In nomine: Enfers et Paradis…

dans le paysage musical européen autour de 1600
Les Harpies
65:10
Encelade ECL1502

The star of this CD is undoubtedly the Renaissance organ of Saint-Savin in Lavedan, which not only offers the aural treat of a kaleidoscopic variety of quite extreme stops and nightingale song, but also we are assured the visual treats of grotesque masks with sprung eyes and jaws all operated by the organist. I recall seeing a Baroque organ in Germany where trumpet-playing angels not only raised their trumpets to support the instrument’s trumpet stop, but also clapped their wings to thunderous effect, and this explains the loud extraneous noises during the organ items here, which I originally assumed to be rather random percussion. Built in 1557, this extraordinary instrument has now been restored to its original condition complete with the features I have mentioned as well as trompe l’oeils  of the saints. Surely there is a message here for the church of today concerned at dramatically falling numbers of church-goers! Famous for their iconoclastic and energetic performances, Les Harpies and guest Harpie, Matthieu Boutineau, with Le Choeur des Huguenots take us on a colourful tour of music from around 1600 with often only tenuous connections with their stated themes. But who cares! This is highly entertaining stuff, presented inventively and imaginatively, and played and sung with engaging panache and honesty. And Saint-Savin-en-Lavedan is now firmly on my holiday checklist! For organ nerds, full details of the restoration projects which have brought the organ back to its current rude health as well as details of its stops are included, and for once I can begin to share in their enthusiasm.

D. James Ross