Dandrieu: Magnificats Vol. 1

Jean-Baptiste Robin Grandes Orgues 1710 (Chapelle Royale – Versailles)
Versailles Spectacles CVS023

With all due respect to both composer and performer, this CD is all about this organ though the combination of the music and the instrument for which it was arguably written is also a point of some significance and interest.

The Versailles organ was developed by three generations of the Clicquot family during the 18th century (1711, 1736, 1762) and was spared damage and removal during the revolution. However, work in 1872 and 1935 changed its character to the point at which a new spirit of ‘authenticity’ required complete dismantling in 1989 and a comprehensive rebuild to restore the 1711 voices. These are distributed over four manuals and pedal and can deliver all the characteristic registrations of the Classical French school. As one of the resident organ team, Jean-Baptiste Robin understands the instrument perfectly though doesn’t quite give us the full tour. Like most modern players he is not quite brave enough to include the tremblant fort in the Grand jeu, though if that wouldn’t work on this instrument where could it?

The music – 33 movements averaging about 2 minutes each – is a mixture of liturgical styles (it would have been good to include the chant for at least one of the Magnificats) and more ‘popular’ sets of variations on carol tunes, together with a few odds and ends. It’s all attractive, and at times positively imposing, and is given sympathetic and stylish performances by J-BR. I don’t always warm to his approach to inégalité, though what he does is a perfectly reasonable choice from the range of options.

The booklet (in French, English and German), notwithstanding a few lumpy translation moments, is luxurious with notes on the music, player and instrument and several striking pictures. A further release will include Dandrieu’s transcriptions for organ of his own chamber compositions. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait too long for this sequel, and fingers crossed for the tremblant fort!

David Hansell

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