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Jim Hildredth
The American Organist, September 2011

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Jonathan E. Dimmock
The Journal of the Association of Anglican Musicians, July 2011

This disc will amaze you! These are original compositions, played by the composer, on two marvelous Paris instruments: the new Aubertin at St Louis-en-Île and the organ at Église St-Étìenne-du-Mont (which has had numerous builders’ hands, including Clicquot, Cavaillé-Coll, and Beuchet-Debierre). The first thing amazing about this music is its extreme technical difficulty. I had assumed it was improvised until I read the liner notes. The second amazing things is the harmonic language which M Robin uses. It is his own original language, calling to mind the remarkable genius of Olivier Messiaen—a language which Robin calls “réfléchissants” [reflecting]. Even his titles are evocative and creative: Regard vers l’Air (2001), Cercles Réfléchissants (2007–08), and Trois Éléments d’un Songe (2004). He finds unique colors in his writing that seems immediately expansive, cosmic, energetic, passionate, and poetic. But this music is not pure technique and interesting harmonies. Robin also finds equally personal melodies, from contemplative to violent. What is even more amazing is the age of the composer/performer. Born in 1976, Robin was named Titulaire on one of the great historical instruments in all of France, Poitiers Cathedral’s Clicquot organ, at the age of twenty-three. Currently he is professor of organ and composition at Versailles Conservatoire, and Organist at Versailles Chapel. Robin’s technique is flawless and spell-binding. His unique language needs to be heard by all of us. He has much to say and a very refreshing way of saying it. Recorded beautifully,you will have never heard anything like this before. I highly recommend this disc and hope you will treat yourself to an hour of rapture. You won’t forget it.

Carson Cooman
Fanfare, September 2010

Jean-Baptiste Robin (b. 1976) is a French composer and organist, currently serving as the organist at Poitiers Cathedral and professor of organ and composition at the Versailles Conservatory. As a French composer-organist, Robin’s work falls into a grand tradition whose exemplars include Charles-Marie Widor, Marcel Dupré, Louis Vierne, Jean Langlais, Maurice Duruflé, Olivier Messiaen, Naji Hakim, and Thierry Escaich. (Hakim is Lebanese, though his entire career has been made in France.) Robin has written music in other forms, but it is clearly the organ repertoire which forms the core of his musical personality to date. This CD collects all three of his published organ works in his own definitive and excellent performances. Style-wise, Robin’s music fits comfortably into what has become the “lingua franca” of post-Messiaen French organ music: flamboyantly dramatic textures (often including ostinato), rhapsodic gestures and formal designs, and a tonal language based on idiosyncratic uses of extended modality.

Regard vers l’Aïr (A Look towards the Air) (2001) is a piece that Robin developed in different, evolving versions. He has employed these variations depending on the character of the organ used for performance. Though the remainder of the disc uses the large modern instrument at Église Saint-Étienne-du-Mont in Paris, this piece is presented in two versions, one of which is also recorded on German baroque-style instrument at Église Saint-Lous-en-I’Île in Paris. Besides some different choices of organ registration, Robin uses a more baroque rhythmic freedom for the earlier version. Cercles Réfléchissants (Reflecting Circles) (2007–08) is a half-hour suite in seven movements which employs Robin’s “23 reflecting modes” (somewhat similar conceptually to Messiaen’s modes of limited transposition). The piece is symmetrically constructed and material is shared throughout the movements. It is a major work for the instrument which, though long, does not wear out its welcome. Trois Élements d’un Songe (Three Elements of a Dream) (2003) comprises three brief movements that develop a small amount of musical material in diverse ways.

For some of the composers mentioned in the first paragraph (e.g., Vierne, Dupré, Langlais), their greatest contribution was unquestionably music for the organ. For others (e.g., Messiaen or Escaich), despite the acknowledged brilliance of their organ music, their work in other genres is of equal or greater significance. It remains to be seen into which category Robin will fall, but at present it is wonderful to be able to enjoy these dramatic works for organ.

Because of its difficulty, this music is likely to end up in the repertoire of only the finest recitalists, but this excellent recording allows for the pieces to be experienced as the composer intends.

Peter Grahame Woolf
The Organ, September 2010

Many concertgoers and music lovers remain unaware of important organist composers who create music mainly for their own instrument. Saint-Saëns was a great organist, but he was nowhere near a “specialist” organ composer. Messiaen composed for all instrumental and vocal combinations, which helped his organ music to come into more general awareness.

But in France, indeed even in Paris itself, there is a group of specialist organist composers creating music that deserves to be far better known. Jean Guillou’s is gaining wider currency now, he being still active as composer and performer whilst celebrating his 80th birthday; his ground-breaking La Révolte des Orgues has caused a great stir on DVD and is to be repeated in Germany.

Less widely known outside organ circles is Jean-Pierre Leguay, whose strikingly original works involving the organ deserve to be far better known. And, of the younger generation, there is Jean-Baptiste Robin (b.1976), whose new CD for Naxos deserves attention.

The evocative titles suggest correctly that this is expressive music; it is of its (present) time but not repellently doctrinaire. Structure is present but not at the expense of direct communication with the feelings of Robin’s listeners.

His Regard vers l’Aïre was conceived for several different types of organ and is given here in two published versions, first on the German baroque organ of Saint Louis en l’Île, where at the beginning ‘the oppressive Posaune stop’ is particularly exploited a tempo libre. On the larger organ of l’Église Saint Étienne du Mont, the piece is played with strict rhythmic precision, the Nazard and Tierce evoking wind and wave [specifications of both organs are included].

Robin builds Three Elements of a Dream (2003) from three intervals and a chiaroscuro harmony. The seven pieces Cercles Réflechissants use “repetitive symmetrical and reflecting modes” which extend those that Messiaen discovered.

A fine CD, cheap at Naxos’ budget price, one for every organist’s collection. We’ve played it through twice, with great enjoyment.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, February 2010

My first acquaintance with the organist and composer, Jean-Baptist Robin, has been most rewarding, the four descriptive works being highly coloured and readily approachable. It does follow in the footsteps of the great 20th century French organ composers, though he is more outgoing than Dupre or Alain, the music sitting somewhere between tonality and atonality. I was instantly gripped by Regard vers l’Aïr (A look towards the Air), a work the composer has played may times and on vastly different instruments, the experience bringing about a later revision. Here he performs them on a German baroque instrument—the organ of the L’Eglise Saint-Louis-en-l’Ile, Paris, and the second on the much modernised organ in the city’s l’Eglise Saint-Etienne-du-Mont. It is that fine instrument that is used elsewhere…The titles of seven movements of Cercles Réfléchissants (Reflecting Circles) are entirely descriptive of the music, Robin creating so many fascinating sounds and rhythms not entirely without a feel of Messiaen creeping in at some points. It was completed two years ago and looks to an organ of substance to encompass its large dynamic range and the vast array of bold and subtle hues. Trois Éléments d’un Songe (Three Elements of a Dream) came four years earlier, and is similar in context to the name given to each movement. It is quite a short piece and highly engaging. As a concert organist Robin has built an impressive career founded on a string of competition successes. Here he displays a formidable technique while the engineers provide stunning sound. It is a disc I most strongly recommend to you.

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