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Penguin Guide, January 2009

Couperin’s pair of Organ Masses each consist of 21 versets, which are intended to alternate with the text of the Mass, sung in plainchant. Only in two, for the Offertory and Deo Gratias, could the composer expand himself, and Couperin chooses to do this only in the Offertory. His Masses have been recorded in the past with the sung plainchant included, but the organ versets stand up well independently, and the recording here has dispensed with the plainchant. Of the two, the Messe à l’usage des Paroisses (Parishes) is the more imposing, and it especially suites the magnificent organ at Poitiers, while the Messe à l’usage des Couvents (Convents) is written for a more modest instrument and does not require a pedalboard with independent stops. Jean-Baptiste Robin’s splendid performances of just the Masses, given magnificent, modern, digital recordings, will be an obvious choice.

John Kitchen
July 2006

Weinberger's Bach recording offers early versions and variants of well-known pieces. To give an example, the G major Prelude and Fugue BWV541 is separated by the slow movement of the fourth trio sonata, as it appears in some contemporary copies. These variants may surprise and even irritate us, but we must remember that some received versions, often established in 19th-century printed editions, are no more authentic than others. Weinberger plays authoritatively on two fine 18th-century German organs, although I find some of his playing too dettache, particularly in the pedal.

Terje Winge's imaginatively­planned recording intersperses Grigny's five organ hymns with four Bach works. Playing on a modern organ (1996) in 18th-century French style, he delivers the music in a clipped and rather literal style, and the inegalite is a little inflexible. The sound of the organ doesn't seduce and lacksgravitas.

It is of course unfair to compare it with the stunning sonorities of the celebrated Clicquot at Poitiers, with its bold colours and roaring reeds; it is on this organ, of which he is now titulaire, that Jean-Baptiste Robin has recorded the Couperin masses on two CDs. What a sound! Robin's playing is highly informed and stylish in a 'contained' sort of way. The organ versets are here given without the accompanying plainchant.

David Hurwitz, October 2005

Artistic Quality 10 / Sound Quality 10

Although we usually associate Masses with vocal music, these solo organ works by a very young François Couperin (published in 1690) are examples of a form and style common to the place and time--one that included the organ as a significant part of the celebration of Mass, either replacing or enhancing sections of the spoken liturgy. The producers of this outstanding recording--presented in vivid, palpably realistic sound on two CDs--have chosen to include only the organ's contributions to these services, wisely eliminating the interspersed plainchant passages that would have occurred in a normal service.

While the purely musical rewards of this recital are many--Couperin exhibits an impressive range of formal/structural technical mastery, particularly regarding counterpoint and use of texture, register, and articulation for expressive/dramatic effect--organ enthusiasts will absolutely want to hear this for the commanding presence of the organ itself. The well-preserved, minimally altered 18th-century François-Henri Clicquot organ at Poitiers Cathedral is one of the world's treasures, and its indisputably authentic French credentials are on full display here, particularly regarding the assertive, rich-colored reeds (the 16' bombarde pedal stop is a treat!) and lively, lustrous winds. Organist Jean-Baptiste Robin knows this instrument well and delightfully exploits its multifarious voices (if only we had a list of the registrations he uses on each track) while making sure we hear the important inner lines and plainchant themes. If you love organ music, don't miss this--and don't be afraid to turn it up!

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