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  ajoutez la trompette! - Elmar Lehnen, International Brass
  Alexandre Guilmant: Organ Sonata No. 5 in C minor Op. 80, Louis Vierne: 24 Pièces en style libre Op. 31, Louis-James Lefébure-Wely: L'Organiste moderne, 2me Livraison, Léon Boëllmann: Suite Gothique Op. 25

Elmar Lehnen (organ)
International Brass (brass quintet)
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Reviews: 1

Review by jklemm April 12, 2008 (5 of 5 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Exciting, window-rattling sound right away, even at a just-above-normal listening volume, in the finale to the disk, the last movement of the Suite Gothique. (I don't know if that's good from an engineering standpoint, but it is exciting.) The arrangement (of that movement) seems a bit unimaginative, but then, to a large extent, the movement itself is. Brass and organ tone are both excellent, providing much of the pleasure of the release.

I wasn't familiar with the Guilmant sonata, but I enjoyed hearing it (probably for the first time in any version) and will return to hear its four movements and enjoy its fine sound again. I'll say the same for the Lefébure-Wély.

All the quieter pieces were interesting, in good arrangements for the ensemble. I have a big beef (probably because it was the work I hoped would be the best one when I picked it up) with the Vierne Carillon, an exciting piece whose obsessive two-bar bass ostinato, in conjunction with interesting harmonic developments after the initial exposition of the theme, helps build tremendous tension to the end. The arrangement, for brass quintet alone, instead of building to a grand "full organ" finish, starts to fade in the last 30 seconds, so what should be the climactic and most exciting moments become a weak whimper. But the rest of the Vierne arrangements, again, mostly on the quieter side, were pleasant and enjoyable.

Surround sound was quite effective and pretty natural for a large church. The performers are in front of you, with the back channels generally being used for the natural reverb you'd experience. There was a spot in the maudlin slow movement of the Suite Gothique (in an arrangement for piano and electronic organ that I made, this piece worked great for a "radio soap opera" theme) where the organ's chimes sounded behind you, but it was so out of tune that I found little pleasure in it - but then, since I consider the movement a good one for a radio soap opera, I wasn't expecting to find much!

Worth mentioning here, since I couldn't find a reference to it anywhere in the album, are details on the arrangements, all originally organ works. The Guilmant and Böellman are arranged for brass quintet and organ, while the Vierne and Lefébure-Wély are for brass quintet alone; all were created by the participants, if I'm understanding the notes correctly. All are recorded in the same venue, the Papal Basilica of Our Lady at Kevelaer, Germany (sorry to fixate on minor points, but the album liner notes really are weak - I had to look up Kevelaer, a town I've never heard of, to find out what country it's in). It's extremely resonant, with long decays, but sometimes (and some may like this, since it certainly happens often in live performance in large churches) the musical sound gets overwhelmed by the fat sonic cloud, especially when it suddenly gets quiet.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed the album - it's different, and may give some needed exposure to Vierne's music (someone who should be better known to music lovers who aren't organ fans - even discounting all his rarely heard but enjoyable non-organ music, many of his organ works would seem naturals for transcriptions) and, as I said for my own case, to the Guilmant. I'll be seeking out the sonata in its original form, and hopefully in surround sound.

(Originally and incorrectly I posted most of this in the discussion section - sorry, it's my first time!)

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Works: 4  

Leon Boëllmann - Suite Gothique Op. 25
Alexandre Guilmant - Organ Sonata No. 5 in C minor, Op. 80
Louis-James Lefébure-Wely - L'Organiste moderne, 2me Livraison
Louis Vierne - 24 Pièces en style libre Op. 31