Simon Johnson

Franck: Symphony; Cantabile; Pièce Héroïque; Rédemption

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Simon Johnson's program of organ music by César Franck offers two of the more familiar pieces in the repertoire, Cantabile and Pièce heroïque, and two transcriptions of orchestral works, Johnson's own version of the Symphony in D minor, and Daniel Roth's arrangement of the Symphonic Interlude from the oratorio Rédemption. While Cantabile and Pièce heroïque are popular selections, they are routine fare for organ recitals, and even though the meditative Symphonic Interlude is less well-known and worth hearing, it isn't especially compelling. The tour de force, however, is the symphony, and this transcription has much of the appeal of Franck's own Grand pièce symphonique and the organ symphonies of Charles-Marie Widor and Louis Vierne. Johnson's skillful registration is a reasonable translation of Franck's fairly homogenous tone colors, and the music fits the organ's disposition quite naturally, as if the symphony had been conceived in the first place for manuals and pedal board. In any event, Johnson's handling of the score is effective, and his choices of stops and employment of the swell boxes are quite similar to the sounds of 19th century French organs, which would have been behind Franck's thinking. Hyperion's recording in St. Paul's Cathedral is generally clear and free of distractions, though some of the softer passages require attentive listening.

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