My two previous recordings of organ music on the Ars Organi label were THE GATES OF VIENNA (2018), devoted to baroque compositions from the Habsburg Empire; and PAX BRITANNICA (2019), which, by contrast, was devoted to compositions from Victorian and Edwardian Britain. This CD is planned to be the third in the series.
It will differ from the two earlier releases in one obvious respect: it will contain some vocal works. Hardly any of these have been recorded anywhere before (the same is true of several of the solo organ pieces envisaged). In each case the singers are admirably gifted young people, mostly graduates from the Melbourne Conservatorium.
The late 19th and early 20th centuries constituted a golden age of French sacred music. Alexandre Guilmant (1837-1911) was himself crucial to this age. But he had many students, and these students will also be well represented in the program.
Needless to say, COVID has wrought gruesome havoc upon live music-making in 2020. At first we all feared that the CD would have to be abandoned. So the prospect of a paid gig has concentrated everyone’s minds wonderfully; and I hope that it will be possible for FRENCH ROMANTIC CHURCH MUSIC to benefit from the same generous support which its two precursors were accorded.
In a way, live music is like plumbing: it is too seldom noticed until something goes disastrously wrong with it. And we hardly need reminding how many musicians have lost their livelihoods through COVID, either for long periods or, in some instances, permanently.
Yet the pandemic has sharpened my resolve to do what Debussy vowed to do amid the Great War: ‘to create a little of that beauty against which the enemy rages.’ The music chosen for this CD is consistently beautiful, approachable, and almost guaranteed to transcend the day-to-day frustrations of post-lockdown (in Europe, not nearly ‘post’ enough) life.
Donations will be ploughed back into the whole recording project. They will help to pay the performers’ fees, to cover the costs of church hire (the Basilica of Our Lady of Victories, Camberwell, Melbourne); and, above all, will help to defray the expenses of post-production work, which is almost always the single costliest item in the preparation of any CD.