“History of the Organ, Volume Four: The Modern Age” is the
final installment in this well-done series on DVD, released by
the Arthaus Musik label. Here, the geographic focus was on
instruments from Switzerland and France. The first piece,
“In the Guise of a Military Band Which Plays a March,” by
Giuseppe Gherardeschi (1759-1815), illustrated some of the
technological advances made in organ building during the
early 19th Century, such as the addition of percussion
instruments to simulate a military band.
There was a discussion of the French organ builder,
Aristide Cavaillé-Coll (1811-1899), who allegedly built nearly
600 organs between 1840 and 1890. Some truly magnificent
instruments were on display here, including one with pipes
that were more than 30 feet long!
Organists René Saorgin (1928 – ), Louis Robilliard (1939 – )
and Marie-Claire Alain (1926 – ) were featured, both in
performances and interviews, and a piece by César Franck
(1822-1890) was used as a study tool for an organ pupil,
who was coached by her teacher.
Other pieces by Max Reger (1873-1916), Olivier Messiaen
(1908-1992), and the famous ”Toccata” from Charles Marie
Widor’s (1844-1937) “Fifth Organ Symphony” were performed.
Marie-Claire Alain also played and discussed a couple of works
by her older brother, Jehan, who unfortunately died in 1940,
at the age of twenty-nine.
While everything about this DVD was informative and well done,
I was again frustrated by the brief, 53-minute running time of
this disc. That’s not much time in which to cover the entire
“Modern Age!” It’s also a pity that there are only four discs in
this series. Clearly, the subject matter demands more attention.
In addition, the essay in the accompanying booklet was quite
thought-provoking, covering material that was regrettably not
included in the film, and the text translations were sometimes
awkward. Nevertheless, I would suggest that anyone who watches
this DVD should also read the essay. Despite my aforementioned
misgivings about the brevity of this series, I still highly recommend
it for what IS included.