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CD booklet
Tournemire : Mariae Virginis

The WholeNote
July 6, 2017

Walking into Montreal’s St. Joseph’s oratory for the first time is a memorable experience. The sheer size of the space under the massive dome and the starkly modern concrete columns are enough to shrink any ego. Perched in the rear gallery like some colossal beast sits the 1960 instrument by Rudolf von Beckerath. Organist Vincent Boucher has the regular task of sitting like an ant at the console in these gargantuan surroundings and filling the oratory with glorious music. His recent disc Charles Tournemire – Mariae Virginis (ATMA Classique ACD2 2473) is a splendid example of musicianship and sound engineering at their best. Capturing the right amount of direct sound from the instrument and balancing it with the building’s natural reverberation are always the key to successful organ recordings. This one gets it right. The language of late-19th-century repertoire can be dense and Charles Tournemire wrote carefully to achieve those heavy textures while cognizant of the challenges organs would have in large spaces like St. Joseph’s in Montreal. Clarity of colour and harmony are vital to the writing of that period. Tournemire achieved this by writing sparsely wherever this was needed. The works on this disc are sets of service music from a year-long collection of such compositions. They include Introits, Offertories, music for the Communion and also Postludes. The repertoire on the recording is specially focused on feasts of the Virgin from the liturgical calendar.

David Olds – The WholeNote 

CBC First Play
April 6, 2017

"Charles Tournemire is, with Johann Sebastian Bach, my favourite composer," muses Vincent Boucher, titular organist at Montreal's iconic Saint Joseph's Oratory. We reached Boucher via email to talk about his new album, Mariae Virginis, the fourth volume of his ongoing project to record the complete organ works of Tournemire. It's due out April 14 on ATMA Classique.

"[Tournemire's] music is innovative, mystical, and poetic — music that won my admiration from the very first hearing. I count him among the most original and inspired composers of the 20th century. He is probably the biggest influence behind Olivier Messiaen’s style, who predicted that 'One day, the world will rediscover Tournemire.'”

Boucher is doing his part to fulfill Messiaen's prophecy.

Tournemire wrote a lot of organ music — 24 hours of it, to be precise. "[That's] more than Bach ever composed for the instrument," notes Boucher. "At the core is L’Orgue Mystique, a colossal monument comprised of 253 pieces, but there's even more: five symphonies, several suites, six poems, five improvisations, the Sept paroles du Christ, etc. To undertake this project is to face an unsuspected and gigantic quantity of music!"

Quantity, yes, but also quality. Boucher urges the listener to pay attention to the style of Tournemire's compositions, deeply rooted in plainchant and the unique colours of the organ. "The listener must understand that every piece of L’Orgue Mystique is written for a specific [liturgical] purpose, paraphrasing the Gregorian theme of the day," he explains.

"Also, Tournemire had a registration plan [for each piece] before he wrote the first note, which means that he had a unique organ sound in mind when he composed. As for the secular work, such as the Pièce Symphonique, it was written during the early part of Tournemire’s career, and resembles Louis Vierne, Charles-Marie Widor and other Romantic composers."

'Polyvalent and beautiful'
The album was recorded on the massive Beckerath organ in Saint Joseph's Oratory, comprising 5,811 pipes, forming 78 stops organized into six divisions. It was installed in 1960 and refurbished in 2012.

"The [...] instrument is definitely more German in style," concedes Boucher, "but the strings and reeds are so rich and poetic that they work for any music, especially French classical and Romantic repertoire. I am very lucky to be able to work almost daily on such a polyvalent and beautiful organ."
For his series of Tournemire albums, Boucher says he prefers arranging the music by liturgical themes: Easter (Vol. 1), Christmas(Vol. 2), Trinity (Vol. 3) and now, for Vol. 4, the Virgin Mary.

"The next projects are the Symphonies and the Sept paroles du Christ," he reveals. "It makes more sense and allows me to blend a variety of repertoire and avoid 'encyclopedic' compilations. For example, the Petites fleurs musicales and Antiennes de Magnificat contain several small gems of pure inspiration and beauty, but are almost never played or recorded."

Robert Rowat - CBC Music