The Organ

PASSIONS: Various Composers

Jean-Christophe Revel at the Jean de Joyeuse organ at the Cathedral of Sainte-Marie d’Auch
Distributed by Harmonia Mundi

This is an intriguing disc juxtaposing old and new compositions built around Jean-Christophe Revel's question 'Exactly to what, and to whom are we contemporary?' and his notion that 'We belong to the history of those who came before us, and they are in every one of us. When we perform a baroque work, in playing it we recreate it, recomposing it with the tools we have available - treatises, rules, instruments - and with ourselves as we are today.' And concluding '...baroque works are in fact contemporary. Whenever we play, we play contemporary music.' Simple.

'Contemporary' composer Régis Campo's Capriccio and Sonnerie are comfortably sandwiched between Claudio Merulo's (1533-1604) Toccata and Canzone and Louis Couperin's (Uncle of François Couperin 'Le Grand') Duo, Fantaisie des duretez and Carillon. Further modern works by Edith Canat de Chizy, Brice Pauset, Gérard Pesson and Bruno Mantovani float around Nicolas de Grigny's Hymne Pange Lingua. A good range of registrations charge each of these compositions and certainly put Jean de Joyeuse's 1688-94 instrument through its paces, coping well with the 'contemporary' demands placed upon it. The demands really have much more to do with the restoration that took place between 1992-98, which, the notes inform, 'has given us back an instrument that I (Jean-François Muno) faithfully and humbly trust is close to that of originally built by Jean de Joyeuse.'

The organ's sound is tremendous and has the scope to carry the most testing of scores, be they modern or historic. I found this a most enjoyable disc, particularly the boldness in which Revel carries off the 'contemporary' and experimental music, the kind of which we need more of in the organ world to get a real understanding of what is possible on such magnificent instruments. I would certainly love to hear this kind of contemporary music play a part in the traditional Sunday morning service - I'm sure it would make people sit up and listen, if not talk about the extraordinary sounds the organ can deliver for the rest of the day rather than taking the instrument for granted.