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The third volume of David Ponsford’s French classical odyssey brings two of the greats from the later years of Louis XIV: Mass movements from Raison’s Premier livre d’orgue (1688), and the two well-known suites constituting the Livre d’orgue published around 1710 and dedicated to him by his pupil and successor as organist of the Jacobin Convent, Clérambault. Raison’s poised, well-proportioned versets demonstrate the improviser’s craft in a series of lucid miniatures; his pupil’s approach, a generation later, is broader, more demonstratively inclined. A welcome oddity is Raison’s Offerte du cinqième ton: le vive le roy des Parisiens, written in January 1687 to celebrate the Sun King’s successful surgery (without anaesthetic) for a life-threatening anal fistula: a crowd-pleasing bricolage of triple- and duple-time sections, clearly structured and gratifyingly bombastic.

Everything about this recording is enjoyable: the music is excellent, played by a seasoned and persuasive advocate effortlessly alternating between supple rubato and scorching grands jeux. Abundant information on the organ, a near-perfect companion for the repertoire, is provided by Pierre Dubois and includes a full registration chart. The instrument – a lucky survivor of fires, revolution and war – is comparatively modest, but lacks nought and benefits from fine acoustics. Some unexpected pleasures come from incidentals: action noise in the ‘Glorificamus’ of Raison’s Gloria (played on Grand Orgue 8ft Bourdon) or the pleasing irregularity of the same bourdon combined with 4ft flute and tremulant in the ‘Flûtes’ from Clérambault’s Suite du deuxième ton.

MAGNUS WILLIAMSON Read the full review on Agora Classica


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