FRANCK Organ Works (Boysen)
The charming little Andantino, Franck’s first published organ work dating back to 1858, gets rather overlooked in recordings of his organ music. So it is good that it opens Bjorn Boysen’s two-disc set. He does seem to make rather heavy going of it, squeezing every last drop of pathos from the music by means of generous rubato, dramatic swings of the swell pedal and possibly over-playing the hint of Panis angelicus in the central section.
This, though, turns out not to be representative of Boysen’s general approach, and while he does emphasise the romanticism by means of big dynamic shifts and even bigger tempo ones, in the larger scores he maintains a fine sense of momentum. I am particularly taken by his broad, sweeping yet often quite impetuous account of the Grande pièce symphonique, and even more so by the tremendous sense of vitality he sustains throughout the Final.
These performances are notable for the sense of space and scale Boysen brings to the music. The Fantaisie in A has an epic quality as it works up to its inexorable statement of the big theme, and there is a grand sense of the drama about a well-paced account of the Pièce héroïque. I find his playing of the Third Chorale truly exhilarating.
Given the close association between Franck and the organ builder Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, a kind of belief has grown up that only on an authentic Cavaillé-Coll can the true genius of Franck’s writing come across. Yet here we have a Swiss-built organ claiming to be geared towards the ‘German romantic tradition’ in a Norwegian church. Whatever else this 2009 Kuhn at Uranienborg Church can do, it certainly makes exactly the right sound for César Franck.
The sound is gentle, smooth, with nicely acidic reeds (I particularly like those that add spice to the Pastorale) and a generous if not overwhelming pleno. The recording level is low and the sound distant but that only adds to the charm. And with these immensely sympathetic performances from Boysen, we have here a pair of discs which are among the more attractive in the large discography of complete Franck organ recordings.