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How curious that Hortus should chose to record Saint-Saëns, having already released a splendid complete edition of his organ works and various motets by the label’s artistic director, Vincent Genvrin. Yoann Tardivel, former winner of the International Organ Competition in Toulouse, here performs with great poetry and finesse the three fantaisies and the op.150 improvisations on a fine Merklin organ with some earlier stops. In doing so, he draws parallels with the John Abbey-rebuilt organ at Saint- Séverin in Paris, which likewise incorporated older material and over which Saint-Saëns presided in an honorary role from 1897 – making, we are told, grateful use of sounds which at the time must have seemed archaic. The Bordeaux organ has a distinctively ‘different’ sound, its chorus reeds more nasally brassy than Cavaillé-Coll, its ‘fonds’ more gentle and supple. Tardivel also makes occasional solo use of the two free reeds, recalling Saint-Saëns’s fondness for the harmonium. His programme notes are exceptionally interesting so it’s a pity, given that the instrument takes such a central role to his approach, that no specification is listed in the booklet.

CHRIS BRAGG Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Choir & Organ, 2019 - ©Rhinegold Publishing