Poulenc: Concerto for organ, strings and timpani
Organist Christian Schmitt handles the cheeky organ part in Poulenc’s concerto with the same skill as in Cesar Franck’s Chorale in A minor – masterfully. In Poulenc’s self-assured Organ Concerto, he allows the magnificent sounds to play freely, in an equally serious and derisory manner, in the very style of the French composer himself. This sound feast is led with the confident hand of Christoph Eschenbach, former first guest conductor at the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. Take the opportunity to experience a unique concert that requires an equally unique and good organ. The Queen of the Concert Hall, as it is also called, was inaugurated with her over 9000 pipes about a year ago.
In the summer of 1938, Francis Poulenc composed his original organ concerto, a synthesis of joy and gravity, of intellectualism and sensitivity, of surreal dreams and religious ecstasy. In the 1920s, Poulenc belonged to the influential group of Parisian composers known as Les Six (The Six). Reacting against the old Romantic tradition, they presented fresh, often sarcastically entertaining music instead. Poulenc often combined charming superficiality with pensive religiosity in his music, and his organ concerto is an example of this. It is composed in one movement, but has six short and contrasting sections.
The piece begins with a sonorous organ recitative, accompanied by timpani and pizzicato in the double basses – and the rest of the strings soon follow. An interlude on the organ leads to the light and breezy second passage, in which the strings carry the main theme while the organ presents scale runs. The music reaches a peak and then leads into the longest section, Andante moderato, in which a well-designed counterpoint culminates in several dense, intense chords. We are quickly swept up in a restless Allegro. Poulenc noted the simple organ melody that follows here as “very soft and clear”. In the concluding Largo, the soloist returns with the recitative from the introduction. The premiere of the concerto was performed by Maurice Duruflé in 1941.