Turbulent Heart / Schoeck / Bach Organ Sonatas / Steve Davislim

VIERNE: Les Djinns. Eros, Op. 37. Ballade du désespéré, Op. 61. Psyché, Op. 33. CHAUSSON: Poéme de l'amour et de la mer, Op. 19.
Steve Davislim, tenor; Queensland Orch/Guillaume Tourniaire, cond.
MELBA SACD 301123 TT: 76:32

BACH: Organ Sonatas BWV 525-530
Christopher Wrench, organ
MELBA SACD 301125 TT: 77:45

SCHOECK: Elegie, Op. 36.
Klaus Mertens, bass-baritone; Mutare Ensemble/Gerharrd Müller-Hornbach, cond.
NCA SACD 60186 TT: 50:43

Melba has two more superb SACD issues. Tenor Steve Davislim, who recordings of Saint-Saëns (REVIEW), Strauss (REVIEW), Britten (REVIEW), and Schubert (REVIEW) have been praised on this site, now has another fine disk. Louis Vierne (1870-1937) is best known for his music for organ, particularly the six massive symphonies for the instrument. On this Melba issue we have four vocal works reflecting the composer's tragic life and despair (nearly blind from birth, he also had many other physical problems). All of these songs are lengthy (the longest 16:49, the shortest 8:38) sensitively depicting the poems by Victor Hugo, Countess Anna di Noailles and Henri Murger. Chausson's Poem of Love and the Sea was written for tenor and orchestra and is heard here in that form. Usually it is sung by a contralto or mezzo (Kathleen Ferrier, Dame Janet Baker and Victor de los Angeles are among those who have recorded the work, as have tenor Gérard Souzay and baritone Bruno Laplante). Davislim excels in this repertory, and the Australian orchestra under Guillaume Tourniaire's direction is in fine form. This is a deluxe presentation with a 100-page booklet along with complete texts and translations. The other Melba SACD offers six organ sonatas of J. S. Bach played on the organ of the Garrison Church in Copenhagen which was built in 1995, an historic reconstruction of a 1724 instrument. It is not a large organ but it makes a majestic sound. Christopher Wrench, who has an established career in Australia, is the performer. Melba's engineers offer close-up sonics that capture the organ in a most natural way, including some mechanical sounds of the instrument.

Swiss composer Othmar Schoeck (1886-1957) wrote a number of large-scale works including the music-drama Penthesilia, as well as concertos for violin, horn and cello. He also composed more than 400 lieder. Elegy, Op. 36 for baritone and chamber orchestra, written 1921-1923, was Schoeck's first lieder cycle. Nikolaus Lenau wrote 18 of the texts, Joseph von Eichendorf the remaining 6.All are tales of sadness, tragedy and melancholy, all subdued and reflective. The performance by baritone Klaus Mertens is excellent with gentle accompaniment from the first-class small orchestra. Inexplicably the text is supplied only in German; with unusual repertory such as this translations are essential. Audio quality is state-of-the art, but playing time is only 50:43.

R.E.B. (September 2009)