…The Burwell lute tutor states: "[On] other instruments we sing, but on the lute we speak". That is exactly what Bailes does, and in a very eloquent manner.
The present installment of Arturo Sacchetti’s encyclopedic Organ History survey for Arts Music drops anchor in late-19th/early-20th-century France. It can be argued that the five instrumental sections from Satie’s Mass for the Poor that open this recital lose poignancy when shorn of their surrounding vocal movements, although the organ is a perfect instrument for the composer’s quirky, instantly identifiable harmonic language. By contrast, D’Indy’s Les Vêpres du Commun des Saints, Roussel’s Prélude et Fughetta, and Honegger’s Deux Pièces pour Orgue make an arid, academic impression. After Wayne Marshall’s pulverizing speed through the Pastorale by Roger-Ducasse (Virgin Classics), Sacchetti’s relatively conservative virtuosity proves less engaging. However, his incisive hand/foot coordination enliven Tournemire’s Improvisation on “Te Deum” and Langlais’ Hymne d’Actions de grâces “Te Deum”, although the latter yields to Andrew Herrick’s more vivid and better engineered traversal on Hyperion. Organists looking for an effective, unhackneyed encore should consider Ibert’s Musette or Milhaud’s Pastorale.
Unusually the liner note deserves a mention ahead of the music: the fine pianist Jeremy Denk, half of this regular duo, manages to encapsulate the elusiveness of French romantic music with such insight in a few sharp sentences, his words almost shape the way we listen to this superbly played disc. Saint-Saëns' wistful and emotional Sonata No 1 and Ravel's bluesy, ironic sonata have a whipped, airy quality. Joshua Bell plays with fire and finesse, with Denk a powerful ally. Franck's dark-light violin sonata, mysterious, ardent and far more than the sum of its parts when played as majestically as here, forms the centrepiece of this seriously beguiling disc.
The ‘Italian’ Concerto and ‘French’ Overture included on this disc together make up the second part of Bach’s Clavier-Übung, composed, according to Bach himself, ‘for music lovers to refresh their spirits’. Here Steven Devine’s performances show that these works do far more than simply refresh spirits. The ‘Italian’ Concerto has long been thought a product of Bach’s extensive study of Vivaldi’s concerti.