During 1926 and 1927, the French organist Louis Vierne composed four suites, each containing six major works. Together with his six symphonies, they are among his most well-known works. The 24 pieces all have different titles, with Vierne referring to nature and man, human emotions and actions; and his fascination with cathedral architecture.
Vierne was at the peak of inspiration when he composed the four suites. He shows an array of different styles, ranging from impressionistic, pianistic-virtuosic and lyrical to festive.
Suite No.1: Prélude; Andantino; Caprice; Intermezzo; Requiem æternam; Marche nuptiale
Suite No.2: Lamento; Sicilienne; Hymne au soleil; Feux follets; Clair de lune; Toccata
Suite No.3: Dédicace; Impromptu; Étoile du soir; Fantômes; Sur le Rhin; Carillon de Westminster
Suite No.4: Aubade; Résignation; Cathédrales; Naïades; Gargouilles et Chimères;Les Cloches de Hinckley
his articulation is always agile and clear, his sense of both meter and rhythm well grounded, and his tempos nicely judged
Louis Vierne’s 24 Pièces de fantaisie are well established in the organ repertoire, though specific selections—particularly Clair de lune, op. 53/5, the Toccata, op. 53/6, and Carillon de Westminster, op. 54/6—have assumed independent lives of their own. Herewith is a list of the complete sets I have been able to locate. Unfortunately the majority are out of print and only available as downloads.
As with so much of the later 19th and early 20th century French repertoire, Vierne wrote his pieces with the sound of a Cavaillé-Coll organ very much in his mind—in his case, his home instrument in the cathedral of Notre Dame. Of these 10 sets, five—Labric, Litaize, Latry, Baker, and van Oosten—were recorded on Cavaillé-Coll instruments (Latry at Notre Dame). Some devotees accordingly will insist on a Cavaillé-Coll as a desideratum for a recording; I prefer it, all other things being equal, but am hardly a stickler on that point.
It should be said up front that none of these sets is less than good overall, meaning that a choice will come down to three factors: interpretive approach, choice of instrument, and recorded sound. For myself, the winnowing process narrowed the choices considerably in short order. The premiere Pierre Labric recordings originally appeared on the Grand Orgue label on LP. The original masters were subsequently lost, and Solstice had to use a mixture of second-generation copies of those plus some LPs for its CD issue. Interpretively Labric is excellent, but the sound has serious limitations, and a certain amount of detail is obscured, so his set can be recommended only to collectors with a historical interest. While Gaston Litaize has both the requisite style and technique, his approach is simply not to my taste; his choices of stops are rather quirky, gauged to magnify dissonances in the overtones and make Vierne sound as progressive and as close to Litaize’s own more advanced compositional idiom as possible. Wolfgang Rübsam is an organist whose playing I generally do not like; I find him to be the least idiomatic interpreter here, with thick-textured renditions hampered by a soupy recorded acoustic. Latry again has the technique and basic idiom, but he sometimes opts for rather heavy registrations, and there is a surprising amount of background hiss and other occasional noises in his set. The version by van der Steen, while estimable, is long out of print and has a rather reverberant acoustic.
With George C. Baker we reach the first in-print set to which I can give an unreserved recommendation. Although the recorded sound does not equal that of the best organ recordings being made today it is still very good, every interpretive element is outstanding, and the instrument is the lovely Cavaillé-Coll of the Church of Saint-Ouen de Rouen. It would be a mistake to rule out Günther Kaunzinger, as a German organist playing on a German instrument; he was a pupil of Marie-Claire Alain, Maurice Duruflé, and Jean Guillou, has a perfect grasp of this music, plays with great energy, and finds thoroughly suitable counterparts on his instrument to the stops on a Cavaillé-Coll. Ben van Oosten’s complete Vierne set has rightly been highly praised; he follows Latry in favoring heavier registrations, but he has much better recorded sound, and along with Baker his is one of the two best sets to feature a Cavaillé-Coll (in this instance at the Church of Saint-Antoine des Quinze-Vingts). Readers of these pages will recall the praises I lavished on Bernhard Buttmann’s complete Reger cycle. His Vierne is not in the same class, though; like Rübsam his textures are overly dense and his reverberant recorded acoustic magnifies that. Similar things can be said of Kay Johannsen’s cycle, except that in addition I find his instrument (the organ of the Frauenkirche in Dresden) not well suited to this repertoire either. In sum, of the predecessors to the current release, I would especially recommend van Oosten, Baker, and Kaunzinger—and how fortunate it is that the first two of those comprise parts of the two complete sets of Vierne organ works!
So, where does this new set, on the performer’s own CD label, rank in the competition? Quite highly. Daniel Bruun has all the dexterity one expects from organ virtuosos nowadays; his articulation is always agile and clear, his sense of both meter and rhythm well grounded, and his tempos nicely judged. His selection of stops and registrations on the 2015 Carsten Lund organ in the Hellerupland Church (located in a suburb of Copenhagen) is entirely apt, with a lovely lightness and transparency of textures. The recorded sound is outstanding for vividness and sharpness of detail. The excellent booklet notes, also by Bruun, not only describe each piece in detail, but provide all of their individual dedications by Vierne to various friends and colleagues. Full specifications for the instrument and an artist bio also are provided. Make this set a fourth top recommendation from me for the Fantaisies.
James A. Altena - for Fanfare Magazine, July/Aug 2021
Daniel Bruun […] plays wonderfully, with great feeling and care
Extensive Louis Vierne recordings in the Nordic countries aren’t particularly common, but now Daniel Bruun, organist in Helleruplund Kirke in Copenhagen, has released a double CD with a complete recording of 24 Pièces de Fantaisie. The centrepiece of the recording is Carsten Lund’s French Romantic organ with 43 stops, III/P, from 2015.
Louis Vierne’s 24 Pièces de Fantaisie is a rich source to draw from. Daniel Bruun, who studied with Hans Fagius, David Sanger, Jan Willem Jansen and Michel Bouvard amongst others, plays wonderfully, with great feeling and care. The organ of Helleruplund Kirke carries great depth and variation, with a convincing tone particularly suited to French Romantic music – when played by someone who knows the instrument, that is. And Daniel Bruun certainly does. He was even greatly committed already when the organ came to be.
The text booklet of the double CD (in English) provides a lot of insights and information of interest. In the commentary for each piece, Daniel Bruun provides not only a short form analysis, but also other interesting facts. Unique to this recording is that the reader is also gifted with information about who the people whom Vierne dedicated each piece to were.
Daniel Bruun already has multiple critically acclaimed CD recordings on the international stage behind him. In other words, there’s good reason to be on the lookout for when the next recording is released!
Mats Larsson - for Orgelforum, March 2021
… the combination of performer, church room and instrument is virtually a unity on this recording
It is almost embarrassing to admit it, but the author of this review did not actually play a single organ work by Vierne in the anniversary year 2020. I cannot blame the corona either, it was completely different concert projects that went down the drain for me. Fortunately, there were plenty of other organists at home and abroad who marked the 150th anniversary of Vierne's birth with concert series, tours, CD recordings and other events. Naturally, there has been a lot of focus on the organ symphonies, but Vierne’s other works really also deserves attention. The Danish concert organist Daniel Bruun has thus marked the anniversary by recording Vierne’s 24 Pièces de Fantaisie. Like the simpler, and perhaps more played «24 Pièces en style libre», the 24 fantasy pieces use all major and minor keys, but in contrast to the «sister work», this collection is organized by the composer in 4 suites of 6 movements , not unlike for example Grieg's lyrical pieces for piano.
Daniel Bruun is organist in Helleruplund church, Denmark, where he plays on the church's Carsten Lund organ (43 stops), which he also inaugurated in 2015. Bruun has a very confident sense of rhythm and timing. The dry acoustics in Helleruplund church make this extra important, and the combination of performer, church room and instrument is virtually a unity on this recording. When it comes to the organ, the romantic voicing of the instrument suits Vierne's music very well. Although the instrument is by no means a stylistic copy of Cavaillé-Coll, the instrument speaks very good French, so to speak. Not least, I was very excited about the reeds in this repertoire. It is also interesting here to compare the sound of the organ with the previous Daniel Bruun record I reviewed for Norsk Kirkemusikk. He then played, on the same instrument, Schumann's canonical studies, a (very good) transcription of Mendelssohn's piano work Variations Sérieuses, Liszt's prelude and fugue over B-A-C-H and the Reubke sonata. I myself was impressed with the organ in the early romantic repertoire, but missed a bit of colors in both Liszt and Reubke. This is completely absent on this recording. This may be to some extent due to the fact that 24 Pièces de Fantaisie is for the most part more chamber-musically laid out than the great works by Liszt and Reubke, and thus does not suffer from the disposition of "only" 43 stops. However, I would also argue that this Carsten Lund organ in general is even better suited to French than to German romance organ music. The more symphonic single movements, such as the well-known Carillon de Westminster, are interpreted very convincingly here.
It is always exciting to hear Vierne in the small musical forms, and it is interesting that he manages to create a whole through each individual suite, even if each movement is written in a new key. Daniel Bruun's sense of form must also be emphasized here. He manages in a very convincing way to bring out the large form in a material that at the first listening can appear a bit fragmented. If I have to make a tiny personal objection, it is against the choice not to play the suites in the composer's own order. Daniel Bruun is by no means the first do this, in order to end with the previously mentioned Carillon de Westminster, but such a shapely and inspiring musician as Bruun could safely have allowed himself to rely on the composer's own chronology, with Les Cloches de Hinckley as an equally stately ending.
In short, this is an excellent recording of a repertoire that is not played as much as it deserves. I also look forward to hearing more of Daniel Bruun, who in addition to active concert activities, has for many years already spread his organ art on YouTube.
Øystein Jæger - for Norsk Kirkemusikk, January 2021
there is a beguiling intimacy to these performances enhanced by some beautifully understated playing
Daniel Bruun clearly has great affection for Vierne’s colourful suite of 24 pieces. The 2015 Carsten Lund organ is built in French symphonic style and, while modest in size, has the complete palette of sounds for these works. Yes, we may lack the Gothic ambience of a large cathedral to enhance pieces like Fantômes, but there is a beguiling intimacy to these performances enhanced by some beautifully understated playing. The only curiosity is a clanging wrong note at the end of the Carillon de Westminster. Otherwise, this is a fine recording augmented by Bruun’s informative sleeve notes.
Rupert Gough - for Choir & Organ, January 2021
This release must arouse great enthusiasm for anyone with an interest in organ music
French organ music
It makes perfect sense that the cover of a new double CD with organ music by the French composer Louis Vierne shows a selection of Paris seen from the top of the Notre Dame Cathedral – easily recognizable on one of the famous cathedral's characteristic gargoyles. Vierne, who lived from 1870 to 1937, had in 1900 won the place as organist at Notre Dame.
The recording features 24 "fantasy pieces" by Louis Vierne, divided into four suites – and evenly spread across the two CDs. On the first we get his "Première suite", opus 51, and his "Quatrième suite", opus 55. The second offers his "Deuxième suite", opus 53, and "Troisième suite", opus 54. The music originates from the end of the 1920s and is characterized by strong uniformity and logical structure – while the numerous swarming sequences that can stimulate the listener's imagination alternate with more powerful passages.
It is the Danish organist Daniel Bruun who plays the 24 Vierne pieces on the organ in Helleruplund Church in northern Copenhagen. He possesses a distinguished technique and must be said to have fine prerequisites in this repertoire. Back in 2013, he released his first CD, entitled "French Impressions” that contained works by Bonnal, Roger-Ducasse, Cochereau, Duruflé… and also Louis Vierne. The following year, he presented on YouTube a video recording of Johann Sebastian Bach's Clavier-Übung III. It has been viewed more than 200,000 times at the time of writing!
This release must arouse great enthusiasm for anyone with an interest in organ music.
Peter Dürrfeld - for Kristeligt Dagblad, January 2021
… in Naïades, Bruun displays impressive pianistic technique and stamina
In celebration of Louis Vierne’s 150th anniversary, Daniel Bruun has recorded his version of 24 Pièces de Fantaisie (op. 51 and 53-55). 24 Pièces constitutes four suites of «character pieces», most of them quite a step away from what we consider as church music. Titles like Feux follets, Naïades and Fantômes may indicate that Vierne here writes for the concert hall, and not the church. All the movements sound a bit impromptu – and perhaps some of them are just that? – each of them dedicated to a person who was close to Vierne. Together with his 6 organ symphonies, these are Vierne’s most personal compositions.
There should be no doubt that Daniel Bruun has the right technique and level of understanding to be able to play 24 Pièces. The question then becomes rather how he solves the task of how he’ll introduce us to Vierne. First and foremost, he takes Vierne on a journey to Denmark and shows us that a newer, Danish instrument equipped with over 40 stops can give us a complete musical experience, which in many ways sounds very French. Carsten Lund’s organ in Helleruplund is an instrument with a rich and full sound palette, which allows this Danish version of «French voices» to do Vierne justice, even though the reeds lack a bit of French rawness and the flue pipes are a bit on the bright side. This organ has also proven to be quite well suited for the German-Romantic repertoire, e.g. pieces from Julius Reubke and Franz Liszt (see review of the CD: Variations Sérieuses, in the magazine, Orgelspeilet, 3-2017.) In other words, this is an extremely flexible instrument.
24 Pièces embraces a broad range of styles, and much can be said here about both music and interpretation. The movements have an impressionistic character all the way through, and the form is reminiscent of A-B-A’-B’-A’’ or a type of rondo. We’ve chosen to take a quick look at the 6 movements in suite 4 (op. 55): Aubade is played perfectly precisely without sounding metric or square. It’s hard to make the intricate B part flow well, especially when the pedals lead the melody (a pedal technique Vierne requires!) but Bruun doesn’t seem to struggle with this at all. Resignation is one of the absolute highlights, which grabs the listener and pulls them to the edge of their seat. Adagio molto sostenuto (slow and sustained), Vierne writes. It can be difficult to keep a sufficiently low tempo but Bruun has definitely got the right «feel» for the music. Helleruplund’s Celeste sounds beautiful here. The powerful fullness (Fonds) with 2’ gives Cathédrales character. Perhaps the ending could have been even softer? But the dynamic of the organ is still impressive. In the persistently and rapid 16-part movement of the water nymphs in Naïades, Bruun displays impressive pianistic technique and stamina, as well as meticulous articulation of the accompanying sounds. Gargouilles et chimères is an extremely descriptive character piece in rondo-like form. Precise, off-beat pedal playing forms the correct foundation in the Allegretto con moto part, and this becomes even more impressive when the pedals lead the melody in Allegretto marcato. The last piece, Les Cloches de Hinkley, has clarity in the registration. It’s easy to follow the counter-movements in the manual and pedal, and the theme becomes very clear when it wanders almost fugue-like from one voice to another. Here, the flue pipes probably sounds brighter than it would in a French instrument.
Ben van Oosten recorded Viernes complete collection of organ music for Dabringhaus und Grimm around the turn of the millennium. He chose large Cavaillé-Coll organs, and 24 Pièces were subsequently recorded in Saint-Ouen i Rouen. Saint-Ouen is a completely different space with completely different acoustics than Helleruplund, and it goes without saying that Bruun and van Oosten each operate in their respective worlds of sound. Their musical approaches are also quite different. We’ve chosen Étoile du soir from op. 54 as an example of the two separate approaches. Here, Bruun plays rigidly and clearly rhythmically with evenly distributed ritardando. Van Oosten, on the other hand, has a much more impressionistic and improvisational approach, characterized by a steady tempo rubato. Helleruplund’s moderate reverb makes Bruun articulate clearly, while van Oosten uses the rich space in Saint-Ouen to create flow. He also has an incredible Voix Celeste with a very dynamic range, whereas Bruun’s corresponding stop sounds smaller in every way. In what we can call «The B-section» (molto cantabile), where the pedal follows the right hand in canon at ½ bar, Bruun plays a carefully constructed composition, while van Oosten seems to be improvising. The canon is also much more pronounced in Bruun’s version, as the pedal stops are generally more distinctive in Helleruplund.
Both Bruun and van Oosten present this music via good recordings, van Oosten at a consistently lower volume. They both have a large dynamic range. Van Oosten is particularly impressive and you’ll easily feel like you're sitting «inside» the music, even though the recording is in conventional stereo and not in 5.1 surround sound or anything like that. If you want to enjoy this fully, especially the more hefty movements (like Carillon de Westminster), you should really crank up the volume - but only if your neighbors like organ music, that is…
Daniel Bruun’s release is a powerful reminder that it’s entirely possible to play Vierne on other instruments than the massive ones from Cavaillé-Coll. He also presents the music differently; you’ll quickly discover the structure of the works, and many will be able to «see» the score in front of them. But to truly understand why Vierne wrote the music the way he did, we really have to get to know the great French cathedrals with their symphonic instruments, and Ben van Oosten is the right man to help us with this. He doesn’t just take us into a composition but rather into a situation, a mood. We are instantly gripped and led straight into a dream world. Bruun, on the other hand, engages us to listen out for something special. In this way, Bruun and van Oosten won’t exclude each other - on the contrary: Bruuns version of 24 Pièces de Fantaisie demonstrates that there are many roads that lead to Rome. Things can be done in several different ways, and the final version to eventually trump all others, we’ll probably never hear.
Either way, having both Daniel Bruun and Ben van Oosten in your record collection is an indisputable must!
Sven Atle Johannesen - for Orgelspeilet, December 2020
All the works on this recording have a conspicuous relation with both the german piano and organ literature of the mid-1800s. The CD begins with Liszt's "Prelude & Fugue on B-A-C-H", which is also available in a piano version. Schumann composed six charming pieces in 1845 for the now forgotten pedal grand piano, which works very well on the organ. The famous piano piece "Variations sérieuses" by Mendelssohn is played here in a version for the organ. Julius Reubke's magnificent sonata for the organ on the 94th Psalm concludes the CD. Reubke was one of Liszt's most talented students, who unfortunately died at 24.
Helleruplund Church's organ, built in 2015 by Carsten Lund, is with its 43 romantic stops incredibly well suited to this particular repertoire.
… a talented organist in his own right with a great musicality and delightful virtuosity.
The first CD with music played on the new Carsten Lund organ in Helleruplund has been recorded by the church's organist since 2009, Daniel Bruun. Bruun studied in Denmark under Hans Fagius and Hans Ole Thers, in London under David Sanger and in Toulouse under Jan Willem Jansen and Michel Bouvard. All of these exceptional teachers have contributed to the development of a talented organist in his own right with a great musicality and delightful virtuosity.
On this CD he has chosen to represent the organ with a number of highly romantic, German works composed within a brief golden period from 1841-1870, by Liszt (the 1870 version of Fantasy Prelude and Fugue on the Theme B-A-C-H), Schumann (Six Studies in Canonical Form), Mendelssohn and Reubke (Psalm 94). The CD is entitled Variations Sérieuses, named after Mendelssohn's work of the same name for the piano in a transcription by Reitze Smits. With this title, Bruun reinforces the same close connection between the music for keyboard instruments at that time; Liszt composed many of his works in versions for both piano and organ, Schumann experimented with pedal board pianos, and Reubke had a serious companion piece to the famed organ sonata on the 94th Psalm, a grand piano sonata in B Minor.
The organ presents itself beautifully despite the relatively poor resonance, with 43 registers divided between three manuals and a pedal board, with a scope from manual to A'', pedal to F. As always with a Carsten Lund, there are strong characteristics in all registers; Bruun makes varied and inventive use of the organ, for example the beautiful cromorne in the positive work gives surprising and excellent results. An organ with relatively few registers such as this one, despite a large number of 8' registers, cannot react orchestrally, that is to say with barely perceptible transitions between piano and forte, but regardless, there is much that succeeds. To my ears at least the treble is too powerfully intoned, which backfires a little in the six Schumann canons, where accidental emphasis arises, because the same register is so different at the bottom from the top. The Reubke sonata becomes very powerful very quickly, and this disturbs the very long climatic build-ups, which then delivers a certain ambiguity.
Despite not being a fan of transcriptions, I believe that the organ shows its best side in Variations sérieuses. This is perhaps contrary to the nature of the work, as it does not have the same tone as on the piano, where it builds up and intensifies, in that the registrations with Bruun benefits the individual characters of the variations in a different way, but it is precisely here that the powerful intonation is achieved in the highest octaves with no trouble at all. The lyrical organ has a rather hard time of it with the acoustics of the church, but both Bruun's sense of rhythm, control of accelerando etc. and clear organ tones show a wonderful musician throughout all the works.
The small booklet includes an interesting article by Bruun about the composers and works featured on the CD, while an explanation of the arrangement of the organ can be found on the cover itself.
A nicely put-together website about the organ is worth visiting at www.helleruplundorglet.dk, where there is not only a wealth of images but also a wonderfully instructive (though it could have been less hasty) video about the dismantling of the old organ and commissioning of the new, accompanied by appropriate organ music. I have no doubt that this would make ideal viewing for a class of confirmands.
Birgitte Ebert - for Orglet, December 2017
… the end of the Reubke is especially thrilling
This imaginative recital of 19th-century Germanic organ music offers two significantly different kinds of challenges. It’s anchored in two standard blockbusters, idiomatically written by two brilliant organists to highlight the performer’s virtuoso control of the instrument. But if those works play to the organ’s strengths, the two works in between demand that the performer, in a sense, play against the instrument. For both were originally written for the piano (or pedal piano in the case of the Schumann), and both make their strongest case when the performer manages to resist the organ’s inclination toward sustained tones. (In a sense, Liszt’s later piano version of the BACH work does the same in reverse, asking a pianist to mimic the very different qualities of an organ).
Youngish Danish organist Daniel Bruun certainly holds his own. The big works are confidently set out, with a wide range of color (there’s no fear of extroversion in evidence here), plenty of drama (the end of the Reubke is especially thrilling), a good sense of the rhythmic ebb and flow, a Romantic sensitivity to the grand gestures of the music, and a technical control that allows him to navigate the thorniest passages without stumbling. The Schumann sounds almost like an organ work here, too; and if I’m marginally less happy with the Mendelssohn, it’s less a consequence of any weakness on Bruun’s part than because, even with the adjustments transcriber Reitze Smits has made, an organ performance can’t really convey the work’s sharp profile, something you’ll feel especially strongly if you know the work from the classic and very pianistic performances by Horowitz and Richter. Yes, there are moments where the organ’s capabilities help out. On an organ, for instance, you can sustain the bass of the ritenuto before the final Presto without resorting to left-hand octave tremolos. Then, too, many of Bruun’s interpretive moves pay off (listen to how well he plays up the quirks of the fourth variation). But too many of the busy inner workings of the music are smudged—and when it’s over you’re really glad to get to the Reubke.
This is the first recording made on the new 43-stop Carsten Lund instrument in Helleruplund Kirke, Copenhagen—and on this cleanly engineered disc, it boasts tremendous clarity and focus. More detailed notes would have been helpful, especially with respect to the instrument—but that’s a minor flaw on a welcome disc.
Peter J. Rabinowitz - for Fanfare Magazine, November 2017
… his playing is consistently brilliant and technically splendid with fabulous control
Helleruplund church is a fairly new church in Hellerup, just North of Copenhagen. The planning stage for the church began in 1942, during the war. It wasn’t until1956 however that the church was finished. It was opened in December of that same year. This is where Organ builder Carsten Lund, part of Denmark’s great organ building tradition, from Frobenius to Marcussen, built a 43 stops instrument, which was inaugurated in 2015. The organ is comprised of great, positive (in swell), swell and pedals. It’s style and tone can be characterized as bold from a current classical organ movement tradition, but with romantic and symphonic ambitions, including several 16´and 4´ couplers, both between and within the different ranks.
We can listen to the church’s organist, Daniel Bruun, who has played there since 2009. In 2013 I wrote a review in this newspaper about his lovely debut “French Impressions” at the Århus cathedral, on its great 1928 Frobenius pipe organ. He has studied at the Copenhagen conservatory under professor Hans Fagius, as well as in London under David Sanger for a time, and in Toulouse under Michel Bouvard and Jan Willem Jansen. On this occasion, his playing is consistently brilliant and technically splendid with fabulous control.
We are treated to pieces by Liszt, Schumann, Mendelssohn, and finally Reubke’s Sonata on the 94th Psalm. We start with Bach’s-Liszt’s Prelude and Fugue with great bravura and mastery. The sound palette is richly varied, and the gentle strokes and flutes sound marvelous in the weak parts.
This is followed by Schumann’s splendid and seldom heard Sechs Stücke in Canonic Form op 56. They were originally composed for pedal piano, an instrument Schumann raved about and considered to be an innovation for the future. Schumann had access to a pedal piano to practice organ music on, as his wife Clara most likely did as well. She was very fond of the organ. These six pieces were later played as and considered organ pieces, and thus were always performed for obvious reasons. This is perhaps when the organ sounds its best, with marvelous chamber music and well-balanced registrations. One is struck by how refined and varied these pieces are compositionally, inspired by Bach’s tone art and Schumann’s own detailed counterpoint studies. Listening to en suite is a sublime and profound listening experience. One can also hear the composer’s personal piano style shine through. Bruun’s registrations are consistently well chosen.
During the 19th century, it became obvious that a significant majority of the major organ composers were also brilliant pianists, including all those we hear on this recording, Liszt, Schumann, Mendelssohn, and Reubke.
In 1845 a monument dedicated to Beethoven was inaugurated in Bonn, along with the release of an anthology of piano music for which Felix Mendelssohn was asked to contribute. The result was the piano piece Variations sérieuses, composed in 1841. Here, it is part of an organ transcription by Dutch organist Reitse Smits. The piece is highly ranked among 19th century piano compositions, alongside Beethoven's own 32 Variations, Brahms' Händel variations, etc. Here too the organ sounds lovely, the playing is brilliant and temperamental.
Finally, we have Reubke’s Sonata on the 94th Psalm in the Psalm Book. This magnificent, well-known organ piece, a repertoire highlight, is performed with great bravura and a virtuous interpretation. Here, however, one may notice the lack of a larger symphonic and saturated sound of the instruments, despite the organist working incredibly with fine registrations and emphasizing the organ’s qualities in the weaker nuances. The acoustic conditions combined with one’s closeness to the organ could be a reason for this.
All in all, this is a solid and ambitious recording with a beautiful repertoire, reflecting the rich proliferation of organ music from the 19th century that in Germany in particular, became intimately associated with the great romantic piano tradition that developed there with composers such as Mendelssohn, Schumann, Liszt and Brahms during the first half of the century.
Nils Larsson - for Orgelforum, September 2017
Daniel Bruun's love of playing and enthusiasm for the music is evident from start to finish
The Helleruplund church outside of Copenhagen has received a new organ from Carsten Lund and Daniel Bruun has chosen to present the organ in all its glory with a well planned out CD named Variations Sérieuses. It’s a great production of a high-class performance, instrument and recording, featuring two central organworks from the 1850s which surrounds piano compositions in an organ version.
First out on Bruun’s CD is Liszt's Fantasia and Fugue over BACH in the 1870’s edition (S 260/2). This is a important composition that has played a major role in the development of the late Romantic organ literature. However, I was never fond of the piece and it seems to me like Liszt never comes full circle. It’s all just a long line of incidents without a clear finale and I don’t find it to be “Fugue” at all, as Liszt claims. The work is more a kind of variations having been more or less inspired by BACH where rapid runs are combined with dramatic chords and the dynamics is characterized by violent contrasts lacking any overall structure.
In order for Liszt’s work to be in any way pleasant for someone like me, it has to be played with tension and efficiency. Daniel Bruun does this as he presents his sober and "tidy" interpretation, which is technically very impressively executed in a consistently distinct manner. I haven’t been to the church of Helleruplund, but from the sound of the CD, it seems like the room gives smooth acoustic. The recording appears to have been made quite close to the organ as all the notes are very clear, including in the ppp range. There are minimal tractor noises but all other non-musical noise seems absent.
Schumann's Studien für Pedalflügel (op. 56) from 1845 is a formidable contrast to Liszt. Here we encounter six nice, relatively short movements where the "undogmatic" canon, usually in unison/octave or retrograde, is combined with free voices. Schumann's melodic abilities are evident and as a listener it can be quite tricky to differentiate which parts are in canon as it all seems like character pieces with some elements of imitation. These movements are nowadays played almost exclusively on the organ, because who owns a grand piano with pedals today? Here it’s easy to give the movements character having its own appropriate registration. Daniel Bruun knows exactly how it should be done: the gentle flutestops in one movement is superseded by a principal registration in the next, aliquots and reeds are backed up by a mild labiumplenum, and the organs celeste is used in the last movement. Everything comes together very nicely and serves as a welcomed contrast to the discharges in Liszt’s Fantasia.
Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy’s Variations sérieuses, op. 54 (1841) is written for the piano, but several organists have inserted themselves into this work, as a supplement to the "real" organ works, op. 37 and 65. Just as with Schumann’s work, the organ's tonal palette can be used to create variety and emphasize character. Bruun do this to the fullest. But the playing seems a bit too quick here. Granted, his speed is about as fast as most other pianists out there - or perhaps even a little slower! - but the peacefulness gets lost when Bruun plays predominantly non-legato with evident piano articulation. What was supposed to clarify instead results in a restless and worrisome feeling. It’s quite a pity because the playing is otherwise brilliant and the playing is portrayed carefully and thoughtfully in order to create coherence throughout all of the 17 variations.
Next and lastly, we arrive at Julius Reubke’s magnificent organ sonata Der 94. Psalm. This work, inspired by Liszt and his great Ad nos-Fantasia, is one of the absolute masterpieces of organ literature. Unlike Liszt and Ad Nos, I feel that Reubke through his Der 94. Psalm has managed to create a great work with a strict, clear and logical structure without ambiguous sections and superficial passages. I also feel that the young Reubke has a genuine understanding of how the organ works, as opposed to his mentor Liszt. The work is truly dramatic and the choice of Psalm 94 is a bit special as Daniel Bruun writes:... as it is one of the most violent and vindictive psalms. Perhaps this was a foresight of what came to pass less than a year after the first performance of the piece. The work was premiered by the 23-year Reubke in 1857 and he passed away the next year from tuberculosis.
Brunn truly brings the sonata to life. His playing is superb and he’s able to really see the long lines of the work and keep his focus through all of the 530 bars in the 25 minutes. The organ in the Church of Helleruplund is a powerful instrument at 43/III+P. (You can read more about this in Hans Fagius' mention in the magazine of our Danish sister association Orglet, issue 1/2016.) It’s clearly extremely flexible and beautiful and very suitable for the repertoire in question, despite the fact that this is an organ that clearly speaks Danish and that Fagius believes is better suited for French literature than German. However, I do feel that the great works of Liszt and Reubke are completely preserved and timbral development is ensured on all levels. The reeds express almost a German romanticism and we hear contrasts in both the flute and string stops to ensure a natural sound development - a true labium characterization. It’s particularly impressive how Daniel Bruun creates an organic diminuendo against the adagio in bar 233 of Reubke’s sonata. This is a not smooth transition with minimal tonal differences as we know it from the great German Romantic organs. We find organic transitions where distinctive notes appear as the registers disappear. Every stop has its own identity but are still connected in a beautiful cooperation. For example of "the other way around": From ff in bar 367, Reubke demands a crescendo against fff in bar 375, where alle “Bässe und Pedalcoppel” should be drawn. The organ executes this task flawlessly. And yet there are resources left for the real climax. Carsten Lund and his team (starring Erik Hult in the lead?) has done a fantastic job with the organ in Helleruplund!
Thomas Trotter at Argo (Decca) has a somewhat similar approach to the music as Daniel Bruun, although I feel his playing doesn’t have the same depth. He plays both Liszt and Reubke with a lot of tension and efficiency and both able to emphasize the natural highlights of the music without making the pieces choppy or sectioned. Unlike Bruun, Trotter chooses to play the 1855’s edition of BACH’s Fantasia and that alone certainly makes the recording tempting for many. Ave Maria (S 20) and two symphonic poems (S 98 and S 99) might also be tempting. However, his instrument - a Klais organ from 1977 on 70/IV+P - too greatly influenced by a universal idea, polished and smooth sounding but having an almost cold expression. Many good individual stops are kept isolated amongst the timbre and the overly brilliant mixtures often settles on the outside of the sound. It's a pity because on paper this is an interesting organ aimed to unite German and French elements, and should be able to mesh well with Liszt's music.
Kåre Nordstoga released his Liszt CD in 2005, played at the Ryde & Berg organ of Oslo Cathedral. He uses his time more efficiently than Bruun and utilizes 13:56 on BACH’s Fantasia against Bruun’s 12:18. This doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s playing slower, just that we have more time to enjoy the highlights and let the impression sink in as the music builds. The sound in the Ryde & Berg instrument also stretches wider than that of Carsten Lund, which naturally invites to a somewhat calmer progress. In addition to BACH’s Fantasia, you’ll also get variations over Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen (S 179) and Ad nos Fantasia (S 259). This is certainly a good option for those wishing for a Liszt with a bit more weight and dignity while still being able to experience lively playing on a magnificent organ - Nordstogas Liszt is undisputedly top class.
Hans-Jürgen Kaiser plays the same works as Nordstoga on the Ladegast organ in Schwerin Dom. This organ shares many similarities with the organ in Merseburg, where Liszt's BACH Fantasia had premiered. A certain pleasure for many, but sonically, this is a disappointment for me. The sound of the mighty Schwerin Dom is concealing the rich acoustics, resulting in a lot of details disappearing and creating a “mess” of rapid big chords, despite the fact that Kaiser plays significantly slower than most. He uses 16:15 in the BACH piece, which it is about 30% longer than Bruun does. Although the tempo is supposed to be in line with Liszt's wishes, the work becomes even less interesting for me.
There are many recordings of Reubke’s great sonata of Psalm 94 out there. It’s often combined with his piano sonata in B minor or with the works of Liszt, such as on Thomas Trotter’s recording. But Bruun’s combination with Mendelssohn Bartholdy and Schumann is interesting as well and the entire Variations Sérieuses consists of a well-thought out concert program. In addition to this, you’ll experience an exciting organ that must be incredibly rewarding to play. Daniel Bruun's love of playing and enthusiasm for the music is evident from start to finish. What should be a reference recording of Reubke’s sonata is, for me, unclear but the fact remains that Daniel Bruun's version indisputably belongs in your record collection.
Sven Atle Johannesen - for Orgelspeilet
Bruun has an organic feel for tempo and timing
The Danish organist Daniel Bruun is one of many exciting young concert organists in Scandinavia these days, and Bruun has recorded this completely new publication with his “own” organ in Helleruplund church, Copenhagen, where he plays the organ daily. This new 43 stops Carsten Lund organ, which Bruun himself consecrated in 2015, chimes wonderfully to the German romantic program we get to hear here. Bruun has chosen to record three standard performances within the organ literature, as well as some more unknown piano performances by Mendelssohn, Variations Sérieuses, here in a splendid organ transcription by the Dutchman Reitze Smits. This is also the Mendelssohn composition that has given name to the CD.
The record opens with Franz Liszt’s well known Prelude and fuge over B-A-C-H. The piece was first composed in 1855 but like most others, Daniel Bruun plays the composer’s revised edition from 1870. Bruun has obviously good chemistry with his organ, and we get to hear a form safe interpretation with clarity at the centre of the stage. I would have wished for even more variation in tone and dynamic, but the pianist Franz Liszt was probably not the composer who made the best use of the organ acoustically. Regardless, it is a sympathetic version of Liszt with a lot of technical surplus!
Six canonical studies of Robert Schumann follow, and this Bach inspired early romanticism is probably ideal repertoire for Daniel Bruun, who forms Schumann’s pedal grand piano in the best manner possible, in a much wider degree. The Carsten Lund organs warmth, but sober sound, is a perfect partner here, and continues to be so in the earlier mentioned piano versions by Mendelssohn. Daniel Bruun shines most in the “retrospective” organ romanticism from the Leipzig pals Mendelssohn and Schumann.
The CD ends with Julius Reubke’s well known Sonata on the 94th Psalm. Reubke, who died of tuberculosis only 24 years old, and only had time to write two larger works (a piano sonata which is rarely performed, in addition to this cornerstone in the organ literature), was a student of Liszt. Reubke himself was an organist, and you can tell from the sonata that he handled the organ better than his mentor. This reviewer rather enjoys the interpretation – Bruun has an organic feel for tempo and timing – but occasionally experiences, as with Liszt, that there are not enough sound colors involved in the music. I somewhat wish that a richer expression register with weak dynamic from both artist and the instrument was present here. Overall a wonderful organ album by a talented organist which excels with the early romantic repertoire.
A small curiosity to wrap this up, when we review albums —especially regarding popular music— the CD as a medium has almost retired entirely, and probably lives on borrowed time within classical music as well. Daniel Bruun is one of the contemporary classical musicians who has also utilized more modern channels to spread his art. His live recording of Bach’s “Dritter Theil der Clavier Übung" was not published as a physical CD or DVD, but posted as a playlist on YouTube.
Øystein Jæger - for Norsk Kirkemusikk
Daniel Bruun shows his depth and maturity of playing in a blaze of virtuosity
In 2015, the Helleruplund Church in Hellerup, a district in Greater Copenhagen, got a new organ. With this instrument, the renowned Danish organ builder Carsten Lund, who has been oriented towards Baroque organ building, was breaking the mould at age 70 by choosing the romantic sound ideal as his new role model. Therefore, the organist Daniel Bruun, who has been working at Helleruplund Church since 2009, introduces his new wonderful instrument with a matching program: He plays music by Liszt, Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Schumann, and Julius Reubke, the brilliant student of Franz Liszt, who tragically died early at the age of 24. The programm starts with Prelude and Fugue on the name BACH, Liszt's large-scale work on the sound sequence B-A-C-H, and the organ will be allowed to show its quality: It combines sound with a highly nuanced richness of color so that the organist has an impressive musical width from a powerful pleno to the most delicate piano.
Following that are two works not originally written for the organ: Robert Schumann's Six Studies in Canonical Form for the pedal piano op. 56 and Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy's piano work Variations sérieuses op. 54. Robert Schumann was a great admirer of J. S. Bach, and already during the 1840s he purchased a pedal piano in Leipzig, which was placed under the grand piano to serve as a practice aid to organ students. He wrote his opus 56 for this combination; the pieces sound like an intimate tryst between the romantic composer and the revered old master. According to Schumann, there was no other composer in his century to match Bach with regards to organ and piano music. Daniel Bruun interpreted the six short pieces with a fine sense for their very own intimate tone and the transfer to the subtle sound world of his organ is extremely successful.
Mendelssohn's Variations sérieuses can be considered musical champagne of the highest quality; the composer was aware of this and distinguished them by the title from the vast amounts of "Variations Brillantes" that flooded the piano literature around the beginning of the 19th century. Daniel Bruun shows his depth and maturity of playing in a blaze of virtuosity which meets the requirements of the splendor of Mendelssohn Bartholdy's most famous piano work.
The last piece of the CD is the great organ sonata by Julius Reubke (1834-1858), ingenious student of Franz Liszt. Reubke's sonata in b minor (the same key as the famous work of his teacher) and in particular his three-movement organ sonata in c minor on the 94th psalm show him as a musician in his own right; one of whom much might have been expected. Daniel Bruun also approaches this work with his mature style and great musical sensitivity.
Lovers of romantic organ music should not miss this gem - represented by the new organ of the Helleruplund Church in Copenhagen. Also the recording technology by which the sonority of the organ as well as the church acoustics are represented so well, is remarkable.
Detmar Huchting - für www.klassik-heute.de
Die Helleruplundkirke in Hellerup, einem Stadtteil im Großraum Kopenhagen, bekam 2015 eine neue Orgel. Mit diesem Instrument beschritt der renommierte dänische Orgelbauer Carsten Lund, der sich bisher am barocken Orgelbau orientiert hatte, im Alter von über 70 Jahren neue Wege und wählte jetzt das romantische Klangideal zum Vorbild. Der seit 2009 an der Helleruplundkirke tätige Organist Daniel Bruun stellt folglich sein neues großes Instrument mit einem passenden Programm vor: Es erklingt Musik von Liszt, Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Schumann und Julius Reubke, dem genialen und mit 24 Jahren tragisch früh verstorbenen Schüler von Franz Liszt. Präludium und Fuge über den Namen BACH, Liszts großangelegtes Werk über die Tonfolge B-A-C-H, eröffnet das Programm wirkungsvoll und die Orgel darf gleich zeigen, was sie kann: Sie vereint Klangfülle und äußerst nuancierten Farbenreichtum und erlaubt so dem Organisten einen musikalischen Gestaltungsrahmen vom kraftvollen Pleno bis zum zartesten Piano.
Es folgen zwei Werke, die ursprünglich nicht für Orgel entstanden sind: Robert Schumanns Sechs Studien in canonischer Form für den Pedalflügel op. 56 und Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdys Klavierwerk Variations sérieuses op.54. Robert Schumann hegte eine immense Verehrung für J. S. Bach und schon in den 1840er Jahren beschaffte er sich in Leipzig ein Pedalklavier, das unter den Flügel gesetzt wurde und normalerweise als Übehilfe für Orgelstudenten diente. Für diese Kombination schrieb er sein Opus 56, die Stücke muten an wie ein inniges Stelldichein zwischen dem romantischen Komponisten und dem verehrten Altmeister, mit dem es nach Schumanns Bekenntnis im Bezug auf Orgel- und Klaviermusik kein Komponist seines Jahrhunderts aufnehmen könne. Daniel Bruun interpretiert die sechs kurzen Stücke hier mit feinem Gespür für ihren ganz eigenen intimen Tonfall, die Übertragung auf die subtile Klangwelt seiner Orgel wirkt überaus gelungen.
Musikalischer Champagner höchster Qualität sind Mendelssohns Variations sérieuses; und der Komponist wusste das selbst auch sehr genau, grenzt er durch den Titel das Werk doch von den Unmengen von „Variations brillantes“ ab, die anfangs des 19. Jahrhunderts die Klavierliteratur überschwemmten. Daniel Bruun entfaltet bei allem Ernst seiner Interpretation ein virtuoses Feuerwerk, die Mendelssohn Bartholdys berühmtestes Klavierwerk in all seiner Pracht erklingen lässt.
Den Abschluss der CD bildet die großartige Orgelsonate von Julius Reubke (1834-1858), dem genialen Schüler von Franz Liszt. Reubkes Klaviersonate in h-Moll (der gleichen Tonart wie das berühmte Werk seines Lehrers) und besonders seine dreisätzige Orgelsonate in c-Moll über den 94. Psalm zeigen ihn als höchst eigenständigen Musiker, von dem noch viel zu erwarten gewesen wäre. Auch diesem Werk stellt sich Daniel Bruun mit Stilsicherheit und großem musikalischem Feingefühl.
Freunde romantischer Orgelmusik finden in diesem Porträt, mit dem das hervorragende neue Instrument der Kopenhagener Helleruplundkirche präsentiert wird, ein Klangjuwel, das sie sich nicht entgehen lassen sollten. Bemerkenswert ist auch die Aufnahmetechnik, die sowohl die Klangfülle der Orgel wie auch den Kirchenraum bestens zur Geltung kommen lässt.
Detmar Huchting - für www.klassik-heute.de
Daniel Bruun has on his debut CD, French Impressions, recorded some of the most beautiful and atmospheric French organ music from the 20th century.
The CD is recorded on the magnificent organ of Aarhus Cathedral, which is known from numerous recordings. With its 89 stops, the organ built by Frobenius in 1928, is the largest church organ in Denmark.
Ermend Bonnal’s Paysage Euskariens from 1930 initiates the CD with three evocative musical landscapes set in the French Basque Country. Each of the pieces displays all the gorgeous colours of the Frobenius organ and describes all the distinctive details of the Basque Country.
The impressionistic Pastorale for organ written in 1909 by Jean Roger-Ducasse is very seldom performed due to the high demands of a virtuous technique from the performer. It is, however, a masterpiece of the early 20th century organ repertoire.
After the grotesque and exciting Scherzo from Louis Vierne’s 6. Symphony (Louis Vierne was organist in Notre-Dame de Paris 1900-1937) follows a transcription of one of Pierre Cochereau’s improvisations. Cochereau, Viernes successor in Notre-Dame de Paris, was “a phenomenon without equal in the history of the contemporary organ” as described by Marcel Dupré.
To complete his tribute to the French 20th century organ music, Daniel Bruun plays Duruflé’s Suite, which includes the famous and brilliant toccata in b-minor.
Virtuosity, sensitivity and technical facility blend the brush-strokes into a whole painting.
“The painting Water Lilies by Claude Monet is painted with unblended, visible brush strokes of mostly the same width. Only few of the many brushstrokes are thinner. In this painting the painter might have used only a limited variety of brush sizes. However the brushstrokes do have different lengths and directions of movement. Different elements in the painting are depicted with different kinds of strokes.” Marina Abramovic
Hands up if this quote from a formal analysis of Monet’s most famous work gives you the overall sense of the mood the painter wanted to convey. Anyone? No I can’t say that this formal piece of writing is particularly helpful but that wasn’t its purpose. Monet certainly springs to mind when listening to this CD, as it did to the performer Daniel Bruun when he wrote the liner-notes.
The first piece, by little known composer Bonnal, certainly conjures an overall sense of colour for which impressionist art, both visual and musical, is known. Without becoming pedantic about brush size, Denmark’s largest organ manages the world of this music with surprisingly French-sounding colours. This is also the case in Vierne’s Scherzo from the sixth Symphonie. The opening colours, mutation and reed combined, give the piece a light-hearted and cheeky feel, something which Bruun capitalises on. Personally, I like this movement a little faster but Bruun’s performance is concerned with clarity which is no bad thing. For an emotional contrast - Cochereau’s Berceuse in memory of Vierne is a masterpiece in the use of tonality. Combining Vierne’s tonal palette with Cochereau’s spontaneous brilliance this piece is a worthy contribution to this CD.
The main work on this CD, Duruflé’s Suite, is truly stonking, not a word I use often. This is the sort of piece which really sorts the men from the boys and Bruun’s performance is majestic and confident. The first movement is well judged, with the transition into the lyrical section prepared in advance. The middle movement, Sicilienne uses wonderful earthy foundation stops at the beginning, followed by a rich string sound. Again, some performances of this are played more quickly. This time I fully support Bruun’s tempo choice, the legato and phrasing are exquisitely handled. The Toccata, a whirlwind of figurations, is as exciting as the Sicilienne is graceful. For a performance on a French organ I would recommend having a listen to Olivier Latry’s contribution (Intégrale De L'Oeuvre Pour Orgue BNL 112508). However, this performance of this piece alone causes me to name this disc as Record of the Month. Virtuosity combined with sensitivity and technical facility creates a wholly absorbing atmosphere and really brings this wonderful music to life, no brush-strokes are visible beyond the overall impression.
Hannah Parry-Ridout - for www.musicweb-international.com
He is a fine musician and a skilled player whose performances are distinguished for their intelligence, stylistic understanding, elegance, technical mastery, brilliance, and communicative power.
Recorded on the largest church organ in Denmark, French Impressions is a program of works that are atmospheric or descriptive, representing the ideals of Impressionism. The evocative Paysages Euskariens, three movements depicting French Basque landscapes, were composed by Ermend Bonnal in 1930, winning him the second prize from Amis de l’Orgue. Bonnal studied with Guilmant and Tournemire, assisted Widor, Tournemire and Périlhou, and was appointed organist at Saint-Médard in 1901. Vierne spoke of him as “a musician with very personal gifts, a poet sensitive to and deeply moved by nature, an unassuming man and a born artist.” Continuing the celebration of nature is the well-known, virtuosic Pastorale of Roger-Ducasse. Primarily a virtuoso pianist, teacher and composer, Roger-Ducasse displayed his grasp of the organ’s idiom and potential for color in this, his only work for the instrument. Next is Vierne’s Scherzo from the Sixth Symphonie, which, in the words of Maurice Duruflé, “depicts the diabolical giggles of grimacing gargoyles.” Vierne’s successor at Notre Dame de Paris, Pierre Cochereau, improvised an homage to Vierne in May 1973, a gentle Berceuse, which has been transcribed by Frédéric Blanc. While not specifically descriptive in a physical sense, Duruflé’s Suite elicits a multitude of strong emotions in its three contrasting movements. Daniel Bruun studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Music, and at the Centre d’études superiors Musique et Danse in Toulouse. His teachers included Hans Fagius, Hans Ole Thers, David Sanger, Michel Bouvard, and Jan Willem Jansen. Active as a concert organist throughout Europe and as a continuo player, Bruun is organist of Helleruplund Church in Copenhagen. He is a fine musician and a skilled player whose performances are distinguished for their intelligence, stylistic understanding, elegance, technical mastery, brilliance, and communicative power. The large Frobenius organ is well suited to this repertoire; fourteen of its original reed stops were imported from France. In this his debut recording, Daniel Bruun has produced eminently satisfying performances on a significant instrument. We will hopefully hear much more from this gifted young artist in the future.
Jim Hildreth - for The American Organist Magazine
In his first recording, Daniel Bruun presents a superior virtuoso performance with an intense rhythm and a convincing musical overview.
The title is peculiar, because it more than hints at the impressionistic without having said too much. Impressionism emerged in French painting during the 1870s and 1880s, and their haunting flickers, saturated with atmosphere, began to show up in the music of the time in the mid 1890s, with Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun. Here, the painters' intangibility was echoed in the music's' unstable diminished and augmented chords and hence the attenuated feeling of tonality. César Franck was fully aware of these harmonies, and used them freely in later years as a powerful 'spice'. After his death, however, these chords changed from being a spice to comprise the fleeting substance themselves.
There was however a crucial difference between the short, small brushstrokes of the French painters and the organ music of the composers in the generation after César Franck, namely: the room. The paintings should be viewed up close, hanging on the salon walls; the music ought to fill a vast Parisian church room.
Daniel Bruun has been lucky enough to have the longest church room in Denmark at his disposal, as well as the country's largest church organ, and with Claus Byrith as producer, a tremendous sound picture has come out of this. At times, this has the effect of the instrument's divisions standing behind each other in a row towards perspective's vanishing point, which provides maximum effect to the fine balance and allows the delicate registrations to bloom. One gets the majority of the details, along with the feeling of being present in the large church room.
In his first recording, Daniel Bruun presents a superior virtuoso performance with an intense rhythm and a convincing musical overview. He already has a close-knit body of concert knowledge, both as large format organist and something as different as a continuo player. He can be heard on Sundays in Helleruplund Church.
Thomas Viggo Pedersen - for Orglet
Ducasse's spacious and sprawling Pastorale (his only organ work) demonstrates a thorough understanding of the instrument.
This all-20th-century programme, veering towards the virtuosic side of the repertoire, reveals just how much the musical impressionism of Ravel and Debussy infiltrated
Parisian organ lofts— not to mention the artistic influence of Claude Monet, whose painting Impression, soleil levant gave birth to the very name of the new movement.
The splendid and comprehensive 1927/28 Frobenius organ (4/89) in Aarhus Cathedral projects Bonnal's Basque scenes — valley, shepherd, bells — as if built for that very purpose. The earliest and lengthiest piece on the CD, Ducasse's spacious and sprawling Pastorale (his only organ work) demonstrates a thorough understanding of the instrument. Louis Vierne's Scherzo movements evolve from the first's sparkling but guarded gaiety to downright "diabolical giggles of grimacing gargoyles" [Duruflé] as here in the sixth. (Maurice Duruflé gave the first performance in France of Vierne's last Symphony at Notre
Dame in 1935; a day short of two years later Vierne died of a heart attack on the same organ bench, Duruflé at his side.)
A moving tribute to his predecessor at Notre Dame, Cochereau's improvised Berçeuse à la mémoire de Louis Vierne there in 1973. Transcribed by Frédéric Blanc and almost more impressionistic than the prototype Berçeuse, this is gentle but hinting at deeper struggles.
Duruflé, sometimes regarded as "the Ravel of the organ", best justifies the epithet in the Sicilienne of Op.5. The impressive Daniel Bruun studied with Hans Fagius at the Royal Danish Academy and, for a year as organist at the Danish Church in London, with David Sanger. He also compiled the interesting booklet notes.
Michael Bell - for Organists’ Review
Ducasse’s Pastorale (1909) shows off Daniel Bruun’s musical phrasing and lightness of touch.
Daniel Bruun, Frobenius organ (1928), Aarhus Cathedral
Gateway Music DBCD 2012 [65:49]
Aarhus Cathedral’s IV/89 Frobenius conveys subtlety and breadth. As the title suggests, all the French works here are influenced by the Impressionist movement to some degree. Ermend Bonnal’s suite Paysages Euskariens (1930) introduces an impressive toccata, ‘Cloches dans le ciel’. Ducasse’s Pastorale (1909) shows off Daniel Bruun’s musical phrasing and lightness of touch. Vierne’s Sixth Symphony ‘Scherzo’ is slick and colourful, and the op.5 Suite of Duruflé with its piquant ‘Sicilienne’ and storming ‘Toccata’ reward us further. Bruun’s playing serves the instrument and music with modesty and skill in this enjoyable programme.
This review appeared in the May/June 2013 issue of Choir & Organ. Copyright © Rhinegold Publishing Ltd; all rights reserved. Used by permission
It is extremely rewarding to listen to this successful compilation of highly romantic pieces of French organ music.
It is extremely rewarding to listen to this successful compilation of highly romantic pieces of French organ music. Because after a somewhat gloomy beginning, the sun breaks out in the last movement of the Paysage Euskariens of Ermend Bonnal (1880 – 1944). It might be that the organist of this recording, Daniel Bruun, registered the first two movements a little bit too cautiously, and in general terms the tonal reproduction also became somewhat too indirect. However, the peculiar allure of these pieces possibly stems precisely from their self-sufficiency. In any case, the Danish organist Daniel Bruun produces a wide pallet of mostly covered colors out of the Frobenius organ of the Cathedral of the city of Aarhus, whose instrument dates back from 1927/28, and has not been changed since the year 2001. And from the dramaturgical point of view the restraint pays off fully, when the "Cloches dans le ciel" – "Bells in Heaven" ring at the finale of this Bonnal discovery.
The registrations in the remaining compositions are undoubtedly appropriate.
Reserved, but by all means differentiated colors, are mixed by the renowned improvisator Pierre Cochereau for the melodically appealing Pastorale of Roger-Ducasse as well as for the just softly modernistic berceuse in the memory of Louis Vierne; one can roughly hear the tense increase at the closing stage of the berceuse. And in the scherzo of the sixth organ symphony by Vierne the darkened registration contributes to perceive exactly the whimsical, ghostly humor of this piece (it is a pity that the entire composition is not offered).
The contrasts are strongest at the ponderous end of the album, consisting of the early suite op. 5 of Duruflé with its somber prelude that is increased to an impressive pinnacle, its serious sarabande and its macabre toccata. To sum up, these impressions are not altogether overly radiant, but it is precisely the dark atmosphere kept up in the compositions that differ so much one from the other, that distinguishes the record.
Michael B. Weiß - for www.klassik-heute.de
Es ist überaus lohnend sich, sich in diese gelungene Zusammenstellung hochromantischer französischer Orgelmusik einzuhören. Denn nach einem etwas trüben Beginn bricht im letzten Satz der Paysages euskariens von Ermend Bonnal (1880 – 1944) die Sonne hervor. Vielleicht hat der Organist dieser Aufnahme, Daniel Bruun, die ersten beiden Sätze einen Tick zu verhalten registriert, generell ist wohl auch die klangliche Abbildung ein wenig zu indirekt geworden. Möglicherweise rührt aber der merkwürdige Reiz dieser Stücke auch gerade aus ihrer Selbstgenügsamkeit her. In jedem Fall aber holt der dänische Organist Daniel Bruun eine breite Palette von meist gedeckten Farben aus der Frobenius-Orgel der Kathedrale von Aarhus heraus, deren Instrument von 1927/28 stammt und das letzte Mal im Jahr 2001 verändert wurde. Und dramaturgisch zahlt sich die Zurückhaltung voll aus, wenn eben dann im Finale dieser Bonnal-Entdeckung die „Cloches dans le ciel“, die „Glocken im Himmel“ läuten.
In den übrigen Werken sind die Registrierungen jeweils zweifelsfrei angemessen. Für die melodisch ansprechende Pastorale Roger-Ducasses sowie für die nur sanft modernistische Berceuse à la mémoire de Louis Vierne vom berühmten Improvisator Pierre Cochereau werden verhaltene, doch in sich äußerst differenzierte Farben gemischt; man höre etwa die spannungsvolle Steigerung zum Schluß der Berceuse. Und im Scherzo aus der 6. Orgelsinfonie von Vierne trägt die abgedunkelte Registrierung dazu bei, den skurrilen, geisterhaften Humor dieses Stücks genau zu fassen (schade nur, dass nicht das vollständige Werk geboten wird).
Am stärksten sind die Kontraste im gewichtigen Abschluß des Albums, der frühen Suite op. 5 Duruflés mit ihrem düsteren Präludium, das zu einem eindrücklichen Höhepunkt gesteigert wird, ihrer ernsten Sarabande und ihrer makabren Toccata. Diese Impressionen sind also im Ganzen nicht überwiegend strahlend, doch gerade die in den so unterschiedlichen Werke durchgehaltene dunkle Atmosphäre zeichnet die Platte aus.
Michael B. Weiß - für www.klassik-heute.de
A masterful organ-cd […] Yes, this disc is a particularly good one and should be found in every organ enthusiast’s music shelf.
A masterful organ-cd
The Danish organ virtuoso Daniel Bruun (34) really shows how amazing the French organ literature is. Just like the pieces from the composers Ermend Bonnal, Jean Roger-Ducasse, Louis Vierne, Pierre Cochereau and Maurice Duruflé, the magnificent organ in Aarhus Cathedral sparkles with beautiful sound. The organ has 89 stops and the Frobenius organ is thereby the largest church organ in Denmark.
For this reviewer's ears, it is Roger-Ducasse’s "Pastorale" that really creates the interest. Bruun says himself that this is one of the 20 century's most overlooked masterpieces – and it is easy to agree with him, for the likes of timbre work this composer shows, is something you don’t often see.
The CD begins with Ermend Bonnal’s "Paysage Euskariens" from 1930, which is three atmospheric musical landscapes from the French Basque country. And in the finale, you just have to surrender. Here, the organ's many stops come into their own. This is great music - nothing less!
In the "Scherzo" by Louis Vierne, Daniel Bruun really gets to show off that he is a technical talent on the organ. This small piece, which is taken from Vierne’s sixth organ symphony, really puts both the performer and the listener to the test – because it breaks with most good "organ customary."
"Berceuse" by Pierre Cochereau is a tribute to Vierne, bursting with quotes and a pleasure to listen to, and, in conclusion Daniel Bruun plays Maurice Durufle’s “Suite” Op.5, with the famous and powerful "Toccata in B Minor."
Yes, this disc is a particularly good one and should be found in every organ enthusiast’s music shelf.
Trond Erikson - for www.klassiskcd.blogspot.no
Bruun is remarkable for his stupendous technique and virtuosity, but he never lets this overshadow the music
Presentation of this CD is minimalist: the 8-page booklet, with its short biography of the organist, organ specification and introduction to the music, is only available in English.
But the programme on the CD is all the more interesting. The list of composers begins with Bonnal and Ducasse, both composer-organists who are little-known here. Bonnal’s three-movement cycle ‘Paysages Euskariens’ is a composition which he entered for a competition in 1930, where it won him second prize. In a three-part cycle Bonnal describes landscapes in the Basque country, with music that is both expansive and colourful.
Ducasse is another rather unfamiliar composer featured on the CD. The Pastorale is his only work for organ and is dedicated to Nadia Boulanger. It was premièred in 1910 by Alexandre Guilmant. A work of great colour and brilliance.
Also on the CD are the scherzo from Louis Vierne’s 6th Symphony, Pierre Cochereau’s Berceuse à la mémoire de Louis Vierne, composed in 1973, and Duruflé’s Suite op. 5.
This is a very valuable CD in terms of repertoire, with its choice of music by French composers, some of them unknown. The organ of Aarhus cathedral is an eminently suitable instrument for such colourful music.
Bruun is remarkable for his stupendous technique and virtuosity, but he never lets this overshadow the music and shows sensitivity in the way he seeks out the breath of the music. His playing shows great empathy and joy, and makes it easy for the listener to follow even the works that are harder on the ear.
This CD and this organist are both worth discovering.
Ingo Hoesch - for www.orgel-information.de
Die Ausstattung der CD ist minimalistisch – das 8 seitige Booklet mit kurzer Vita des Organisten, Disposition der Orgel und Einführung in die Musik und die Komponisten ist nur in englischer Sprache verfügbar.
Umso interessanter dafür ist das Programm der CD. Die Komponistenliste beginnt mit Bonnal und Ducasse. Beides Komponisten und Organisten, die hierzulande eher unbekannt sind. Der dreisätzige Zyklus „Paysages Euskariens“ von Bonnal ist eine Komposition, die er für einen Kompositionswettbewerb 1930 eingereicht hat, und den zweiten Preis gewonnen. Bonnal beschreibt in diesem dreiteiligen Zyklus Landschafen aus dem Baskenland. Die Musik zeichnet sich durch Farbigkeit und große Weite aus.
Mit Ducasse steht ein weiterer Komponist, der eher unbekannt ist, auf dem Programm der CD. Die Pastorale ist sein einziges Werk für Orgel. Sie ist Nadja Boulanger gewidmet. Ihre Uraufführung fand 1910 durch A. Guilmant statt. Ein Werk von großer Farbigkeit und Brillianz.
Des Weiteren ist auf dieser CD das Scherzo aus der 6. Symphonie von Louis Vierne zu hören, die von Pierre Cocherau komponierte Berceuse á la mémoire de Louis Vierne von 1973 und die Suite op. 5 von Durufle.
Allein durch die Auswahl der Musik auch unbekannter franz. Komponisten hat diese CD einen hohen Repertoirewert. Die Orgel der Kathedrale in Aarhus ist ein mehr als geeignetes Instrument für diese farbige Musik.
Bruun zeichnet sich durch eine stupende Technik und Virtuosität aus, lässt dabei aber nie die Musik in den Hintergrund treten und spürt vor allem auch dem Atem der Musik sensibel nach. Er spielt mit großer Empathie und Freude, das macht es leicht, auch den nicht so leicht zu hörenden Werken zu folgen.
Diese CD und dieser Organist sind eine lohnenswerte Entdeckung.
Ingo Hoesch - für www.orgel-information.de
Bruun's ability to have a natural dynamic progression is impressive […] Bruun is superb and plays fast, almost bordering on the impossible […] And in the final [Duruflé] toccata he let himself loose and gives us a dazzling and fascinating interpretation that you have to applaud.
The development of the French symphonic organ led to the monumental works of e.g. Franck and Widor. The latter's Symphonie op. 42.1 (No. 5) with the famous Toccata is to many a star example of the world of sound these instruments represent. But in turn, they also gave inspiration to a new way of writing music, and it led to the organ's response to the piano and orchestral works of Debussy and Ravel. The young Danish organist Daniel Bruun has wanted to present examples of the French organ-impressionism, and have compiled a selection of works from the period 1909-1930 + 1973.
Bruun’s choice of instrument for this recording is interesting. He could have gone for an authentic French symphonic organ or a "modern" imitation – in the Nordic countries, we find several examples of new instruments in the tradition of Cavaillé-Coll – but instead Bruun has chosen Aarhus, where we find the fantastic Frobenius organ from 1928 and later, in Denmark's longest church ( 90 m!). Behind and to some extent over Kastens facade from 1730, we find 89/IV + P with a diverse pipe material ranging from Demant in 1876 and until 2001. What has always impressed myself is the rich pedal outline, which today is 24 stops, and the colourful reeds. Many of the reeds were imported from France in 1928 and thus represents in a way a "real" French sound palette. But what above all raises the organ up in the absolute elite class is how the organ voicer has achieved that all the 89 stops both have individual character and join together in a whole. There is a sonorous cooperation at the highest level; nothing sticks out. And the big pedal itself emerges independent and distinct from the weakest ppp to organ pleno. Bruun knows really how to use the instrument, and although this is not a French organ, it turns out to be tailored for the impressionistic colouring.
Bruun is responsible as the producer of this recording. Basically I am somewhat skeptical of this solution. Having an independent corrective, an external assessment of how it should sound, how long breaks should be between the movements, how fast the room can withstand you play, how the program should be set out, etc. are always valuable. However, it seems that here Bruun master the producer role as well. The program is well composed, and there is a good progression towards Duruflé Toccata from the Suite op. 5. The only possible objection is that the outer movements of the Duruflé Suite falls somewhat outside the mood and style that most would associate with impressionism.
Ermend Bonnal Paysages Euskariens initiates the program. The first movement, La Vallée, is perhaps a little too fast, and at least a bit too metric in the beginning. However, the registration is mild and clear, and we get great sound effects from the celeste stops and the flutes! Le Berger d'Ahusquy moves naturally in a perfect tempo and is also beautifully registrated. The last movement, Cloches dans le ciel, also just the right tempo, but it might be a bit loud in some places? But Bruun is true to the composer's intentions!
The Pastorale by Jean Roger-Ducasse is one long movement of over 11 minutes, and that justifies that Bruun plays pretty fast and tight. Rhythmic clarity and beautiful sound effects characterise the movement and Bruun's ability to have a natural dynamic progress is impressive. After this gentle movement follows Louis Vierne’s Scherzo from Organ Symphony No. 6 (Op. 59). It's convincing! Bruun is superb and plays fast, almost bordering on the impossible. The balance between the reeds and the labials is very good. But the ending is a bit abrupt. Had the symphony being played in its entirety had it been perfect, but when the movement stands for itself, it could have been more rounded, a slight ritardando and a more enduring final chord -?
Pierre Cochereau improvised Berceuse à la mémoire de Louis Vierne at Notre-Dame de Paris in 1973. The improvisation was later transcribed by Frédéric Blanc. It is certainly possible to discuss whether this is a correct transcription, if it is possible to write down such a work, and not least if it is desired. Regardless, this is Cochereau filtered by Blanc before it is seen through Bruun’s glasses, and the result is exciting: Lines drawn back to Viernes 24 Pièces one style libre from 1926 and testify about Cochereaus enormous improvisation skills and Bruun’s great interpretation skills.
Suite op. 5 by Maurice Duruflé is played with a sense for long lines and make a strong impression. Also here is Bruuns use of the swell impressive. In the 2. movement, Sicilienne, he connects Duruflé’s episodic movement well. And in the final toccata he let himself loose and gives us a dazzling and fascinating interpretation that you have to applaud.
Duruflé Suite, op. 5 compared with:
Organ Music by Maurice Duruflé
John Scott, organ
St Paul’s Cathedral, London
Organ: Willis, 1872++, Mander, 1977++
Hyperion CDA66368 (1990)
In Duruflé’s Suite, John Scott on Hyperion is several notches sharper in the Prélude, more fluent in Sicilienne and more rhythmic stringent in Toccata. This of course can be related to the context of the respective recordings; Scott presents Duruflé’s complete organ works, but Bruun’s Suite is part of an impressionistic selection. Generally Scott also seems as a more matter-of-fact organist focusing on form construction. There are many who believe Scott’s Duruflé cd must be the first choice. (By the way, you find his Duruflé Suite on Youtube!) But Bruun clearly wins when it comes to sound: the Frobenius organ in Aarhus is much better sounding than the instrument in St Paul's in London.
French Impressions gives us an interesting program like no other, with partly unknown works, meticulously and conscientiously performed at one of Denmark's most fantastic organs – this is certainly something you should treat yourself! And then it will be a great gift, especially to those who are not familiar with romantic and impressionistic organ music.
Virtuosity and poetic organ playing go hand in hand with Bruun […] Bruun proves that he delivers a technically perfect performance […] the [Duruflé] Toccata is expertly played!
In control, virtuoso and poetic are the first impressions I get from the performance by the 34-year old Danish organist Daniel Bruun. He is playing a programme fully devoted to the French composers on the imposing four-manual Frobenius organ of the Cathedral in Aarhus, Denmark.
Aarhus’s cathedral is well known as the longest church in Denmark, and it houses Denmark’s largest organ. In 1928 the organ builder Frobenius built an imposing organ within the existent baroque pipe organ casing, dating to 1730, which had been made by Lambert Daniel Kastens, a pupil of Schnitger. This organ was systematically adapted and extended until 2001. Before Frobenius started building his new organ, the organ builder Johan Andreas Demant (1830-1878) had built a new interior in 1876. However, this did not meet expectations. Frobenius’s current disposition contains no less than 89 speaking stops, and partly reuses some of Demant’s pipes. Under the influence of the ‘Organ reform’, advocated by such luminaries as Albert Schweizer, an organ was developed on the basis of neo-classicist principles, with some added French influences partly due to the reeds which had been ordered in Paris. Daniel Bruun’s choice to play a French repertory on this organ can therefore be defended. Daniel Bruun studied with, amongst others, Hans Fagius and David Sanger, and also acquired his knowledge of the interpretation of French music from Michel Bouvard in Toulouse.
Bruun feels comfortable with the late romantics and impressionists, and opens his programme with three works by composer Ermend Bonnal (1880-1944): the ‘Paysages Euskariens’. Bonnals’ compositions are impregnated with an impressionist atmosphere. In his book ‘Mes Souvenirs’, Louis Vierne says ‘With Ermend Bonnal we return to a higher plane. Here is a musician with very personal gifts, a poet sensitive to and deeply moved by nature, an unassuming man and a born artist.’ Bonnal learned his craft with Fauré, Guilmant and Vierne, and regularly assisted Widor and Tournemire. In these three musical pictures of French-Basque landscapes Bruun knows very well how to evoke the atmosphere, finishing with the virtuoso performance of ‘Cloches dans le ciel’, meaning bells pealing in heaven (the sky). Virtuosity and poetic organ playing go hand in hand with Bruun, which is not always the case with other organists.
The Pastoral by Jean Roger-Ducasse (1873-1954) is an intriguing composition. Roger-Ducasse succeeded Fauré as teacher of composition, and Paul Dukas as teacher of orchestration. It is sad that we know only one organ piece by Roger-Ducasse. From a canon which starts in a calm 12/8, a very cleverly elaborated (rhythmical) process is developed, culminating in a toccata-like final during which Frobenius’s ‘giant’ makes clear what the reeds on manuals and pedals are worth, then finishing in a stilled way. However, it is strange that a composition with such a pastoral character is given such dynamism, as if Ducasse wants to also musically depict thunder and storms. Daniel Bruun brilliantly comes up to the mark!
He also has no trouble with the arpeggio’s, staccato motifs and the theme of the Scherzo from the Sixth Symphony of Louis Vierne, which is written in a catchy Gershwin swing style, and his organ playing is precise and accurate. Pierre Cochereau (1924-1984) is represented by the improvisation ‘Berceuse à la mémoire de Louis Vierne’, transcribed by Frédéric Blanc. Cochereau remembered his illustrious predecessor from Notre Dame in Paris in 1973 with an improvised evocation based on the theme of the touching Berceuse from Vierne’s ‘24 Pièces en style libre’. This is played in a captivating way.
The cd finishes with the well known ‘Suite, Opus 5’ by Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986), a composer who’s oeuvre remained compact, but who did produce compositions with a very personal and characteristic sound idiom. The Prélude, played with conviction, does lose some of its atmosphere because of the lack of expressiveness of the Frobenius organ. I intuitively miss the very characteristic Clarinet or Trumpet harmonique register which is so typical of this passage during the solo of the ‘Píu Lento’. The Sicilienne blossoms nicely. I have never understood why Duruflé so disliked his own Toccata, which is one of the best of its kind and which has a grandeur which rises far above many organ toccata’s from the nineteenth century. Bruun shows expertise by his virtuosity and his precision ensures a lovely accelerando towards the end, and booms full of fervour to the last chord with a rushing tutti. Although I personally would like Bruun to play the last four bars staccato, the Toccata is expertly played!
The recording is direct and transparent, but this causes it to sometimes miss some breadth. A touch more audible resonance could also compensate the neo-classical organ sound, giving the music a bit more body. On the other hand, the details are easy to follow, and Bruun proves that he delivers a technically perfect performance.
Apart from Bruun’s sublime playing I secretly wish for the powerful, melodious and mystical sound of the organs by Cavaillé-Coll and his successors. That sound is what makes the expression of this music so special and unique. Cavaillé-Coll’s type of organ was the source of inspiration for the French style of symphonic organs. In this Frobenius organ I therefore miss the widely measured melodious labials, which give this music such deep dimensions, power, warmth and colour, apart from the French reeds which are present. Even in The Netherlands we do have organs with more French colouring. Perhaps Bruun will take a French programme to more southerly places, or looks for a type of organ which is more inspired by Cavaillé-Coll. For me the performance of this specific music on this specific organ is the only demerit for this cd. Nonetheless I enjoyed a captivating programme by a promising organist. No doubt this cd will do well. [ALBERT VAN DER HOEVEN, Orgelnieuws, 16/2/2013]
Beheerst, virtuoos en poëtisch, dat is de eerste indruk die het spel van de vierendertigjarige Deense organist Daniel Bruun achterlaat. Hij bespeelt het imposante viermanualige Frobenius-orgel van de Kathedraal in het Deense Aarhus met een geheel aan Franse componisten gewijd programma.
De kathedraal van Aarhus heeft de reputatie de langste kerk van Denemarken te zijn en herbergt bovendien ook meteen het grootste orgel van Denemarken. De orgelmaker Frobenius bouwde in 1928 in de bestaande barokke orgelkast uit 1730 van Schnitger-leerling Lambert Daniel Kastens een imposant orgel dat tot 2001 stelselmatig verder is aangepast en uitgebreid. Voordat Frobenius de nieuwbouw ter hand nam, had orgelbouwer Johan Andreas Demant (1830-1878) in 1876 een nieuw binnenwerk gebouwd, dat echter niet aan de verwachtingen voldeed. De huidige dispositie van Frobenius bestaat uit maar liefst 89 sprekende stemmen, waarbij gedeeltelijk ook pijpwerk van Demant werd hergebruikt. Onder invloed van de ‘Orgelreform’ met pleitbezorgers als Albert Schweizer ontstond zo een orgel naar neoclassicistische principes met wat Franse trekjes, mede vanwege de destijds in Parijs bestelde tongwerken. De keuze van Daniel Bruun om op dit orgel Franse repertoire te spelen valt dus te verdedigen. Daniel Bruun studeerde bij onder anderen Hans Fagius en David Sanger en haalde ook zijn kennis van de interpretatie van Franse muziek bij Michel Bouvard in Toulouse.
Bruun voelt zich thuis bij de laatromantici en impressionisten en opent zijn programma met drie werken van de componist Ermend Bonnal (1880-1944), de ‘Paysages Euskariens’. Bonnals composities ademen een impressionistische sfeer. Louis Vierne zegt in zijn ‘Mes Souvernirs’ onder meer ‘Met Bonnal gaan we terug naar hogere sferen, hij is een zeer persoonlijk spelende muzikant, een dichter, geboeid door de natuur, iemand met een diepe en ontroerende gevoeligheid en bezield met een grote bescheidenheid.’ Bonnal leerde het métier bij Fauré, Guilmant en Vierne en assisteerde regelmatig bij Widor en Tournemire. Bruun weet de sfeer raak te treffen in deze drie muzikaal verbeelde Frans-Baskische landschappen, met als afsluiting het virtuoos uitgevoerde ‘Cloches dans le ciel’, wat zoiets verbeeldt als klokgelui(den) in de hemel (lucht). Virtuositeit en poëtisch orgelspel gaan bij Bruun hand in hand, dat beluister je elders wel eens anders.
De Pastorale van Jean Roger-Ducasse (1873-1954) is een intrigerende compositie. Roger-Ducasse volgde Fauré op als leraar compositie en Paul Dukas als leraar orkestratie. Jammer dat we slecht één orgelwerk van Roger-Ducasse kennen. Vanuit een in rustige 12/8 ingezette canon ontwikkelt zich geleidelijk een zeer knap uitgewerkt (ritmisch) procédé, uitmondend in een toccata-achtige finale waarbij de ‘reus’ van Frobenius laat horen wat de tongwerken op manualen en pedalen waard zijn, om weer verstild te eindigen. Curieus is het wel dat een werk met een dergelijk pastoraal karakter zo’n dynamiek mee krijgt, alsof Ducasse ook onweer en stormen verbeeldend wil opvoerend. Daniel Bruun staat zijn mannetje met verve! Ook met de arpeggio’s, staccato-motieven en het aanstekelijke in Gerswhin-swing geschreven thema van het Scherzo uit de Zesde Symfonie van Louis Vierne heeft Bruun geen enkele moeite en brengt hij ragfijn en trefzeker orgelspel. Pierre Cochereau (1924-1984) is vertegenwoordigd in de door Frédéric Blanc getranscribeerde improvisatie ‘Berceuse à la mémoire de Louis Vierne’. Cochereau memoreerde zijn illustere voorganger uit de Notre Dame in Parijs in 1973 met een geïmproviseerde evocatie ̶waaraan het thema van de ontroerende Berceuse uit Vierne’s ‘24 Pièces en style libre’ ten grondslag ligt. Boeiend gespeeld.
De cd eindigt met de bekende ‘Suite, Opus 5 ’van Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986), een componist wiens oeuvre compact is gebleven maar composities heeft voortgebracht in een zeer persoonlijk en karakteristiek klankidioom. De overtuigend gespeelde Prélude boet wel aan sfeer in vanwege de toch te weinig expressieve klank van het Frobenius-orgel. In de solo van het ‘Píu Lento’ mis ik gevoelsmatig het zo karakteristieke Clarinet- of Trompet harmonique-register, die deze passage zo eigen is. De Sicilienne bloeit netjes op. Ik heb nooit begrepen waarom Duruflé zo het land had aan zijn eigen Toccata, die toch één van de beste in zijn soort is en qua grandeur ver uitstijgt boven menige negentiende-eeuwse orgeltoccata. Bruun toont vakmanschap door virtuositeit én precisie, maakt aan het slot een mooi accelerando en dendert vol elan met een klaterend tutti naar het slotakkoord. Hoewel Bruun de laatste vier maten van mij wel staccato mogen spelen blijft de Toccata voortreffelijk gespeeld!
De opname is direct en doorzichtig, maar mist daardoor soms wat breedte. Ook zou iets meer hoorbare galm de neoklassieke orgelklank enigszins kunnen compenseren waardoor de muziek iets meer body krijgt. Daarentegen zijn de details goed te volgen en bewijst Bruun daarmee dat hij technisch perfect spel aflevert.
Afgezien van het sublieme spel van Bruun verlang ik toch heimelijk naar de krachtige, zangrijke en mystieke orgelklank van de orgels van Cavaillé-Coll en navolgers. Die maakt nu juist de verklanking van deze muziek zo bijzonder. Cavaillé-Coll was met zijn orgeltype immers de inspiratiebron voor de Franse symfonische orgelstijl. Afgezien van de Franse tongwerken op dit Frobenius-orgel mis ik daarom de wijd gemensureerde zangrijke labialen, die deze symfonische muziek de diepere dimensie, kracht, warmte en kleur geven. Zelfs in Nederland hebben we wel orgels met meer Franse kleur. Wellicht dat Bruun de volgende keer met een Frans programma naar het zuiden afreist of een meer op Cavaillé-Coll geïnspireerd orgeltype opzoekt. Dat is ook meteen het enige minpunt dat ik aan deze cd beleef, waarmee ik doel op de uitvoering van juist deze muziek op dít orgel. Desalniettemin heb ik genoten van een boeiend programma van een veelbelovend organist. Deze cd zal ongetwijfeld zijn weg wel vinden. [ALBERT VAN DER HOEVEN, Orgelnieuws, 16/2/2013]