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French Organ Music
Jason Alden, Organist
2015 Juget-Sinclair Organ, Christ the King RC Church, Dallas, Texas
****Four-Star Review, Choir & Organ - [OAR-972]

Writes Rupert Gough in a ****Four-Star Review, Choir & Organ, May/June 2016:
It is often the case that attempts to build a large French-romantic-style organ that is tame enough to accompany a choir produce disappointing results. However, this new organ from the Montreal firm Juget-Sinclair asserts itself with integrity and great authority in the hands of Jason Alden. Alden steers away from the predictable French classics: the two Fantaisies by Jehan Alain are particular highlights, as is a neglected piece by Alain’s father, Albert. Franck’s Priére is notoriously hard to pull off, but here all the lines sing beautifully. Widor’s Second Symphony may not be the most interesting to choose but it concludes a fine recital.

Jason Alden Plays the new Juget-Sinclair 3-manual organ of 58 registers completed in 2015 in the grand acoustics of Christ the King Church in Dallas, Texas.

Lefébure-Wély: Boléro de concert
Widor: Organ Symphony No. 2 in D, op. 13, complete in 6 movements
    Præludium Circulare
    Scherzo La Chasse
Jehan Alain: Première Fantaisie, JA 72
Jehan Alain: Deuxième Fantaisie, JA 117
Jehan Alain: Le jardin suspendu, JA 71
Paul Alain: No. 8 from Vingt petites pièces, en tons dièses (20 Little Pieces in Sharp Keys) from Pièces pour Harmonium ou Orgue
Messiaen: Joie et clarté des Corps Glorieux from Les Corps Glorieux
Franck: Prière, op. 20

The Music
by Jason Alden

Louis-James-Alfred Lefébure-Wély (1817-1869) was among the most popular organists in Paris during the mid-1800s. His ability to improvise evocative character pieces, like thunderstorms, was well known. He was a great friend of the organbuilder Aristide Cavaillé-Coll and helped him to sell many organs by demonstrating them in such an appealing manner. This Boléro de Concert, Op. 166, was originally intended for the harmonium. However, it works marvelously on the organ with very little adaptation. The work has a tremendous forward drive which is provided by the incessant bolero rhythm (heard in the left hand and pedal parts). From the outset, we hear the incredible dynamic range of this wonderful instrument, and the penultimate sound features the colorful Voix Humaine with the Flûte Octaviante and Tremolo.

Albert Paul Alain (1880-1971) was the father of the well-known composer Jehan Alain. While his works have gained minor notoriety, his group of twenty pieces within the collection of Piéces pour Harmonium ou Orgue (1930) has gone largely unnoticed. In preparing this unnamed work, No. 8 from Collection 1 marked Pas trop lent, expressif, I have deviated significantly from the registrational indications given by the composer. At the same time, I have attempted to remain within the æsthetic of the piece and the instruments upon which it would have been played at the time of its composition. The opening solo is played on the cornet stops of the Récit division (using the Flûte Harmonique). The tenor solo uses all of the 8 foundation stops of the Grand Orgue. The composers indication for several tempo changes within the course of this short piece is unique and creates an interesting effect.

Jehan-Ariste Alain (1911- 1941) was a young composer of great vision whose life was cut short during World War II. His works are filled with many traditional western music harmonies combined in new ways. The Jardin suspendu (The Hanging Garden), JA 71 (1934) holds several subtitles: the vision of the fleeting ideal, chacone, and the hanging garden is the perpetually sought, fleeting ideal of the artist. It is the inaccessible and impenetrable refuge. The work creates an atmosphere of inner peace, scattered with wandering thoughts. Organists will immediately recognize the unique sound of the middle section, in which Alain calls for the solo registration Flûte 4 et Gros Nazard 5. Here, the solo is provided by the Récit Octavin and Nazard, played one octave lower. As a result of Alain's use of stress markings throughout this section, the effect of this passage is almost as if one were walking through a botanical garden, taking time here and there to look at specific features of the individual plants.

Jehan Alain: Première Fantaisie
(First Fantasy), JA 72 (1933) is based on Omar Khayyams Rubaiyat [XXXIII]:
Then to the rolling Heavn itself I cried,
Asking, What lamp hath destiny to guide
Her little children stumbling in the dark?
And  A blind understanding, Heavn replied.

The extreme contrasts Alain uses are extremely effective in depicting the texts dialogue between the question and the answer. A repeating rhythmic motive can be identified in all of the declamatory sections, then an altered version of this motive returns at the very end of the work in the bass line. Its rhythm matches perfectly to the French syllabic emphasis of the answer, Suis ton aveugle instinct (a blind understanding).

Jehan Alain: Deuxième Fantaisie (Second Fantasy), JA 117 (1936?) is similar to many Alain organ works in that the exact date of composition is unclear because there are several manuscript versions, and the work underwent several changes over time. It differs from the First Fantasy in that there is no accompanying text. Nevertheless, the overt influence of Arabian music is obvious in this work. While the opening motive presents the main theme, an interesting feature of the piece is the solo on the Cromorne. The solo is very similar in its melodic and rhythmic structure to the Arabian maqam, which is a melodic and rhythmic motive that is developed in succession with pauses between ideas. During the massive crescendo that follows, Alain uses this same motive in the pedals, where he includes the subtext, Harmonies, as glowing embers, awaiting the gust of wind which causes to shoot out, in a shower of sparks, a fire that dances. Finally a giant gust of wind comes with an explosion of excitement, sounding like whirling flames. The close of the work is very reflective. The final reed solo is presented on the Positif Clarinette Basse, played one octave higher than written.

Olivier Messiaen (1908- 1992) composed Les Corps Glorieux (The Glorious Bodies: Seven brief visions of the life of the resurrected) in 1939, just before he was called into action during World War II. Messiaen is well known for having developed the modes of limited transposition, which helped define his avant-garde tonal language. Inasmuch as Messiaen's language is still new to most, it also must be one of the most effective vehicles for a vision of the resurrected life. In this vision, the Joy and Brightness of the Glorious Bodies, Messiaen reveals a great exuberance and shows the influence of jazz and Indian music. The work uses two main sections, which are presented in slightly different guises each time. The registration is unique to this work. The opening chords are played on the Récit Bourdon, Hautbois, Voix Humaine, Prestant, Flûte Octaviante, and Plein Jeu. The final measures of the secondary section feature the beautiful and plaintive Grand Orgue Cornet.

César-Auguste-Jean-Guillaume-Hubert Franck (1822- 1890) was a virtuoso pianist and a devout Roman Catholic. While not all of his organ works were intended to be so profound, the Prière, Op. 20 (1860) was dedicated to his organ teacher François Benoist, and is, arguably, the pinnacle of his output for organ. It is well documented that Franck believed the more sharps that were present in a key signature, the more spiritual it was. So, it is no surprise that this work is in C-sharp. The opening begins like a hymn, in five parts. The second theme is a very long melody, typical of Franck's style. The work culminates with a kind of restrained fervor during the combination of the two main themes, but ends in a mood of Romantic pessimism. The registration in every part of the work is exactly as the composer requested;  the only change from the opening registration is the addition and subtraction of the Récit Trompette as indicated.

Charles-Marie Jean Albert Widor
(1844-1937) published his first set of six Symphonies pour orgue, Op. 13, in 1872. While the term symphony was relatively new to the organ at that time, Widors style was clearly symphonic. The pieces themselves, though, were more like suites. After the publication of his second set of symphonies, op. 42, in 1879, he began reworking his earlier pieces to expand them to match the larger scope of their opus 42 counterparts. In the years between 1872 and his death in 1937, Widor edited the opus 13 symphonies several times. John Near, using the last versions of the works, prepared the edition used for this recording. In the 1901 edition, Widor removed the fourth movement, Scherzo, and replaced it with a setting of Salve Regina. The Scherzo, included here, seems to fit a little better in context with the complete symphony, although the Salve Regina is a very beautiful work. The Præludium Circulare is so named because it moves effortlessly through almost all twelve key signatures. The charming, if not coquettish, Pastorale shows off the beautiful Récit Hautbois stop and the light Positif flutes. In the Andante, Widor writes what would sound to be a lovely French parlor song. The movement begins on the Récit Flûte Harmonique and Flûte Octaviante. After two Agitato sections that display the 8' stops, the recapitulation lets the melody sing forth from the tenor range of the Grand Orgue 8' stops. The aforementioned Scherzo is a tour-de-force played on the reed stops 8 and 4. The nickname La chasse (the hunt) is aptly placed because of the opening motive. The Adagio is a beautiful and serene movement that alternates between improvisatory lines on the Grand Orgue Flûte Harmonique and the Récit Viole de Gambe and Voix Céleste stops. The concluding Finale is a well-known standard in the organ repertory (perhaps not too much the ugly step-sister to the Toccata) that ends in a dazzling display of cascading motion.

The Organ
by Jonathan Ambrosino

The new organ for Christ the King Catholic Church is Juget-Sinclair's largest to date. Indeed, being their first three-manual instrument, size alone makes Opus 42 a milestone, especially considering that from Op 1 to 41, only seven Juget-Sinclair organs have contained ten or more stops. While the style of the Dallas instrument unmistakably recalls French organs from 1870 to 1950, some important differences remind us that we are confronting a new organ built in the 21st century.

The first is action. In the French symphonic or 20th-century model, no instrument gets very large without having a form of assistance to the key action: either a Barker lever to one or more manuals, perhaps pneumatic or electric action in 20th century organs. But Juget-Sinclair are tracker builders, interested in the possibilities of applying mechanical action in a tonal framework not used to having it. With so many stops present, the builders understood that the Dallas organ would be unplayable without some form of assistance. Their solution was age-old  segregate heavy basses onto separate bass channels in the slider windchests  while permitting the action to have full direct control in the upper regions. In the Grand-Orgue, the basses of the 16ft and 8ft foundations are planted on a separate, electro-pneumatic slider windchest elevated above the rest. In the enclosed departments, additional electro-pneumatic channels and pallets live alongside the others to wind certain bass pipes. The Pédale is tracker, save for the Bombarde and Soubasse, which are extended ranks on single-note windchests. In the gallery, the choral risers, rear cabinetry and side chases conceal complex tracker runs connecting console to windchests.

The second challenge is one of musicality and balance. The typical west-end French organ exists solely in relation to itself: a concert instrument in a sacred setting, expected to fill an often vast space, accompanying neither choir nor congregation. Take that ideology out of France, and suddenly the innocent Basson-Hautbois, much less a complete Récit reed chorus, can overtake the more usual American choir. At Dallas, the choir would be very close to the pipes. How does one temper the organs impact without loss of intensity and color?
This calibration of French style to the needs of the American church has been achieved here by multiple means: a tight rein on scaling and voicing of the flue stops, the enclosure of two departments, careful selection of shallot styles, and varied voicing across reed families. The foundations and flue choruses remain moderate in power, such that one can imagine deploying the fonds d'orgue with a choir in a way one might not get away with were an octet alongside the keydesk in the tribune at St-Sernin de Toulouse. Most French organs of this size don't have quint mixtures in the Récit; the one here is an adjustment to American use, where Full Swell is needed as much as anches Récit. Mutations here reflect an overlay of the 20th century upon the foundation of the 19th. Such stops allow the works not only of Duruflé, Tournemire and Messaien, but also of de Grigny, Couperin and Marchand to sound as their composers envisioned.

Juget-Sinclair seem less interested in inventing new things than in simply doing traditional things very well. Thus, the color reeds recall beautiful stops we have heard before, done here with panache and a personal touch: a dark sweet Hautbois, the richness of the Clarinette basse. The chorus reeds are what really bring France to Texas: roaring basses ascend to timid trebles, where the flue trebles, mixtures and tierces hold forth. In that tutti we hear a system of balances and tonal development that directly connects us to the instruments that so captivated Franck, Widor and their many pupils and grandpupils  the very inspiration that has given us the best in organ music for the past 150 years.

Juget-Sinclair Op. 42, 2015
The Henry McDowell and Dottie Thompson Organ
Christ the King Catholic Church, Dallas, Texas
3 manuals, pedal, 58 stops

Grand-Orgue 58 notes
Montre 16
Bourdon 16
Montre 8
Salicional 8
Bourdon 8
Flûte Harmonique 8
Prestant 4
Flûte Ouverte 4
Quinte 2-2/3
Doublette 2
Fourniture IV
Cymbale III
Cornet V
Bombarde 16
Trompette 8
Trompette en Chamade 8
Clairon 4

Positif expressif 58 notes
Principal 8
Bourdon 8
Dulciane 8
Unda Maris 8
Prestant 4
Flûte à Cheminée 4
Nazard 2-2/3
Doublette 2
Tierce 1-3/5
Larigot 1-1/3
Fourniture V
Clarinette Basse 16
Cromorne 8
Trompette 8
Clairon 4

Récit expressif 58 notes
Bourdon 16
Flûte Traversière 8
Cor de Nuit 8
Viole de Gambe 8
Voix Céleste 8
Prestant 4
Flûte Octaviante 4
Nazard 2-2/3
Octavin 2
Tierce 1-3/5
Plein Jeu III-V
Basson 16
Trompette 8
Basson-Hautbois 8
Voix Humaine 8
Clairon 4

Pédale 30 notes
Bourdon 32
Soubasse 16
Contrebasse 16
Principal 8
Bourdon 8
Prestant 4
Flûte 4
Bombarde 32
Bombarde 16
Trompette 8
I/P - II/P - III/P


Mechanical key action
Electric stop and combination action

French Organ Music<BR>Jason Alden, Organist<BR>2015 Juget-Sinclair Organ, Christ the King RC Church, Dallas, Texas<BR><Font Color=Red>****Four-Star Review, <I>Choir & Organ</I></font>
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