The Great Organ of Saint-Etienne-du-Mont, Paris
What gives distinction to this disc of 20th-century French organ music by the usual suspects is the recording location – the church of St-Etienne-du-Mont in Paris where, from 1930 until his death in 1986, Maurice Duruflé held sway (with a little help from his wife). Strange, then, that the booklet provides no information about the organ other than the usual stop-list, and while the connection is highlighted in the note about the Suite, this goes on to claim that Duruflé ‘composed a vast amount of music for the instrument’. There are only 14 opus numbers to his credit – just six of which are for organ – plus two or three surviving unpublished works, along with the transcriptions he made of Tournemire’s recorded improvisations (one of which appears on the disc).
For the past three years Pétur Sakari has been studying with Vincent Warnier and Thierry Escaich in Paris. If that has given him a special insight into the interpretation of French organ music, it does not reveal itself here. The overriding impression is of a conscientious and technically solid player for whom textural accuracy largely overrides interpretative input. These are secure performances but only in the Duruflé Suite is there the hint of deeper involvement. Apart from the instrument itself and BIS’s superb recording, there is little to entice one away from the numerous other – and often more stimulating – discs of this repertoire currently available.