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The title of this CD is a misnomer. While Louis Vierne represented the apotheosis of the French organ symphony, Duruflé’s well-documented organ ideals represented a dramatic move away from the French symphonic organ towards the néo-classique compromise favoured by his friend Norbert Duforcq. The Windsor organ likewise is the result of the compromise reformist vision of then organist Sydney Campbell, well-illustrated in the opening bars of Vierne’s Second Symphony, in which the typically dark-toned late-romantic English Great trumpets combine curiously with a five-rank cornet. The choice of organ (which doesn’t sound remotely French) for an entirely Gallic programme like this feels somewhat more convenient than inspired (Richard Pinel is assistant director of music at St George’s), but it is very well recorded and the accompanying booklet features some splendid photography. It is Richard Pinel’s outstanding playing that is the most obvious reason to purchase this CD, however: this is characterised by an ever-taut expressiveness, never too fast, with a grand sense of line and tempo rubato in the Vierne, and nowhere a hint of cathedral assistant ‘auto-pilot’ or empty virtuosity, even in Duruflé’s warhorse Toccata. Every gesture, every tenuto is so well considered, with a palpable sense of struggle and melancholy in the Vierne in particular. An impressive achievement.

CHRIS BRAGG Read the full review on Agora Classica

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