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As part of his eclectic repertoire, André Isoir (1935-2016) did much to evangelise the French baroque repertoire on historic organs. However, for Grigny (1672-1703) there is no sufficiently large 17th-century organ surviving, and performers have to choose later instruments which (as in some F.-H. Clicquot organs) were built nearly a century after Grigny’s Livre d’orgue was published (1699). This 1714 organ is chronologically close, but is small: no 16ft Montre, no Great to Pedal coupler and no ravalement for the Pedal reeds. This forced Isoir to transpose the Pedal down an octave in places, but the final chord of the Offertoire (missing bottom AA) still sounds as a second inversion chord. Grigny really needs a larger instrument.

Despite copies by Bach and Walther, Grigny’s original print is flawed with wrong titles, misplaced slurs and ornaments, and (I think) many wrong notes and absent accidentals. Isoir’s interpretation is whimsical in its treatment of rhythm, notes inégales, ornaments and even registration in places. All this fails to justify our faith that we are hearing authentic Grigny, although Isoir’s whimsicality does produce some imaginative ornaments. This is playing of a previous generation, and therefore historically interesting.

DAVID PONSFORD Read the full review on Agora Classica


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