Writes The Gramophone
in the April 2015 issue, ". . . the most authoritative and
comprehensive filmed survey and detailed exploration of César Franck’s
organ music.” See more of this and other reviews near the end of this description, below.
Historic facts presented by Joris Verdin in this 2-DVD, 2-CD set require rethinking of accepted practices in performance of César Franck’s organ works.
Franck (1822-1890) founded the French symphonic organ school with twelve great
compositions. All 12 are included in this 2-DVD, 2-CD set, as well as selections
from L'Organiste. Three films explore Franck's life and work. Eric Lebrun,
biographer of Franck, traces important events, concentrating on the organ and
its music in his life, with some concentration on the organ of Sainte-Clotilde,
The 12 great organ works by Franck, all performed and discussed, are:
Six Pièces, Op. 16-21 (published 1868)
Fantaisie in C major, Op. 16
Grande Pièce Symphonique in F-sharp minor, Op. 17
Prelude, fugue et variation in B minor, Op. 18
Pastorale in E major, Op. 19
Prière in C-sharp minor, Op. 20
Final in B-flat major, Op. 21
Trois Pièces (1878)
Fantaisie in A major
Cantabile in B major
Pièce héroïque in B minor
Trois Chorals (1890)
Choral in E major
Choral in B minor
Choral in A minor
Noël-Hudson offers a textual analysis of all twelve pieces, including a thesis
that the Trois Chorals may be regarded as a cyclic work with three movements.
Joris Verdin demonstrates how to play Franck’s music in a historically informed
manner. Featured are Cavaillé-Coll organs at Saint-Omer Cathedral, Saint Louis d'Antin,
Saint Antoine des Quinze-Vingts, Notre-Dame Cathedral, Abbaye de Royaumont,
Orléans Cathedral, and Sainte-Clotilde.
set (2 x DVD and 2 x CD)
DVDs 1 & 2: 349 minutes
CD 1 & 2: 145 minutes
2 x DVD | 2 x CD | 52 Page Booklet | NTSC | DVD9 | 16:9 Widescreen | Region
Free | DTS Digital Surround™ 5.1 / Dolby Digital 5.1 | FSFDVD009
Pièces (1868), described by Lizst as the most important pieces for organ since
Bach, included the first symphonic organ work and set the bar for later
composers such as Widor, Guilmant and Vierne. His Trois Pièces (1878) brought
vigor and grandeur to a nation recovering from the Franco-Prussian defeat.
With the Trois Chorals he created peerless masterpieces that are among the most
popular works ever written for the organ.
center of this boxed-set are three films that explore his life and work. In
Franck: Life of an Organist, Eric Lebrun, biographer of Franck, traces the most
important events of his life and shows how his organ music fits into his
overall canon. In An Introduction to Franck’s Twelve Great Organ Works, David
Noël-Hudson offers a textual analysis of all twelve pieces, including a
groundbreaking thesis showing how the Trois Chorals can be seen as a single,
cyclic work with three movements. In Franck and Performance Practice on the
Organ, Joris Verdin demonstrates how to play Franck’s music in a historically
twelve works are presented over the CDs and DVDs, in stunning recordings on key
organs built by Franck's great patron, Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, including the
magnificent instrument in the cathedral of Saint-Omer. In addition, various
bonus tracks include movements from L'Organiste, Franck's valedictory work for
the harmonium. In sum, these films and recordings provide the content and
context of Franck's greatest organ music.
Documentaries – 165 minutes:
Franck: Life of an Organist
An Introduction to Franck's Twelve Great
Franck and Performance Practice on the
The Organ at Sainte-Clotilde
Demonstrations and Music – 184 minutes:
Franck: L'organiste, or Harmoniumist?
CD 1 and
2 – 145 minutes:
Writes The Gramophone in the April 2015 issue:
“Fugue State Films has (through another crowd-funding campaign) produced what will surely prove to be the most authoritative and comprehensive filmed survey and detailed exploration of César Franck’s organ music.”
David Noël-Hudson's performance “flows effortlessly and dutifully observes every nuance of the carefully marked scores. He balances poetry with a deep sense of form and also makes a convincing case for a ‘subjective programme’ which cyclically links the late, great Three Chorales of 1890. . . . The celebrated dozen great organ works that Franck left … are all played by David Noël-Hudson on three historically appropriate instruments. Of these, that situated in Saint-Omer’s cathedral enjoys the grandest moments. Assisted by two hard-working (and well wrapped-up) registrants and a discreetly placed heater, it is fascinating to witness the spartan conditions in which this music must first have been played. Noël-Hudson also introduces each piece, unraveling their various complexities and attempting (successfully) to explain Franck’s favourite compositional techniques of melodic extension, canon and the like.”
The reviewer describes Eric Lebrun’s documentary as “superbly assembled” and “his engaging delivery is beautifully supported by first-rate visuals captured in the Parisian churches where Franck served.”
The four-star review in Choir and Organ reads: “[David Noël-Hudson's] interpretations are undeniably expressive and well-worthy of joining the vast pantheon of recordings of this literature.” Of the commentary presented by Joris Verdin, the reviewer says, “Verdin's contribution is in many ways the highlight: his insights into Franck's music, questions surrounding the use of the cuillère (convincingly demonstrating its expressive advantages over the balanced swell) and, most especially, tempo, are typically perceptive.”
The New Zealand Organ Journal draws attention to the range of contents: the set “comprises two DVDs, two CDs and a glossy full-colour 50-page booklet, all presented in a luxurious box... Eight Cavaillé-Coll organs are featured … and all are given full-page colour photos in the booklet, with their specifications.” Of the performance DVDs, they write: “the camerawork at the consoles is excellent, with all sorts of different angles and close-ups, as well as some spectacular architectural shots; and the sound quality, recorded in 5.1 surround sound, is superb.” They continue: “David Noël-Hudson writes beautifully (in the booklet's essay) and plays divinely … his playing is authoritative, expressive and shapely” and conclude: “If you're a Franck fan, or looking for a set of his complete organ music on both video and CD that is wonderfully recorded on the 'right' instruments, or if you're a Cavaillé-Coll aficionado, then this lavishly produced boxed set is for you.”
The Sydney Organ Journal writes: "Every teacher and performer of Franck will want to regard this as a vital resource..." They also comment on the inclusion of some pieces from L'Organiste: "I replayed these time and again; these simple, charming pieces capture what Louis Vierne described as 'the fervent sincerity of Franck's sermon in sound... joyous or melancholy, solemn or mystic, powerful or ethereal." The writer then concludes: "This review can only hint at the wealth of detail, intrigue and enjoyment that is contained within these discs and I cannot recommend them too highly."