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Two concluding instalments in the fascinating Musicians and the Great War centenary survey on Editions Hortus offer strikingly different perspectives on the years before, during and after the first world war.

Volume 6, Métamorphose, confronts the uneasy contrariness of composers finding creative opportunities within the destructive violence of war. Perhaps the most poignant expression of the album’s subtitle – ‘Between anxiety and rebirth’ – is found in Reger’s coruscatingly intense Trauerode and soloist Thomas Monnet’s sensitive transcription of Ravel’s bittersweet and nostalgically baleful Le tombeau de Couperin. More conspicuous drama is found in Prokofiev’s combustible Toccata from 1916 and Henrik Andriessen’s Fête Dieu from the final year of the war, both compelling comments on the European conflagration. Monnet makes Dudelange’s crisp, characterful IV/82 Stahlhuth sound duly menacing and mournful by turns.

Dedicated to Marcel Dupré, the ninth (and final) volume, Vêpres, appropriately features four post-conflict pieces caught in the uncertain void between past and present. on the tonally rich IV/68 Mutin/Cavaillé-Coll of St Peter’s, Douai, Vincent Genvrin offers thoughtful accounts of the expansive variety showcased in the Fifteen Pieces Founded on Antiphons, the dexterously super-imposed themes of the Cortège et Litanie and the impressionistic ‘Pastorale’ and ‘Carillon’ from the op.27 Seven Pieces.

Frenchman Jean-Louis Florentz (1947-2004) was convinced of the organ’s capacity to respond to the here and now. Cut from the remnants of Debussian cloth, his music reflects his polymathic interests in ethnomusicology, world religions, birdsong, and oriental and Arabic languages. in this complete survey of his four works for solo organ, Thomas Monnet takes to Florentz’s dark-hued atmospheres, intense rhythms and technical challenges with nimble aplomb on roquevaire’s magnificently bold and brilliant V/70 Grand Organ. It despatches the Ethiopian-influenced Les Laudes and Debout sur le Soleil with authentic flair. The fantasy-laced ‘Prelude’ from the unfinished L’enfant noir and La croix du sud, a symphonic poem blending Sufimusic, Tuareg poetry and much else, make one regret Florentz did not write more for the instrument.

MICHAEL QUINN Read the full review on Agora Classica

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