J.S. Bach à la française

J.S. Bach à la française
Composer Johann Sebastian Bach
Artist Olivier Penin organ
Format 1 CD
Cat. number 97279
EAN code 5028421972794
Release May 2024

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About this release

Virtuoso transcriptions for many of Bach’s best-known instrumental pieces, performed on the superb Cavaille-Coll instrument at Sainte-Clotilde in Paris by its prodigiously gifted titular organist.

Born in 1981, Olivier Penin began playing the piano at the age of five and in 1987 he joined the Schola Cantorum in Caen. In 2004, at the age of 23, he was appointed to the tribune of the great organ of the basilica of Sainte-Clotilde in Paris. This was a remarkable achievement for so youthful a musician, and Penin has become one of France’s most illustrious organists, filling the shoes of such distinguished titulaires as César Franck, Gabriel Pierné and Charles Tournemire and Jean Langlais.

Sainte-Clotilde seems to have attracted so distinguished a lineage of composer-organists in part because of the versatility of the instrument installed there by Cavaillé-Coll in 1859. Frank remarked: ‘If you only knew how I love this instrument… it is so supple beneath my fingers and so obedient to all my thoughts!’ While they bear only a tangential relationship to the North-German organs known by Bach, being much more highly coloured, the Cavaillé-Coll instruments have a clarity of articulation and power that measures up to the composer’s music in its own magnificent way.

This is especially well illustrated in the art of transcription which Olivier Penin both practises himself and celebrates with this recital. He includes his own versions of the Air (‘on a G string’) from the Third Orchestral Suite, and the Sicilienne from the E flat major Flute Sonata, alongside classics of the repertoire, beginning with Marcel Dupré’s dazzling distillation of the Sinfonia from BWV29 (itself an orchestral version by Bach of the Preludio in E from the Third Violin Sonata. Virgil Fox’s Gothically gloomy elaboration of Komm, süsser Tod closes out the recital, which has as its centrepiece a similarly monumental version of the D minor Chaconne (again originally for solo violin) by Henri Messerer.

- Transcription has always been a widespread musical practice, following the desire to arrange pieces originally written for an instrumental and/or vocal ensemble for an instrument like the organ or harpsichord or, later, the piano. The eighteenth century was a very fertile period for transcriptions, reaching its pinnacle among Johann Sebastian Bach’s circle.
- Bach’s music is universal, not bound to a certain nationality or period. This imaginative new recording presents transcriptions and original works exploiting the colours of the French symphonic organ and its technical innovations. The combination of Bach’s works on a French romantic organ may seem odd, but the indestructible music receives new perspectives and insights.
- Presented are transcriptions of ‘Jesu, meine Freude’ by Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986), a Sinfonia by Marcel Dupré (1886-1971), the famous Chaconne by Henri Messerer (1838-1923), the famous Air and Sicilienne by Olivier Penin (born 1981), a Choralvorspiel by Virgil Fox (1912-1980) and original organ works (Toccata & Fugue!) by J.S. Bach (1680-1750).
- Played by Olivier Penin, organist of the famous Cavaillé-Coll/Beuchet/Dargassies organ at the Basilica Sainte Clotilde, Paris. A fascinating musical journey!
- Olivier Penin recorded on the same organ for Brilliant Classics the complete organ works by César Franck, to unanimously enthusiastic critical acclaim.
- The booklet offers extensive liner notes as well as all technical information on the instrument.


Track list

Disk 1

  1. Johann Sebastian Bach: Sinfonia de la cantate, BWV 29 (Transcription by Marcel Dupré)
  2. Johann Sebastian Bach: Choral de la cantate, BWV 147 (Transcription by Maurice Durufleé)
  3. Johann Sebastian Bach: Chaconne de la partita, No. 2 BWV 1004 (Transcription by Henri Messerer)
  4. Johann Sebastian Bach: Aria de la suite, BWV 1068 (Transcription by Olivier Penin)
  5. Johann Sebastian Bach: Badinerie de la suite, BWV 1067 (Transcription by Thomas Murray)
  6. Johann Sebastian Bach: Sicilienne de la sonate, BWV 1031 (Transcription by Olivier Penin)
  7. Johann Sebastian Bach: Pièce d’orgue, BWV 572
  8. Johann Sebastian Bach: O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde gross, BWV 622
  9. Johann Sebastian Bach: Toccata et fugue en ré mineur in D Minor, BWV 565
  10. Johann Sebastian Bach: Komm, süsser Tod, BWV 478 (Transcription by Virgil Fox)