with acoustic swirl and overall character of this famous instrument. Filsell’s prodigious achievements are breath-taking, as anyone will know who has heard his Dupré recordings. His use of the organ is superb, especially the delightful flute céleste in the Aria of Symphonie No. 6, and the chamades in Symphonies 3 and 6. His control of the acoustic space at pauses is superb. However, there are many performances of Vierne’s six Symphonies vying for supremacy, and I find Filsell’s playing not totally convincing. The Romance from No. 4 and other slow movements lack that nervous drive which should inhabit even Vierne’s Adagios, and seem lethargic, ending inconclusively with prolonged Rallentando, whereas such pieces as the Intermezzo from No. 3 miss Vierne’s essential sardonic wit. Perhaps in a quest for clarity, some of the lively movements elicit such inappropriate articulation in manuals and pedals that the pipes barely have time to speak properly, witness the spluttering reeds in the Final of No. 2, and the bizarre rhythmic distortion affected in the Scherzo of No. 6."
David Aprahamian Liddle
Performance ***** - Sound ****
"Most organists intent on recording the darkly glittering organ symphonies of Louis Vierne head for the Gothic Abbaye de St Ouen in Rouen – Jeremy Filsell is no exception. The attraction is to play the music on the last great organ masterpiece of the iconic and innovatory French builder, Aristide Cavaille-Coll, inaugurated in 1890 by Vierne’s teacher Charles-Marie Widor; whether in Rouen, Paris or elsewhere, the heart of late 19th/early 20th-century French organ music beats to the pulse of Cavaille-Coll.
Vierne (1890-1937) was the prodigiously gifted titular organist of Notre Dame de Paris de Paris for over 40 years; beset by blindness and a string of personal tragedies, Vierne’s complex personality found vivid expression in the symphonies; composed in a rising scale of minor keys, they build on orchestral technique by elaborating a few main themes symphonically; the two post-World War 1 symphonies (5 and 6) reflect contemporary trends by pushing the bounds of conventional tonality.
Listeners already engaged by concert organists’ cherry-picking from the many thrilling movements in these symphonies will find exposure to the full cyclical structures of the complete works immensely rewarding. Filsell, famously untroubled by technical demands, concentrates on wringing every last drop of sonority in deeply-felt, idiomatic performances. His detailed notes on Vierne’s life and the music are exemplary-the booklet further enhanced by his personal insights into the recording process, and the organ’s idiosyncracies. Some might hanker for a closer microphone experience of the organ, but otherwise, in the face of stiff competition from Ben van Oosten’s four-CD set on MDG, Filsell’s three- CD package registers as complete in every way."
BBC Music Magazine - October 2005
"Vierne’s six organ symphonies have very uneven representation in the catalogues. Most popular by far is the Third, with 12 recordings listed, followed by the First and Second (eight each), the Sixth (seven) and the Fourth and Fifth (just four each); and for 10 years the only widely available box set was Ben van Oosten’s (A/97). In many ways this set was pretty well ideal, the only drawback being his lack of flair in the big toccata-like movements (such as the finale of No 1). Now Jeremy Filsell has brought just that kind of flair and panache to this set, recorded, interestingly, on the same instrument as Oosten’s four-disc set.
It sounds quite different, though. The sound engineers have produced an altogether warmer and more all-embracing sound, giving the quieter movements (such as the enchanting Menuet of the Fourth Symphony) plenty of space to reveal their charms, while handling the monumental pleno in such a way that it still sends shivers down the spine without ever becoming overwhelming. The music, too, may be the same but Filsell seems to have a better sense of the musical architecture, especially in the later and more remote symphonies. As a result I have to say he has convinced me that the relative neglect, especially of the Fourth Symphony, is unwarranted; it may not be easy to communicate this music but it can be done and Filsell does it wonderfully.
Unfortunately, his booklet-notes, exceptionally verbose and full of irritatingly pretentious French-isms, are no match for Van-Oosten’s excellent, informative and scholarly commentaries. But all in all, Filsell has done both Vierne and discerning organ-lovers a great service."
The Gramophone - February 2006
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