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This is a typically eccentric Solstice release: a booklet with shoddy photography, long, vaguely political and poorly translated booklet essay, the point-blank range François Carbou recording … and gorgeous performances of neglected and evocative music. Henri Mulet has for too long been known for just two pieces, the ‘Tu es Petra’ toccata from the Esquisses byzantines and the Carillon sortie. As this collection of the complete organ works (compiled thanks to generous help from British organist Paul Derrett) shows, though, the Esquisses in particular constitute a colourful, if often melancholy, trove of delights. The young French organist Virgil Monin plays with great warmth and empathy. Even ‘Tu es Petra’, with its broad tempo, has a rare and tangible feeling of epic struggle; no wasted virtuosic frippery here. The organ is one of the grandest of the Toulouse-based Puget family’s organs, the 1888 III/50 in the Basilica of Notre Dame La Dalbade. Combining mellifluous and cantabile fonds with snappy and aggressive reeds, the concept illustrates a subtly different palate to the Cavaillé-Colls of the same period, and it matches the music wonderfully well. The presentation, then, may be maddeningly quirky but the music-making is sublime …

CHRIS BRAGG Read the full review on Agora Classica


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